If you missed it, there is a big football game this weekend. I’ve learned there are three types of people in the world. People who can’t wait for the Big Game, those who can’t wait for it to be over (no more football for a while!), and those who just don’t care. This article is about the two Super Bowl coaches. But it is written for you regardless of how you feel about the game.

Kyle Shanahan (head coach of the San Francisco 49ers) is 44 years old and grew up in football. His dad was a successful head coach. Today, Kyle is seen as one of the more innovative offensive minds in the game. 65-year-old Andy Reid (head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs) is the fifth most winningest coach in NFL history. He’s the only NFL coach to win 100 games and appear in four consecutive conference championships with two different franchises

In other words, they are both very good at what they do.

Lessons From Both

Now that we have gotten the football background out of the way, what can we learn about them as coaches.

They thought beyond their current role. While both played college football, neither were stars. They both worked hard to learn broader knowledge of the game, beyond their specific role. Too often, we promote the best contributor to a leader or coach role. That shouldn’t be the only (and perhaps not the best) predictor of coaching success.

Perhaps because of that, they both progressed quickly. Shanahan became the youngest Offensive Coordinator in the league. Reid was the first to move from position coach to head coach. Watch for desire and talent, not just ego, when looking to promote people.

They are students of the game. Both are recognized as innovators and masters of their craft. Both have been able to be successful with different types of teams and situations – and have been flexible in their approach as needed. Are you looking for students/learners to promote?

Those similarities give us food for thought as we consider who we see as our rising coaching stars. Each of those criteria is worth thought and consideration in your organizations – and in the expectations you set for everyone.

Now let’s look at a couple of specific lessons we can learn from each of these coaches.

Andy Reid

Andy Reid values trust and works to build it with his players. Early in his career with the Chiefs, he created a “player’s leadership committee.” One player from each position group could bring concerns forward from their group. According to this CNBC article,  “At the meetings, players could complain about anything: the length or intensity of practices, the food in the cafeteria or whatever else was on their minds. It was an open forum for team members to air their concerns.” Further, many of the suggestions were immediately implemented by Reid. There are at least three repeatable, trust-building components to this short example:

  • Create the feedback loop.
  • Listen to the feedback.
  • Take action.

Reid’s goals as a coach are instructive too. According to this article in The Athletic,  “He has always coached because of a love for the game and its challenges. He also coaches because he loves teaching and positioning players for success. Those pure and humble intentions are probably why Reid has had so much success with two franchises.”

The best coaches have the dual focus – on the bigger picture and the success of the individuals they coach.

Kyle Shanahan

It is clear that Shanahan believes everyone can improve. Look at these quotes from two of his players (from this article, also in The Athletic)

From Kyle Juszczyk - “I think that’s part of our culture, that nobody’s too big for coaching. Kind of keeps everyone humble and motivated and grounded.”

From Jimmie Ward – “You’ve gotta point out the players who get paid the most, the players who are supposedly the superstars. Because if you’re only getting on (certain) players and you’re not getting on (stars), you’re going to lose respect. It’s all about being a good coach.”

The best coaches coach everyone as needed - not ignoring or bypassing the stars.

And our feedback needs to be honest. In this podcast from Chris Simms Unbuttoned, from about 4:45- 50:00, you will hear nuggets from Shanahan like:

“It would be so much harder if I wasn’t that way (be honest.).”

“It is easy to talk when you tell people how you feel.” “It is easy to be yourself ... even when we have arguments and stuff … it’s so easy when you have like-minded people, who’s intentions are the same.”

“It might be hard, but you might be the only person telling them the truth.”

These guys are well paid under lots of pressure and the spotlight. And if you watch The Super Bowl, not only will you see world-class athletes, but world-class coaches too. One on each sideline.

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Kevin Eikenberry is a recognized world expert on leadership development and learning and is the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group (http://KevinEikenberry.com). He has spent nearly 30 years helping organizations across North America, and leaders from around the world, on leadership, learning, teams and teamwork, communication and more.
Twice he has been named by Inc.com as one of the top 100 Leadership and Management Experts in the World and has been included in many other similar lists.

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