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Episode 005 – New York Times Best Selling Author Don Yaeger

Posted on Sep 19, 2016 by in Podcast Episode | 0 comments

New York Times bestselling author Don Yaeger, who recently published Great Teams: 16 Things High Performing Organizations Do Differently, stops by to talk leadership styles, adapting to change and lessons from John Wooden, Pete Carroll and Mike Krzyzewski.


Our guest today has studied and written about the most successful performers, leaders and teams in both sports and business over his long career as a journalist, author and speaker. Don Yaeger is an eight-time New York Times bestselling author, and a longtime writer and editor for Sports Illustrated. Don is also an in-demand public speaker, and is brought in by some of the largest and most successful organizations on the topics of leadership and greatness, and similar to what we do here, calls upon the lessons that can be learned in the sports world and applies them to all types of organizations.

Don’s most recent book, Great Teams: 16 Things High Performing Organizations Do Differently, identifies and highlights characteristics found in both the great sports teams and great businesses. It is tremendous and I highly recommend it.

In addition to his writing and speaking activity, Don also owns a political consulting business and public relations firm.

Interview Questions:

1) First things first. We just wrapped up the Rio Olympics, and I’m curious as a writer and story teller what stood out to you from these games in terms of a compelling story.

a. Blogged about Usain Bolt – disappointed he didn’t break the record in the 200, and said he didn’t have anyone to push him.  We are better when we are being pushed beyond what we’re capable of.

2) Getting into the book Great Teams: 16 Things High Performing Organizations Do Differently

a. You talk about the different types of leaders, can you tells us about those and then I have a follow up about one of the types specifically.

i. Command and control – can still be useful in certain situations, but not typically in day-to-day situations
ii. Expert
iii. Relational
iv. Charismatic
v. Synergestic – several or all of these working together.
vi. Pluses and minus to each of these

b. Email for free tool

c. Can the command and control approach work in 2016? We hear all the time in the sports world that the game passed by old-school coaches who never adapted from that type.

i. It can in certain circumstances (e.g. times of crises), but not usually in an every day scenario

d. Simon Sinek wrote a great book called “Start With Why,” where he says in a nutshell that people will respond to you if they understand why you do what you do, rather than how you do it or even what it is you do. You take that idea further and more practically talk about the importance of teams or organizations feeling their “why.” Can you help us understand what that looks like and why it is important?

i. Simon talks most about individual whys, but Don is more interested in team/organizational whys
ii. Team has to know the organization’s why; not just the leader

1. Create a moment (Make a Wish example of mission moments) (could be 10 seconder)

e. What does it mean to recruit to the culture?

i. Not recruiting to the resume for one!
ii. Great teams say here’s what fits in our environment
iii. Employees at Don’s company create a culture document they use in interviews

1. Share with candidates so they can make an informed decision
2. This only works if the people within the organization knows what the culture is
3. Example where he did this with a company with 47 executives, and each of the 47 gave a different response to WHY the company did what it does.

f. Can you talk about the differences between a mission statement, values and a road map?

i. Mission statement is reducing to a few sentences what the mission of the company is
ii. Values are simply a set of terms the organization has decided to prioritize. Integrity is the most common one and so doesn’t really say a whole lot
iii. Road map is how you’re going to get someplace that is not driven by traditional values of the world today

1. Examples

a. Think John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success – not about winning but about the process
b. Nick Saban’s five things – it’s about process and not the end result
c. Bill Snyder 16 steps

2. Road Map is directional toward improvement and advancement

g. You talk about the importance of adapting to change. How have you found leaders or teams improving their capacity for this?

i. Coach K’s favorite word is adapt
ii. The best at this don’t allow the phrase “that’s how we used to do it” or “that’s how we’ve always done it” to be proof of anything.
iii. Too many people are afraid to adapt because it makes them uncomfortable, and greatness really begins where comfort ends.

h. What does it look like when a leader fosters a communication culture focused on strengths and positives. To some of us it might sound a little fluffy or idealistic without realism or accountability.

i. Successful organizations talk to people differently. The days of yelling/screaming are over, particularly when it comes to the Millennials
ii. Pete Carroll example

1. Start with the premise that no one makes a mistake on purpose
2. Incorporates into his assistant coach hiring process – no yellers/screamers
3. Specific example of wide receiver dropping a pass in practice and the assistant coach addressing it in a completely different way.

i. Talk about the danger of past or current success. How do the great teams battle complacency?

i. It’s the greatest killer of sustained success
ii. Saban/Wooden say it’s hard enough to win once; it takes true character to win more than once
iii. Mike Ditka: On the way to success it’s all about we. When success happens it becomes all about me
iv. Key is to stop talking about yesterday

1. 10-time national champion Penn State volleyball coach Russ Rose has no memorabilia/hardware in his office from his success; only relationships. His grandson took one of his championship rings and traded it for a [listen to find out what!!].
2. UNC soccer coach Anson Dorrance gives out roses rather than jewelry for championships, because the roses are going to die; gotta go out and grow new roses

3) Do you have any habits or routines that have been key to your success?

a. Can’t lead people you don’t know, so each day find ways to engage with the people you are leading and learn about their lives

6) Where can people go to learn more about you and where can they pick up the book?

a. All fine book stores!

7) Thank Yous/Acknowledgements:

Antioch Live/Clear Day Media Group – music
More here.
Jonathan Davis – production
Clint Musslewhite – voice over

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