Teaching Them to Lead Themselves

It’s quite often that I think about how the coaching profession mirrors the life of a parent.   More times than not, the decisions you make as a coach reflect your values and morals as a parent too.  You are constantly worrying about your athlete’s safety, their happiness and their development/growth.  I worry about those things as a father too.

As a young coach, I was fortunate to work with some really good athletes that competed at the highest level in their sport.  They didn’t need me to micromanage their practices or their preparation.  My time with them really taught me some important lessons.  It opened my eyes up to something that I didn’t realize was a core belief of mine.  I realized that as a coach, you are really trying TO TEACH THE ATHLETE TO COACH THEMSELVES when you aren’t around.

The last few years I have been fortunate to supervise and help lead some very bright and intelligent young professionals.  I realized very early in my time with them that I was doing the same thing I did with those elite athletes.  Each meeting with them and interaction that we had, or tough decision we tried to talk through, I realized that I was TEACHING THEM TO LEAD THEMSELVES when I wasn’t around.

As a father of a five year old, this same belief crosses my mind every day.  As a fairly new father, I am tasked with TEACHING MY DAUGHTER TO MAKE GOOD DECISIONS FOR HERSELF when I am not around.  Only the future will tell if I did my job.

No matter your professional role in life, your role in the family or your role on team, make it a primary goal to make those around you better.  So that when you step out of their life, they are ready to lead themselves and others toward greatness.

Chris Hardie is the Head Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Coach at Waynesburg University.  You can follow him on Twitter @Coach_Hardie_WU or follow the team on Facebook at Waynesburg University Cross Country.

Minimizing Mistakes

Tony Gwynn once said, “We know we are better than this, but we can’t prove it.” As a coach, I have had similar thoughts almost every season.  As a professional in the workplace, similar thoughts come to mind too.

Gwyn played 20 seasons for the San Diego Padres and accomplished some amazing things – including 8 batting titles, 15 All-Star nominations and 5 gold gloves.  He finished his career with a .338 batting average.  To top it all off, he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2007.  He was one of the most consistent and decorated performers in baseball history, and he knew that perfection was out of his reach.

He also knew his teams were good, but they had a hard time showing it.  Throughout his career, which spanned from 1982 to 2001, his teams won games (1,561) at almost the same rate as they lost games (1,544).  So I guess it’s easier to understand his quote, if you put it into context.  For me it’s is as simple as understanding that we are all going to make mistakes, we just have to find ways to minimize them.

The Webster’s Dictionary definition of a “mistake” is “an action or judgment that is misguided or wrong”.

There are many things in baseball that you could consider a mistake, such as a base-running error or throwing to the wrong base.  But there are three things, as a fan, you see right away as a mistake.  As a pitcher, you need to minimize walks and no hand out “free passes”.  As a batter, you need to minimize your strikeouts and try to make contact.  As a fielder, you need to minimize errors, so you don’t squander easy outs.  Let’s look at those three mistakes just a bit closer….

In 2018, the Chicago White Sox led the league with 653 walks from their pitching staff.  They didn’t have a bad pitching staff, they just didn’t put the ball over the plate at the rate they should have, and it cost them in the long run.  They finished the season with a poor record (62-100).

The 2013 Houston Astros were a good hitting team – they had power and they had speed.  They also missed the ball a lot and finished the season with the most strikeouts in baseball.  They finished with 1,535 strikeout’s which averaged out to 9.47 K’s a game over the course of the season.  They finished the season with more losses than wins (51-111).

The 1963 Mets had the most errors of all time (208).  Those errors helped the pitching staff give up combined 774 runs that season.  Sure, they scored 501 runs, but they couldn’t off-set the mistakes and had a pretty bad record (51-111).

The three teams I just mentioned had a lot of mistakes in their season.  All of those mistakes led to poor record and they could not compete at a high level.  They had a final record of 164 wins and 322 losses.  They made a bunch of mistakes and lost 67% of the time.

A study was conducted recently by Deloitte in which 1,300 organizations in 120 countries were surveyed and their focus was on “stress at work”.  Over 23,000 people were surveyed and the 82% of the respondents said their top cause of stress at work was “realizing they made a mistake”.  Are you feeling similar things at the office?  Do you dwell on those mistakes?

