Becoming a Better Boss

Dan Patrick

Dan Patrick

Recently I was listening to one of my favorite sports talk radio personalities, Dan Patrick.  He currently has his own show on Fox Sports Network, but is most well-known for his time as an anchor on SportsCenter while with ESPN.  He and Keith Olbermann led SportsCenter for many years in the 90’s and the pair became wildly popular in the sports world.  For a sportscaster, being an anchor on SportsCenter is kind of like leading the nightly news for ABC, CBS, or NBC…you can’t really go up.

Despite having the most coveted position in sports broadcasting, Patrick made the decision in 2007 to leave ESPN, the World Wide Leader in Sports, to start his own sports talk radio show.  So why would someone who’s seemingly at the top of his profession decide to abruptly leave?  Why would Dan Patrick walk away from unparalleled exposure and a lot of money at ESPN, for less exposure and presumably less money?

The answer is simple: he hated his boss and he didn’t feel appreciated.  On one of his recent shows he spoke candidly about his exit from ESPN.  He said that he rarely was given any positive feedback, and that he didn’t feel valued by his supervisor/management.  In Patrick’s case, those two things were more powerful and more influential than money and exposure.

People leave jobs for a lot of reasons: better opportunities, more money, career change, relocation, etc.  However, many people leave their jobs for the same reasons Patrick left ESPN.  Often times, people don’t quit their job, they quit their boss.  If you’re in a management/supervisory position, take the time to evaluate how you treat others on your team.  When was the last time you went out of your way to acknowledge the great work of one of your team members?  If it’s been a while, take a few minutes to write a note of appreciation, or simply walk down the hall and tell them how much you appreciated their help with project X, Y, or Z.  Make sure that those you supervise don’t only hear the feedback that you HAVE to give, but that they also hear appreciative and positive feedback.


Becoming More Accountable

In my last post I wrote about not playing the victim card or making excuses. The opposite of that is being accountable. The easy (and less effective) thing to do when things are going poorly is to make excuses or pull the victim card. The harder (yet more effective) thing to do is to take accountability. But as Steve Young mentions in this video below, owning the problem and being accountable for it is only half the battle. The next step is to then go about fixing the problem.


Steve went about fixing his problems by rallying the team to go down and score a touchdown the next time they had the ball. We can apply these lessons to the business world as well. When something goes wrong at work, and we “throw an interception,” and everyone looks at us, what’s our response going to be? Hopefully we own up to the mistake and take accountability for it. But it’s not enough to just say, “Yep, I screwed up.” We must then say, “Let’s fix it, and here’s how I think we can get better.”

This mentality ties in to a great book that I recently read called “Mindset.” In this book the author suggests that there are two mindsets, the “fixed mindset,” and the “growth mindset.” When you’re in the fixed mindset, you’re concerned about your image or how others perceive you. You want to get an “A” in a class because it validates how smart you are, and you’re more concerned with that than actually learning something.

When you have a growth mindset, you aren’t concerned how about validation, you’re more concerned about learning, growing, and improving on a personal level. Being accountable isn’t simply about being the “fall guy,” it’s about recognizing where you went wrong, what you can learn from that experience, and how you can become better going forward; it’s about having a growth mindset. Check out more on “Mindset” here.

Avoid the Victim Card and Making Excuses

victim card

Photo via

It’s our default inclination when something goes wrong to try and protect ourselves, our image, or our ego. We often do this by shifting the focus from ourselves on to someone or something else; in short, we make excuses. “Well, if that person would have…then this never would have happened in the first place.” Or, “I didn’t receive the proper training; had so and so spend more time with me, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

We sometimes also play the victim card to gain sympathy, or as an explanation to our perceived weaknesses or shortcomings. “The deck is stacked against me,” or “I have no control over the situation, I’m powerless.” At some point or another each of us has pulled the victim card, or made an excuse for an unfavorable outcome, and in many ways it almost seems like these attitudes can be our natural inclination.

