Some years ago I heard an audiotape by Bo Schembechler on Leadership. The story he told concerned the 1980 University of Michigan football team, Bo Schembechler (the coach), and Andy Cannavino (the co-captain/inside linebacker). This is what I remember of that message:
In 1980 the Michigan Wolverines football season started in tough fashion. After 3 games their record was one win and two losses. Not a good opening for one of the strongest football programs in the United States.
One day, one of the assistant coaches came in to Bo Schembechler’s office and mentioned that there was some complaining on the team. It was being said that Michigan practiced too long and hit too hard during those practices. The players also said that that was why the season was starting so poorly. Bo asked the Assistant who was making those comments. The Assistant said that many players were guilty, but that it was also coming from the team captain. Bo said, “Get him in here.”
Bo was not one to wait when problems occurred. Now the Captain, Andy Cannavino, was a big strong kid. He came into the office and Bo recounted what the Assistant had said. Andy admitted that he had indeed said those things.
At that point Bo said, “The University of Michigan has had a long and illustrious history. Since I have been here we have always had tough practices because football is a tough game. I would like you to tell the Captains of teams gone by that you think our practices are too long and that we hit too hard. I would like you to complain to them. Do you know what they would say to you?
They would tell you that you are a bad team captain, Andy Cannavino, and they would be right. On the field, you represent me. You are the coach on the field and you are letting me, your teammates and the whole program down.” At that point, with a tear flowing down his cheek, Andy Cannavino said, “I understand, Coach. There won’t be any more problems.”
And there weren’t. The team straightened themselves up. There was no more grumbling or complaining. The team finished the season by winning all of the rest of their games and playing, and winning, in the Rose Bowl – not something that the University of Michigan did all of the time. Andy Cannavino was acknowledged as the greatest team captain in Michigan’s history.
All of us can find reasons to complain. Life is not perfect.
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Guide: Practical Tips for Remote Hiring
One insightful CFO I knew used to say that if a choice in your life is 70% positive, jump all over it, because nothing is 100%. And yet sometimes I hear grumbling and complaining in the offices where I train. Sometimes I hear it from the Managers. And sometimes I even hear it from those in upper management at the various corporate headquarters.
But what are we accomplishing by complaining?? Nothing. We are either going to be part of the solution or we will remain part of the problem. I encourage everyone to take a page out of the University of Michigan’s football history and be positive.
Be strong in your conviction that we belong to the best industry of its kind in the world. Trust that all of us are trying to do our best and that we truly do care for one another. Carry that with you as you return to your desk and pick up your telephone.
*”The Simple Brilliance of” is a series of articles focused on ideas and techniques from some of the great thinkers, movers and shakers in the field of recruitment and human development who Bob Marshall has had the privilege of meeting, discussing various topics and learning from over the past 25 years.