I attended a high school football game this past weekend. In fact, it was my father’s game. If you’re a subscriber to my blog, you know that my dad is the head coach at West Allegheny High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This year is his 24th and final season as the head coach of his – and my – alma mater. As a football coach, my father has won countless games and has an overall record that is hall of fame worthy. What’s even more notable is the impact he’s made. Not only on the thousands of teenagers he’s coached, mentored, or taught, but on my hometown as a whole. To say that he’s left an impression is an understatement.
We had some time to chat before the game. This conversation, like so many before, was more philosophical than tactical. After all, my father has an unbelievably talented staff that always prepares the X’s and O’s for the week. Our discussion revolved around grit.
My high school team has never been known for having the most talented group of players. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had a few standout players over the years. Some who have played at the collegiate level. Even a few who have made it to the professional ranks. But our on-field reputation is due to our discipline, toughness, work ethic, and street smarts – the stuff it doesn’t take any talent to master.
This is West Allegheny’s competitive advantage. It’s how my father is able to win championships. It’s why my father is a record holder. And it’s why he is able to develop the type of kids that come out of his program.
In the world of leadership development, things can get very subjective. Business owners are constantly questioning why they should invest in something they can’t see or measure for an exact ROI. I’ll tell you what I tell them: having smart, disciplined, hard-working folks on your team is a competitive advantage. Not just on the football field.
Talent is important and imperative to success. But it isn’t everything. As you think about how you can gain a competitive advantage when developing your people, consider having them master characteristics that don’t take talent: mental toughness, resilience, and work ethic.