Ironically enough, the very things we do to protect ourselves, our image, or our ego, can actually cause the most harm. Painting ourselves as the victim or making excuses removes us as the captain of our own ship, and places us directly in the passenger seat. We go from being an owner to losing control. Those we surround ourselves with may lose trust, respect, or confidence in us. Take a look this clip from former NFL MVP and Super Bowl Champion, Steve Young:

I love how Steve talks about how in order to gain the respect and credibility from his teammates, he needed to be above finger pointing and pulling the victim card. Did he ever feel justified in blaming someone else, or making himself out to be the victim? Absolutely he did, but he realized that in order to be an effective leader, he needed to rise above that. He learned that one of the keys to successful leadership is taking ownership of mistakes or when things are going poorly, and to credit your team when things are going well. So the next time you feel the urge to blame someone or something else, take a look in the mirror and own it, it’ll make you a better leader in the long run.

Becoming More Aware

In my last blog post I wrote about choosing enthusiasm each day. Our ability to consciously choose how we are going to act and respond to situations is in large measure what defines us. We cannot choose all of our circumstances; sometimes life just happens, and good or bad circumstances can be thrust upon us for no apparent reason whatsoever, and we can’t always control that. But we CAN control our attitude, our response to these circumstances, and how we treat those around us.

A while back I was shown a really good short video, entitled “This Is Water.” It’s an excerpt of a graduation speech given by David Foster Wallace, which was then made in to a short YouTube video. In this video, Wallace makes the point that we all face the mundane aspects of life, and that often we can become frustrated with our situation and with those around us.

The trick, Wallace suggests, is to step outside of ourselves and to consider the circumstances of those around us. Perhaps they share the same struggles and frustrations that we do, and in some cases they may be going through serious life problems that we may be completely unaware of. If we step outside of ourselves, and become more aware of those around us, and their circumstances, and then take it to the next level by helping and serving those who could use a hand, that is where we can find purpose and satisfaction.

This concept of increased awareness can be especially helpful if you’re in a position of leadership/management. Being aware of the circumstances of your team members, and showing that you genuinely care for them as people, will help you build stronger relationships with them and increase their level of trust in you. They will know that you care, and will view themselves as a valued team member. This in turn will allow you to have a better working relationship, and help you to achieve your common goals as a team.

So, this is my challenge for you: the next time you feel yourself becoming upset or frustrated about your circumstances, whatever they may be, take a moment to stop and consider the circumstances of someone else around you, and figure out how you can help them in some small way.

“Attack This Day with an Enthusiasm Unknown to Mankind!”

If you’re anything like me, when you get excited about things, sometimes your brain forgets to tell your face. You might be really excited about an upcoming event, a family function, or something cool happening at work, but you might not exude the same level of excitement that you feel. Sometimes it takes a conscious effort to remind your brain to tell you face how excited you are about whatever it is that has you excited, and that to me is enthusiasm.  I believe that enthusiasm and optimism are choices that we make each day, and our ability to express our conscious decision to be enthusiastic and optimistic can have a very positive effect on those around us. The legendary John Wooden thought that enthusiasm was so important that he included it as a cornerstone in his pyramid of success.

If you can’t tell already from my past blog posts, I’m a pretty big sports nut (hence all the references to sports and coaching). With that in mind, I recently stumbled upon a YouTube video of the Jack Harbaugh. If you don’t know Jack, he had a successful career coaching football, and is the father of Jim Harbaugh (current head football coach at the University of Michigan), and John Harbaugh (current head of the Baltimore Ravens). In this clip Jack is rallying the fans at the University of Michigan, and he ends by saying, “We have a thing in our family that goes way, way back, ‘Attack this day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind!’”

