Jill’s Blog

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Lose

“Tell me about how you became a manager.” That’s a super common interview question and easy to answer. “In 1994, I was working for ___________and they made me a manager.”

“Tell me how you became a leader.” Oh, that’s a completely different question!

Let’s face of it, many of us, including myself ended up in managerial positions due to hard work, professional competency and a whole lot of happenstance. I’d venture to say that 99% of people managing people today did not major in Organizational Leadership or Business Management in college. Hell, many of us didn’t even get a degree in basket weaving and yet we find ourselves in the position of leading others. Many of the best leaders I have ever worked with came by their leadership prowess honestly. They did the thing and they did it well and someone said, “hey you could lead others to do the thing well?” And the rest is history. For me, I was a collector. I called people and convinced them they needed to pay their credit card bill. I was a decent collector, so someone tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to manage other collectors. And guess what? I was a “manager” and I sucked at it. I had no idea how to manage/lead people and man I made a shit ton of mistakes.

The good news is, I worked with experienced leaders, GREAT LEADERS and I watched them and emulated them and learned and made mistakes and made more mistakes and I got better. Anyone reading this who worked at MBNA in the 90's is making their mental list as they read this! There were several leaders who were true coaches to me throughout the last 25 years and I took from each of them best practices, style points, situational advice and tons of life lessons. And you know what? I learned just as much from the “not so great” leaders about who I DIDN’T want to be as a leader. Many of us lament the times we work for weak managers, but I believe it's a key to learning what NOT to do. There are some people who believe that you can learn to be an effective leader by reading leadership books. I can't get on board with that concept. I think you can pick up some helpful hints and ideas but I must contend that you will never develop an effective leadership strategy with just a library card or Amazon Prime!

As I thought about building inspireal, leadership coaching was the thing that had to be the cornerstone of what I do. I want to bring real life leadership coaching to leaders of small to medium size companies who may not have access to an entire team of skilled and experienced leaders. Say you’re an awesome CPA. So awesome that you form your own accounting firm and hire some people to support your growing client base. Then you pick up a bunch of small businesses and you grow some more. Next thing you know you have a team of accountants and assistants and administrative staff working for you. Your business has grown from a team of 2 to team of 20 in a few years and you now you are an awesome accountant wearing a manager/leader hat. Maybe you have some innate leadership qualities, maybe you don't but you know you need help. Your first inclination might be to hire someone to manage human resources. Not a bad idea…lots of messy stuff involved with “managing” your team. But I would contend that you also need a leadership coach. Someone to help you formulate a company culture, develop a team mission and articulate the values that you want to embrace as an organization. And believe me, the return on investment will be there in the form of increased productivity, reduced attrition and employee engagement.

Now, back to the title of this blog. I am a HUGE fan of Friday Night Lights, the TV show. There was a movie too, but I am not a big Billy Bob Thornton fan. For me, Kyle Chandler will always be Coach Eric Taylor and I will always love him. Of course, the reason that I love the show so much was surely the great storylines, the chemistry between Eric & Tammy Taylor, the lovable oaf that was Buddy Garrity and the extraordinarily easy on the eyes Tim Riggins and Matt Saracen. But more importantly, the common theme of the show through five seasons and seventy six episodes was that Coach Taylor was a great leader. Whether he was leading the Dillon Panthers or the East Dillon Lions, Coach knew how to effectively communicate the objective and get his team rallied around the goal. Through every season, there would be the inevitable time where the team wasn’t gelling and there were outside influences that challenged their ability to win. New players, booster politics (Joe McCoy!) player rivalries were all distractions to be overcome. Coach Taylor was always there inspiring his team to strive for the goal, leveraging the collective heart of the team to get there. When you think about it, that’s no different than what any leader is trying to do with their business. Sure, we’re not trying to win State in Texas football, but FNL really was a five-season lesson in leadership. So maybe you can't get it from a book, but maybe from TV? My goal is to help business owners embrace their inner Coach Taylor. Come to think of it, I think I will make the show a homework assignment for my clients. We can all use a little leadership lesson from Coach T. When you're ready, give me call.

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In the meantime, here’s this week’s addition to the inspireal playlist. True FNL fans will recognize this one from season 1 episode 1:

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Jill Parker