“I can do it Coach!” – Rudy
In the restaurant business, we often talk about the need to “coach” our team members. When it’s discussed, most heads in the room nod up and down and pretty much everyone agrees that coaching is missing and that it’s critical. And yes, it’s always missing, and it’s always critical. And so we commit, yet again, to coach others.
Of course, there are real coaches out there, the kind that get paid to coach others. Most of us aren’t real coaches.
Patriots Coach Bill Belichick is my current favorite. And, this scene in Rudy (1993) is one of my favorite coach/player interactions. In a few weeks from now, we mark the ten year anniversary of that impossible, ball-on-top-of-helmet catch by Eli Manning which put the NY Giants over the Patriots to win the Super Bowl and steal an otherwise lossless season.
Creating a Culture of Coaching in 2018 is a top priority for us at Boloco. It shouldn’t just be pro athletes and top executives who receive the benefit of coaching. We all need it.
But how do we get it? How can we afford it? And since its so hard to get and impossible to afford, why bother in the first place?
This year we decided we are just going to start. Small, at first. I have a coach myself. I learn from her – once a week for an hour. I find it to be one of the most challenging things I’ve ever taken on. Beyond the focus on my own performance and sticking to my own commitments, I take what I’ve learned and coach 5 teammates myself each week – 30 minutes max. That’s all I think I can handle. Listen, ask questions and help fine tune their direction. I am not the expert in other peoples’ lives, they are. They know deep down what they want, my job as coach is to help them access that. By asking questions. Then they take what they learn from me, and they coach 4-5 others. And so on. We aren’t going to be the best coaches in the world, certainly not worthy of being paid for it… but at least we’ll be paying attention to a few individuals on a very personal level each week and helping them stick to their own commitments. A coach helps people reach their potential. As Belichick said about his Andover coach, he “challenged you, challenged you to reach for more, to work harder than you thought you could and always to think for yourself.” And since we are dealing with hands-on work at Boloco, I appreciated that “(Belichick) always wanted to get better. He wanted the grunt work. He understood that the key to success, the secret to it, was the mastery of the grunt work, all the little details. There are not a lot of people out there like that. In some ways, he was like us, the men at the top, because he worked around the clock. It was a never-ending process of improvement.”
I know we can at least do that.. not perfect, but a good start. Certainly better than nothing.
I wrote a letter to Bill Belichick after that loss back in early 2008 – he didn’t likely read it, and you may not either, but I liked sending it and so I’m sharing.
March 1, 2008
Mr. Bill Belichick
c/o New England Patriots
One Patriot Place
Foxborough, MA 02035
Dear Mr. Belichick,
In the pregame show for Super Bowl XLII, actor Samuel Jackson said to one of the Fox reporters (Ryan Seacrest, as I recall): “None of it means a thing unless they win the Super Bowl today, right?”
To which Ryan responded: “That is true, isn’t it?”
I worried about that statement throughout the game, as I had others like it in the weeks that preceded the big game. The record of 18-1 that you and the Patriots accumulated in 2007/8 will forever remain etched in my mind as the most influential season I’ve ever witnessed in any sport ever, not because of the record itself, but because of what it taught me about attitude, manners, respect and never-ending improvement. Jackson and Seacrest couldn’t have been more mistaken in my book.
Even in a small business like my own, Boloco, there is often pressure placed on me as the leader to “relax” a bit once we’ve overcome perceived hurdles. I’ve often been asked questions like “when do we get to stop changing” or “when do we get to say we’re good enough?” Change, I have come to believe (and I’m sure I’m far from being alone), is the necessary component of sustained best-in-class or even world-class performance. God knows that my company has a long way to go, but your leadership style, the players and how they spoke to the public about each other and the success of last year (even as it was happening) have served as an inspiration in management and team spirit that will not depart from me anytime soon.
My invitation to you is one that I expect you likely won’t be able to accept, but nonetheless I’ve learned that not asking is the worst of all things. My team of 300 people, most of whom are based in our 12 restaurants in Boston and surrounding areas are in constant need of inspirational and respected individuals to serve as positive role models. The restaurant business is a tough one as you may know, and Boloco has spent over a decade trying to turn what have traditionally, for too many, been considered “dead-end” jobs (ie. restaurant worker positions) into meaningful stepping stones towards real careers for our people (whether those be in restaurants or elsewhere). In support of a very important and well-run non-profit in Boston called Community Servings (www.servings.org), but with development of our people top-of-mind, Boloco created a speaker series in late 2006 called “Delivering Leadership” where we invite leaders of varying occupations to come speak to our team. In return for their time (usually an hour), we donate up to $500 to Community Servings, and beginning in 2008, we also match the amount donated to CS to the charity of the speaker’s choice.
In the past year we have been honored to welcome five speakers:
David Waters, Executive Director, Community Servings
Karen Bressler, CEO, Agar Supply
John E. Pepper, Jr. (my father), Chairman of Disney, former CEO of Procter & Gamble
Michael Oshman, Executive Director, Green Restaurant Association
Eric Prescott, Activist, Boston Vegan Association
I realize that you are extremely busy and likely have your fill of requests of this type, so if joining us is not an option, we certainly understand. However, if you can make time to come to the Fenway area of Boston where are offices are located in the coming months, and could spare an hour with us to share your story and philosophy, I know you’d make a once-in-a-lifetime impact on many, many people (myself included).
I do hope to hear from you. In the meantime, I will very much look forward to the 2008 season at which time my “studies” in leadership, preparation, team play, and creative, thoughtful execution at its best will resume.
PS. Please feel free to share enclosed Boloco Cards with your team and coaches and staff… there’s a Free Burrito on each one, of course!