Thoughts on Life & Leadership

A Junto Strategy Project

What’s a Michigan Man?

As I’ve noted before, I am a sports radio junkie and one of my favorite radio hosts is Jim Rome. Yesterday I was listening to him interview Michigan basketball head coach, John Beilein. Michigan is in the Sweet 16 again after a great run to the NCAA finals last year.

Michigan LogoDuring the interview, Rome asked Beilein how he went about establishing a new culture at Michigan. Beilein then shared how they changed their approach to developing their program culture. At previous organizations Beilein and his staff had focused on “walking the walk” and that the players would follow.

But after struggling for a couple of years at Michigan, he realized that this was not enough. He needed to help the players truly understand two key elements in order for the program to take the next step. First they needed to understand what it meant to be a Michigan man and what the Michigan brand stood for. Second, they needed to understand their own personal brand and how they showed up not just on the basketball floor but in all the other areas of their life.

Beilein’s comments struck a nerve for me. For the last several months, I have begun working with individuals and organizations around this idea of building a personal leadership brand and that before you can turn around an organization or help a leader become who and what they need to be, they need to understand their brand first. A good example or model is simply not enough.

The old Greek maxim, “Know Thyself” is the first and most fundamental step toward becoming a great leader. Unfortunately too many people want to skip the first step, because it can be a painful process to look in the mirror and understand how you really show up and face head on what your shortcomings are.

I am glad to see that for a few basketball players in Michigan they are getting one of the best leadership lessons they could possibly get from a coach who clearly understands how to lead. I may not be a Michigan fan, but I’ve now become a John Beilein fan.

2 comments on “What’s a Michigan Man?

  1. Ron Judson
    March 26, 2014

    Nice post Lyall! I think one of the great tragedies of our day is the epidemic of blind followership. I work in a small company now that suffers terribly from this – head down, do what the boss says, and you will prosper. Despite being a market leader in its field, my company is plagued by huge imbalances in worker performance and satisfaction, and a turnover rate that dwarfs the industry average.

    Only a handfull of employees here have identified a personal brand, and only because of their personal traits, not because leadership has encouraged it.

  2. juntostrategy
    March 26, 2014

    Thanks for the comment Ron. It’s good to hear from you.

    From my experience, I think what you are seeing at your company is far too common. Sometimes it is because management is unwilling to encourage growth. Sometimes they are simply unwilling because they like being the boss and do not want to be questioned. Either way they both begin to experience the negative side effects like the turnover you mentioned.

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