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Don Shula was a master at coaching. Shula was the head coach for the Miami Dolphins from 1970 to 1995. Shula’s Dolphins, in 1972 had a perfect season, 17 wins, no losses, the only coach, the only team, to ever have such a season. Shula was named Sportsman of the year in 1993 after becoming the winningest coach in NFL history. There are several attributes that made Don Shula one of the great coaches, leaders in his field.

Shula believed whether you were a sports coach, a business leader, teacher, parent, or any person who held a position of influence or leadership, your task was to bring out the best in others. I’d say that is a pretty good objective for each one of us, regardless of our position in life. Shula would say, “Your job is to instruct, discipline, and inspire them to do things better than they thought they could do them on their own.”

A worthy leader is always looking to improve his/her ability to get the best performance out of those we influence and lead. One of the distinctives Don Shula lived by was the old sports adage, “You play at the level of your practice.” Therefore, his coaching staff was expected to live up to this as well. “Our staff works hard with our players to instill practice performance.” And it showed, week in, week out on the field.

Each of the Dolphin’s 11 players on the field knew exactly where he was supposed to be and what his exact assignment was on each play. So much so that this became second nature, superior performance. This is what Shula refers to as Overlearning. Practice and learn it until it becomes second nature – Overlearn it.

Some leaders treat their people in ways that lead to superior performance. Unfortunately, many leaders do the opposite, unintentional as it may be, treating people in ways that actually lead to lower levels of performance than their capability. The way you and I treat people is strongly influenced by what we expect of people.

You may say, “But I expect great things of my people.” Do you expect great things of, or great results from your people? For many leaders/managers it is the latter. It has been stated that one key reason organizations are not receiving superior performance begins with the mindset of the leaders. This actually is true of leaders, managers, sports coaches, parents, teachers and others in such positions. For some reason in our culture, in our minds, we believe people are sub-par performers, lazy and irresponsible.

The unfortunate circumstance is this mindset plays out in the way we treat people. And this contributes to sub-par performance from those people. Great coaches and Great Leaders have recognized and trained themselves to help their players and people to reach for their best. It’s not only telling them, but helping them reach. Helping someone to realize that he/she can perform at such superior levels will lead him/her to reach to that level. This week work on helping others to be what they can be, not what they currently are! Be a better leader.

Don Shula quotes from Everyone’s a Coach, Harper Business

George Yates is the Church Health Strategist for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, assisting churches and individuals in pursuing God’s purpose for life. Learn more at ALSBOM.org/revitalization.

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