Kirby Smart is the new head football coach at my alma mater. It’s Coach Smart’s alma mater, too.
This recent column highlights some of the methods the new coaching staff is implementing, and this part stood out to me:
Smart said the most important charge he has given his staff is to build trust with the players. To do that, he has directed Georgia’s assistants to meet with at least one player every day, and they’re to talk about anything but football. He also has the coaches ride the team buses to the temporary practice fields at the Club Sports Complex and never with their own position group.
“It’s about developing relationships with players,” he said. “If they don’t trust you, they will not give you everything (they) have.”
The cynic could see this as leveraging relationship-building merely to get better results on the field. Are these relationship efforts simply a means to an end, a savvy tactic to make the team more successful?
However, my own career experience has demonstrated repeatedly that it is indeed all about relationships. The culture of an organization or any kind of team is shaped primarily by the quality and authenticity of the relationships within the group.
It’s common for the leaders of an organization to be generally in favor of strong relationships and yet have not much to show for that sentiment.
What’s remarkable about Coach Smart’s approach is he’s building a system to take action on something most people passively hope will head in the right direction just because of good intentions.
Putting a system in place to support, realize, and build accountability for your good intentions is crucial.
I have learned this in my job recently, and it was my employees who showed the way. The student tour guides who lead the campus tours at our university have always been directed generally to make the tour experience conversational, to get to know the prospective students on their tour. But the tour guides systematized this directive themselves by setting an expectation that by the end of each tour they would have had an individual conversation with every prospective student on the tour and know each one by name.
That focus and that specificity has made our campus tour well known for its surprisingly personal nature and its emphasis on relationships. Visitors routinely remark on how delightfully surprised they were by the genuine connection our tour guides made with them.
It’s the clear, measurable expectation, though, that elevated the experience we offer into a consistently remarkable success.
What if we built systems and habits and routines, a process even, to make sure we take action on our professed priorities, especially about something as important as the quality of our relationships?
Schedule a standing date night with your spouse for every month and have the babysitter pre-booked.
Schedule a weekly time to call your parents or siblings or children.
Put time on your calendar to invest in conversations with your coworkers. I appreciate that Coach Smart forbid the assistant coaches to talk football in the daily meetings with individual players. Your relationship with your team members should be a relationship with a fellow human being, not just a coworker.
For family, friends, work, and community, be intentional about building and strengthening the quality of your relationships.
Make a plan. Put it on a calendar. And get busy investing your time in what matters most.