Who are you practising at being?

by | Jul 16, 2023

In the Arena – Whiteboard Wisdom #005

“Who are you practising at being?”

I heard an interview with legendary NFL coach Bill Belichick, winner of six Super Bowls, that went something like:

“With all you have accomplished in your coaching career, what is left that you still want to accomplish?” he is asked.

“I’d like to go out and have a good practice today,” Belichick replied.

What does “good practice today” look like for you?

As a leader, Belichick understands that it’s not enough to be all he can be; it is about coaching and supporting others to be all they can be. The next practice session represents this opportunity. There is nothing more important, no higher priority.

For Bill Belichick, “good practice today” does not mean keeping the team out on the practice field longer, a likely indicator of a poorly planned or executed session, or perhaps an angry and out-of-control coach. It will require a carefully crafted session, tailored to the team’s needs, current situation and capability. Belichick achieves this by ‘thinking harder’, and not just ‘working harder’, finding time and space in his overwhelming, unforgiving and distracted role to think deeply, designing the next session, at all times building on the collective acumen and input of his coaching team, and likely, the athletes themselves.

The work-harder-to-get-better mindset is too narrow, a trap, lacking dimension and perspicacity.

Are you making the best use of you?

In my work with leaders, I offer this system.

Diarise one-hour every week for a ‘think-harder’ meeting with yourself.

I suggest your ‘think harder’ meeting has a standard agenda consisting of three questions:

  • What happened?
  • What now?
  • What next?

It is a practice of reflection, focused on embedding learnings and insights (for you and your team) and giving context to the best use of you as it relates to your role (and your life) now and in the medium/longer term.

If nothing else, good strategy is the best use of constrained resources. The scarcest of your resources is you, mainly your energy and attention.

Your ‘think-harder’ meeting will soon become the most important hour of your week.

“Who are you practising at being?”

The “In the Arena – Whiteboard Wisdom” concepts I speak to are taken from years of daily journaling, in-the-moment note-taking in my Moleskine journal, and my lived experience as a CEO and leader in high-performance sport for most of my working life.

I call this process ‘borrow freely, apply uniquely’, inspired by the Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards’ line, “It is not where you take it from, it is where you take it to”.


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