I think there are three important things to take with you into the office this morning to help you minimize mistakes.  If you consider them on your way to work, they might help you be more productive and will help you get the most out of your day.

Prepare Yourself – Most people have to prepare themselves for greatness.  There are brilliant minds that can just walk into any situation and make the most out of it, but many of us need to do our homework.  Take that next project or work assignment and over-prepare, and don’t give anything but your best.

Have Confidence – The Company hired you for a reason- and you deserve to be in that chair.  They saw something in you, and you need to find that same thing in yourself.  If you approach your day scared, you won’t be as successful.  Be the type of person that wants the tough assignments and wants the deadline looming over their head.  Babe Ruth once said, “Don’t let the fear of striking out hold you back.”

Take Your Time – Before you officially submit that report or hit the “SUBMIT” button, make sure you have taken your time to review everything one more time.  Personally, I have a phrase I share with my elite athletes after they accomplish some good things, and I think it is applicable here – don’t settle for good, work to attain greatness.  So, don’t just turn in the assignment, create a masterpiece that you are proud of.  That type of epic work production takes a lot of time and a detailed approach; don’t rush it.

I want to offer one final thought – everyone makes mistakes.  You have to be okay with failure.  During that journey towards excellence we will fall down along the way.  It’s about getting up.

Chris Hardie is the Head Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Coach at Waynesburg University.  You can follow him on Twitter @Coach_Hardie_WU or follow the team on Facebook at Waynesburg University Cross Country.

 

Your Light Has Come

It was a Saturday morning at the house and I was sitting in my home office reflecting on some things.  This is my quiet time of the day, as the girls are usually asleep and I have some time to read or catch up on some work.  On this particular morning, I pulled a book called “The 100 – Insights and Lessons from 110 of the Greatest Speakers and Speeches Ever Delivered” by Simon Maier and Jeremy Kourdioff off the shelf. I flip through the book from time to time, and I decide this morning to read about a topic (and person) I don’t know much about; William Jennings Bryan and a speech he gave in 1896.

On the TV in the background is the MLB Network and they are airing a special on the 50 Greatest MLB Finishes of All Time.  You wouldn’t think there was a natural parallel between these two subjects, but eventually they tie together.

After reading a bit of the story behind Bryan’s speech, which was a political speech at the Democratic National Convention, I immediately think back to Barack Obama’s speech at the Convention back in 2004.  Many believe that speech gave Obama some extra publicity and help springboard him to the presidency.  He was a great orator and took advantage of the opportunity to step forward in the party.  Bryan was similar.

Bryan was a successful lawyer and a Secretary of State under Woodrow Wilson.  He was also a great orator and because of his speeches he was sort of a “celebrity” of his time.  This speech in particular was pretty moving, as the book outlines, and at the time was considered one of the greatest speeches in political history.  The speech in July of 1896 was called “The Cross of Gold Speech”, and detailed his beliefs on the standardization of the dollar to that of silver.  The speech ultimately led him to be nominated as the youngest presidential nominee in history (he was 36 at the time).

After some time I focus my attention back to the TV special, and the announcer is about to cover the top 5 finishes in MLB history.  As I watch each one, I cannot help but think to myself, “what was going through each player’s mind right before that swing?”

As a baseball fan, you might remember each player’s impact on the game by that one swing or at-bat.  Personally, I just need to heat the names and their moment comes to mind:  Joe Carter, Mookie Wilson, David Freese, Kirk Gibson and Carlton Fisk.  They are a big part of baseball history.

What were they thinking right before that swing?  What was Obama thinking before he stepped to that podium in 2004?  Was Bryan ready for greatness as he penned his speech back in 1896?

Think about your own life, and that opportunity to be GREAT.  My sense is that each of those men were ready for GREATNESS, but they still had to have the COURAGE to step up.  Are you doing that in your own life?

As one final correlation on this topic, I flip to Isaiah 60:1, which (in my bible) is labeled as “The Glory of Zion”.  That passage starts with this line, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.”

There is a “light” in all of us, and it is waiting to shine bright.  There is a GREATNESS in all of us, and it is ready to be unleashed.  Have courage during the tough moments and the “light” or that “greatness” will shine through.

