StrategySep 04, 2012

The Sabanization of Corporate America

Matt Levy

With Football season just around the corner, this article about Saban’s process hit home as I read it. For those who don’t follow college football, Nick Saban is the head football coach for the University of Alabama, and over the last nine college football seasons his team has won three BCS championships. This phenomenal record has had fans, pundits, and detractors alike wondering the same thing: how does Saban do it? The answer is simple: rather than focusing on the desired outcome, he focuses on the day-in and day-out process. The talking heads have termed his method the “Sabanization” of football. He tells his team to forget about the championship game—months away–and concentrate instead on excelling in the next drill—just five minutes away. His advice: work on the little things, like making sure your feet are right, doing one extra repetition in the weight room, trying to beat the man next to you in the last sprint drill of the day.

Saban’s method works as well in the corporate environment, which all too often can be laser-focused on the desired outcomes at the expense of the right process. At Credera, we try to encourage, build up and unfetter one another. In recruiting, this means looking for talented “athletes,” to be sure, but talent alone is not enough. We must look for those who are also a great character and culture fit for our firm. We must never lower the bar, no matter how tempting. We seek to train each other in our different disciplines, shaping and encouraging our teammates. Our people need to know how much we care about one another, and what better way to demonstrate this than by investing deeply in one another. The investment happens through the process of “working out” together, by performing client work, providing in-flight feedback, shaping each other’s thinking, modeling how to run a meeting, and asking for and receiving feedback. How do I ensure our next meeting is excellent? Do I fully understand the client’s expectations? How do we exceed expectations? Who on my team is struggling and how can I come along side them? What is the single most significant issue on my project and how can I help?

Life is a series of decisions. From when we wake up, to where we work, to the effort we put forth, to the content we ingest—all of these things are moment-by-moment decisions that shape us slowly over the course of time. I’ve learned there is no silver bullet, just consistent step-by-step improvement. Several of my Credera friends have deeply invested in me over the years, and I am so thankful for these men. No doubt their investment has had a profound personal impact on me. As I read this article, it reminded me that I need to invest in others in a similar fashion, and that I, like Nick Saban, need to focus on giving my best at each task each day, regardless of the outcome.

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