You may know that I went to Michigan State and am a big Spartan fan, so I’m delighted at the success of the football team this year. Up until last Saturday’s road loss to Iowa, the Green and White were undefeated, 8-0, and ranked fifth in the nation. This despite having both off-season and recent difficulties with some of the players, having to play archrivals the University of Michigan at their stadium, and head coach Mark Dantonio suffering a heart attack shortly after the heroic win against Notre Dame. (If you weren’t following the story, don’t worry – he is OK, and has since returned to coaching.)
How did they do it? Was it the brilliant plays that Coach D and his offensive and defensive staff sent in with each line change? The close attention paid to a carefully plotted game plan by the coaches? Practice and preparation plays a huge part, but it all boils down to one simple method: The players get out there and do what they are supposed to do.
In other words, train them to do a job, and let them do it.
Sound familiar? Baden-Powell used those exact words when he founded Scouting over a hundred years ago, and we’ve been following it ever since. When asked by Oakland Press sportswriter Matthew B. Mowery about his secret for success, Dantonio said, “Our players are leading right now. When you can get your players to lead, and your coaches don’t have to lead on the field, good things can happen. And I think that’s what’s happening.”
In Scouting, we start out teaching the boys that it’s sufficient to “do your best.” They don’t have to be the best, they just have to do their best. However, when they move up from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts, they quickly discover that they have to meet the requirements as written. In most cases, that means that merely doing one’s best isn’t good enough any more. Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi talked about firing up his team during halftime of the game with Illinois where the Spartans were trailing 6-3 — not a big deficit but uncharacteristic of MSU this season. He said, “I was really ripping their tail, telling them ‘Make a play’ and that’s about it. There were no adjustments, that’s for sure. Just do what you are supposed to do, and get cranked up. There’s no magic to it, and there’s no new defense … It’s guys doing what they’re supposed to do, when they’re supposed to do it.” It reminded me of something Winston Churchill said: “It is not enough to do your best — you must succeed in doing what is necessary.”
This advice applies whether we are mentoring boys in Scouting, working with our troop committee, or in any work situation. If we have properly prepared others to do their jobs, and they are inspired to take it seriously, they’ll get the job done — as long as we don’t interfere. When you don’t limit others to the extent of your own abilities, you’ll be amazed at what can be accomplished, for the sky is truly the limit. About his team’s prospects, Spartan offensive guard Joel Foreman said, “I don’t think we’ve even come close to reaching our potential as a team and as an offensive line. It’s something that’s exciting, just to think that we can still keep it going, we can still get better and better, and we aren’t even done yet.”
Once you acknowledge that those you mentor — your Scouts, your fellow Scouters, your employees — can take a job and do it far better than you ever could, you will be on the road to true leadership.