 

Chris Hardie is the Head Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Coach at Waynesburg University.  You can follow him on Twitter @Coach_Hardie_WU or follow the team on Facebook at Waynesburg University Cross Country.

Achievelopment

You are probably wondering if I made a mistake with the title of this blog.  Well, not really.  This is a new word that I am trying to promote in 2019.  Why?  It’s pretty simple – it’s my passion in life.

You are probably really confused, so let me set the stage a bit.  During a staff meeting, we had a very good guest speaker (my beautiful wife, Kelley) talk to our department about “passion”.  It’s a presentation that she has given numerous times, and it is very interesting.  Basically, you start with a list of words on a sheet of paper and reflect on their importance in your life.  That sheet of paper might have 50-75 words when you start, but by the end of the exercise, you are down to a word or two that you are most passionate about.

ACHIEVEMENT and DEVELOPMENT ranked at the top for me. Very quickly, I came up with a new word for the English language, and I proclaimed to my staff that I will be using the word “Achievelopment” in 2019.  After the meeting, I ran to my large recruiting board in my office and wrote the term in green marker.  I can now see it every day and it motivates me.  I also hashtag it a bit on my Twitter account.  Thus, the wild-fire has started and the word will probably end up in the dictionary by year’s end (check back in 2020 for an update….haha).

Now, what does it mean……good question……

Achievement is “a thing done successfully, typically by effort, courage or skill”.  Development is “the process of developing or being development”.  In a nutshell, “achievelopment” could be defined as “the process of developing a thing so that it is able to be successful“.

Yep, that sounds right….that is my PASSION in life!!!

As a coach, I get fired up about watching an athlete progress and reach their maximum ability.  As an educator, it’s very rewarding watching a student “get it” after struggling through things in a class.  As a mentor, my goal is to help the other person break through the barriers in their life and rise up to be the best version of themselves.  This is really important to me, and I cannot wait to get into the office every day to try to make an impact in the lives of others.

As much as I love my role as a coach, teacher and mentor, these things are secondary in my life.  I want to be a good father, first and foremost.  With that said, I want to be a positive role model for my daughter so that she understands that she needs to work hard, develop her own skills and strive to be the best at whatever she does in life.  I want to help her in her life journey.  I am committed to providing a framework for achievelopment in her life!!

Chris Hardie is the Head Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Coach at Waynesburg University.  You can follow him on Twitter @Coach_Hardie_WU or follow the team on Facebook at Waynesburg University Cross Country.

 

My 2018 Year in Review

It really was an amazing year in “my world”.  When I took the time to sit back and reflect, I realized a lot of really big things happened.  I am truly blessed and I am a lucky guy.  So let’s dive right in….

*I turned 40 this past year – let’s not even get into the fact that I am now 41

*I placed an emphasis on fitness and health; and through a combination of focusing on my diet and improving my training, I was able to lose 10 pounds in 2018

*My daughter celebrated her 4th birthday – oh man, is she growing up fast!  She also started her second year of school and is such a joy in our lives.

*Kelley and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary – she is a caring and compassionate person and is my best friend.  She puts up with a lot, and sacrifices a lot, and she is an amazing mother.  I look forward to 50 more with her!

*We helped with four larger service projects this year – including my 13th year of Relay for Life (American Cancer Society) and my 8th year assisting with the Downtown Open House.  Kelley introduced me to Project Linus, which is a very nice organization with a strong mission.  I also was fortunate to help (ongoing) with two local libraries.

*We traveled a lot – recruiting and family trips took us to 8 states.  Madison visited 6 of those states.

*Our cross country program hosted its 8th annual Distance Running Forum this past July.  We welcomed a large group to campus and the content was very good.  Our Champions Round Table was memorable, and brought seven champions to campus to discuss their journey towards greatness.  It was a great event!

*The coaching staff, athletes, their families, alumni and “friends of the program” participated in Waynesburg’s annual “Day of Giving” – and I am proud to announce that we tripled our donors in a 12 month time period.  I am still in shock at the kindness and generosity that was displayed.  GO JACKETS!

*Those that know me, know that I run a little bit.  I don’t run to compete in race (I don’t do that very often anymore) or to win races (that NEVER happens), but just to stay healthy and to feel good.  Well, I won a race in 2018.  Yep, you read that right.  That may never happen again….