Throughout this clip you can feel the level of enthusiasm that Jack has for the University of Michigan. It’s not what he’s saying, but HOW he’s saying it. You can’t watch this clip without feeling how much he cares for what he’s talking about it, because he exudes it. And if you watch the people in the background, and hear the cheers from the crowd, you can get a sense for how his message is resonating with those he’s trying to rally; the effects are palpable.

I first watched this clip about four or five days ago, and every morning since, I’ve woken up with that phrase running through my head. Last few days I’ve made a conscious effort to choose to be enthusiastic about what I’m doing, and to try and share that enthusiasm with others. As I’ve been doing this (not always successfully), I’ve actually felt myself become more excited and enthusiastic about whatever it is that I’m doing. I know that this all may sound a bit disingenuous, and I’m not suggesting to be a complete phony in everything that you’re doing, but I really believe that that there’s power in consciously deciding on our outlook each day. So, go ahead and give it a shot: “Attack this day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind!”

And here’s one more clip for your viewing pleasure of Jim Harbaugh talking about how enthusiastic his dad was while growing up. The clip’s a bit lengthy, but the main point is made in the first four to five minutes:

Becoming an Owner

OwnershipPhoto courtesy of

In this classic Seinfeld scene, Jerry tries to pick up his rental car only to be told that they’ve run out of cars. When he’s finally able to rent a car (though not the one he wanted), the lady behind the desk asks, “Would you like insurance?” to which Jerry replies, “Yeah, you better give me the insurance because I’m going to beat the heck out of this thing.”

That’s the difference between ownership and non-ownership. When you don’t own, you don’t care quite as much; if the car gets scratched you think, “Well…at least it’s not mine.” If you own a vehicle, you’re more likely to notice the dings and scratches; you’re likely to perhaps park the car in a nice wide space so that it doesn’t get easily dented, etc. With ownership you’re more conscientious and have a little bit more pride in that which you own.

This principle of ownership should be applied to your professional career. Even if you don’t technically “own” the company you work for, having a sense of ownership over your role and responsibilities makes all the difference. When you have that sense of ownership, you don’t have to wait to be told what or how to do something; you take initiative and try to come up with your own solutions. You WANT to be successful in your position, and for the company to be successful because you own it, it’s a part of you.

When you own your job, you don’t just clock in and clock out, waiting for the next paycheck to arrive. You think, “How can I make a difference?” “How can I add value?” “How can I make this the best it can possibly be?” Because when you own something, it’s YOUR baby, it’s got YOUR name on it; you take pride in what you do.  Check out this article for more on taking ownership at work.

Becoming Part of the Solution, not Part of the Problem

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Wisconsin

Nov 17, 2012; Madison, WI, USA. Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Love him or hate him, you can’t argue with the results that Urban Meyer has produced while coaching college football (and believe me, that was hard to write, as an alum to one of his former rivals). According to his Wikipedia page, Myer has won 154 games over his 14 years of division I coaching, while only losing 27. His teams have finished in the Associate Press top 25, 11 of those 14 years, while finishing in the top 10 six times. He is also one of only a few coaches who has led two teams to National Championships (Florida twice, and Ohio State once).

Last year Meyer gave a speech to a group of young football players. In that speech he shared part of his recipe for success. When he’s asked what separates great teams from good teams, he says that great teams have people that are all bought in, and that from top to bottom the organization is filled with people who “are part of the solution, not of a part of the problem.” He believes that one simple principle is what propelled his 2014 team to a National Championship.

No matter who you are, or what teams you may be a part of, at some point things are not going to go as planned. Adversity will strike, and it will be easy to start pointing fingers and becoming a part of the problem. Great team members realize that they have a choice to make; they can either become a part of the solution, or they can become part of the problem. People who choose to become part of the solution quickly realize that it does no good to complain, bicker, or engage in gossiping. Rather they put the good of the team/organization first, and commit to do anything they can to help resolve the issues at hand, while putting their self-interests at a backseat to the team. I would encourage you to recognize these opportunities, and to choose to become part of the solution.