*The distance athletes ran to three more championships this year.  They are currently in the middle of winning eight straight on the women’s side.  The indoor title came down to the final two events (relays) and they crushed it.  The outdoor title was epic.  The distance girls scored over 100 points and won 6 events.  In cross country, the team won the narrowest championship in history (3 points!).  The young team saw 6 All-PAC performers (5 of them return in the fall of 2019).  That race also saw the men’s team take a huge step forward – I wonder if 2019 might be an HISTORIC year for that group (stay tuned).

*In recent memory, I cannot remember weather playing as much of a role in my life as it did this year.  In the cross country season we were involved in a tornado warning, a few days of extreme heat, flash flooding and remnants of a hurricane.  The country saw extreme levels of heat and flash flooding throughout the summer.  Winter was also brutal for some.  I don’t mention it as a political discussion on climate change, but I mention it because it played a big role in my life.  We hosted the PAC Cross Country Championships this fall and it was a soggy, muddy and miserable two months of prep work.  I am glad that is over for a few years.

*I never really got away from fishing, but it took a back seat for a few years.  I was lucky to catch the biggest bass of my life at a small lake in Delaware.  I also caught a local bass that was right up there with the biggest of my career.  Needless to say, I had a great year of bass fishing and cannot wait for the summer of 2019 to get here so I can catch more.

I love the New Year holiday because it gives us a chance to evaluate the year and game plan for the upcoming year.  I am excited to start new this year and focus on some new goals.  But 2018 was a big year and I won’t forget it.

Chris Hardie is the Head Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Coach at Waynesburg University.  You can follow him on Twitter @Coach_Hardie_WU or follow the team on Facebook at Waynesburg University Cross Country.

A Strategy for Difficult Conversations

The younger me didn’t worry much about “messaging”.  If something needed conveyed to another person, I would sit down with them and tell them what was on my mind.  My style in most of those situations was never to be rude, harsh, confrontational or brash – but I certainly didn’t think through every word before it came out of my mouth.

As the twenty year old boy turned into a gray beard at the age of forty, he learned some things in his older age.  Working with twenty year old students and athletes for the last fifteen years has transformed my thinking on “messaging”.  Working in government and having daily interaction with governmental officials and their constituents has also transformed my approach.

While preparing for this blog, I opened the local newspaper a few weeks ago and pulled out a notebook.  I scratched out on that notebook if the headline for each article was positive, negative or neutral.  Why did I do that?  To me, those are the three messages that I think we send pretty quickly in a conversation with others.

Through the thirteen articles, six were “positive”, five were “negative” and two were “neutral”.  This small experience didn’t tell me much.  A 50/50 split in a newspaper is probably pretty common on a daily basis.  But it got me thinking a bit….what is the right split between positive and negative messaging in the workplace, on an athletic team or in a relationship??

I certainly don’t think we should shy away from difficult conversations.  Especially those conversations that need to happen.  A conversation that will help the other person in their life growth is appropriate and can be powerful.  Getting things off your chest can also be therapeutic, so I think that’s a good time to visit negative topics too.

So don’t get me wrong, negative is good in some cases.  But POSITIVITY wins the day.

As I noted earlier, the one important things I had to learn over the last twenty is years is about the approach of the message.  The topic might be a tough one to dive into, but I think there are some tactics that can help “lighten the mood” and turn the message from negative to positive.  I have one approach that I use on a daily basis and that I share with others if they are worried about diving into a tough conversation.  I am sure there is a technical term for this approach, but I call it the COOKIE method.

Picture a sandwich cookie (OREO) in your head – and its three vital parts.  The thin chocolate cookie on the top, a thicker layer of sweet cream/icing in the middle, and a cookie on the bottom that holds it all up.  Are you hungry yet?  Well, stay focused….we have a tough conversation to dive into first.

The thin chocolate cookie on the top and bottom represents a short intro and conclusion of positivity.  The cream is the difficult and challenging conversation.  You might get where I am going, but just in case I have confused you (happens a lot) let me give you a quick example.

Let’s set the stage:  A employee is not completing projects in a timely manner.

Sure you could just dive in and say, “hey, YOU MISSED ANOTHER DEADLINE.” But that might lead to some tension in the office and your relationship with that employee is going to suffer.  You might want to try another method.  Try sitting the employee down one on one.  Start by telling them you appreciate their attention to detail and respect how precise the projects have been.  This is the first step (think chocolate cookie).  After they have absorbed the compliment, talk about the issue at hand – that even though the projects are precise and exactly what you are looking for, they are still tardy.  Walk through why hitting the deadline is important and how it affects the company/organization in the long run.  Explain that this will be something that you will be keeping an eye on in the next few months. You just completed the second and most difficult step (think white icing in the middle).  Lastly, throw out a final compliment or motivational statement and end the meeting right.  Something like, “I know you can do this and I am here to help” or “you are doing an amazing job, and I am glad you are with the company”.  That’s the final step (think chocolate cookie).

In the example above, a few very important things have been accomplished; you have kept their respect, their spirits are still high and you can expect the project will be on time when the next deadline approaches.

A tough conversation that ends up being a WIN-WIN is what you were seeking, and this approach helps you get there.  Try it out the next time you run into a conversation that is going to be tough.

Chris Hardie is the Head Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Coach at Waynesburg University.  You can follow him on Twitter @Coach_Hardie_WU or follow the team on Facebook at Waynesburg University Cross Country.

 

Fighting Through a Plateau

We had a good conversation with our team recently.  During some one on one meetings, a few athletes expressed to me that they thought they were going to peak too early and were worried about burning out.  They felt like they were working extremely hard and that they weren’t progressing as fast as they would have liked at this point in the season.

I figured I would take advantage of this opportunity and teach the team about three important terms in our sport: peak, plateau and burnout.  Although our conversation that week certainly focused on athletic training, I think it’s a good discussion to have because it covers many areas of our life.  Don’t we run into plateaus all the time in our spiritual life?  Don’t we run into burnout at work?  And when we talk about a peak, that is something we want in many aspects of our life.

For the team meeting, I defined each of those words (and I will do so below) and talked about how they can become a big part of our training (and our lives).

Peak – to reach the highest point

Burnout – physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress

Plateau – a state of little or no change following a period of progress

As a coach, I explained, we want each of our athletes to peak at the right time.  That’s the goal.  It’s the positive outcome of training at a high level for 15-20 weeks.  The negative outcome of training, and one that we are trying to stay away from, is the burnout.  There is a fine line between the two though, and it’s easy to move from peak to burnout in a matter of a few days (or a week).

Why does an athlete, or a human being, move so quickly from peak to burnout?  I am sure there is a scientific answer, but I am not well-versed in that aspect of this part of human progress.  But I have been coaching and mentoring athletes/people a long time.  And to me it’s quite simple.  When you focus on a goal with a high level of intensity and personal drive, you can only sustain that type of stress for a certain period of time.  The training and focus lead you towards PROGRESS, but it also takes a lot of energy, and you can fizzle out pretty quickly.

If you think the fine line between a peak and burnout is tough, let’s look at a plateau.

What’s particularly tough about a plateau is that it can be deceiving.  You have become consistent in your training and you feel like you are working at a level you have never been able to sustain in the past.  You have grown as an athlete, or as a person, and you are now pretty comfortable with those tough workouts.  It’s deceiving because you think you have accomplished the goal of reaching a high point in your training.

During a plateau, you work hard, but you aren’t seeing any new progress.  Sure, you are consistent, but you want to see progress.  This can be mentally draining and very frustrating.

This is the point in your training where a coach needs to step in and help explain that you DO have another level.  You have more locked inside you and you can break through the plateau.  But it’s not easy.  As I stated above, you are comfortable; but you need to learn to be uncomfortable.  That’s the key to breaking through a plateau in life – finding the uncomfortable and being able to embrace that feeling.

As you read this right now, I bet you are thinking about a plateau in your own personal life.  Let me assure you that you can get through it.  EMBRACE the UNCOMFORTABLE and be willing to give your all for that GROWTH moment.  I BELIEVE IN YOU!

Chris Hardie is the Head Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Coach at Waynesburg University.  You can follow him on Twitter @Coach_Hardie_WU or follow the team on Facebook at Waynesburg University Cross Country.