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Leadership is Coaching and Coaching is Leadership

Feb 20th 2015, Legacy By Design

Football scene

With a record of 399-25-3 over 34 seasons and a 151 game winning streak (12 seasons without a single loss), Bob Ladouceur knows a thing or two about leadership, people, teamwork, football, competition, and preparation. He emphasizes self-responsibility to encourage team-accountability. Coach Ladouceur recognizes that the way a player performs in the game is a microcosm for their behaviors and attitudes in life. He teaches that winning isn’t something you do; a winner is something you are. Coach Ladouceur believes that in football, as in life, you can’t expect a perfect outcome; but each person, every team, can apply a perfect effort. 

The story of De La Salle football, and the longest winning streak in the game, may be vaguely familiar to you. In When The Game Stands Tall, author Neil Hayes chronicles the life of Coach Bob Ladouceur and the De La Salle Spartans over the course of an entire football season. Hayes does an excellent job capturing the leadership nuances necessary to guide a team successfully over the long-term. A movie based on the book was recently released and is playing in theatres across the nation. Even if your interest isn’t necessarily on football, the lessons on coaching, leadership, change, and values are timeless. 

In the book, we learn that Ladouceur doesn’t think of himself as just a football coach. He’s a teacher, a mentor, and a shaper of young minds. In a pre-game speech before one of the biggest games of his career, he says, “I don’t give a [darn] about the win or the loss. I do care about how you play, with passion, desire, heart, intensity, grit, determination, do not give up, do not let up, that’s what I care about.”  

As Hayes writes, “[Ladouceur] does not emphasize winning. Victories are a byproduct of a larger vision. It begins with a question: How much do we owe one another?” So what’s that effort, what are the keys to his success and De La Salle’s winning streak? What can we take away and apply to any team dynamic in sports, business, family, or community?  

Your dealership at best has a winning team culture; it’s built to consistently generate successful outcomes. At worst, it’s a group of individuals scraping for survival and counting the sunsets to payday. Team success starts at the top. It’s founded on an atmosphere of trust, reliance, and accountability. It’s part of your strategic plan and built into everything you do. Review the following questions:

  • Do you know the leadership culture of your organization?
  • Do you understand how leadership culture affects results?  
  • Do you know how people describe your business and react to your leadership?
  • Do you appreciate the lasting effect culture has on the work environment?  

If the answer to any one of these questions is no, it may be time for an assessment. Objectively measuring your organization’s leadership culture will quickly point to the pros and cons of your leadership team’s effectiveness and the influence they wield in the operation---intended or not. Everything about your business, sales results, employee attitudes, and work flow stem from culture.  

A cultural assessment measures your team’s strategic focus and their aptitude for innovation. It’ll help you better understand your employee’s tactical abilities and your managers’ focus on production. In all, the culture measures 22 separate leadership dimensions and helps you set a course for even greater achievement.  

Most business owners want to be thought of as strategic leaders---perennial winners. They envision guiding cutting-edge organizations and generating extraordinary results. Of the very few who do, there are even fewer still who understand how or even why they’ve produced good outcomes. Most owners ride a roller-coaster of middling accomplishment hoping to improve the bottom line, all the while wondering how…  

  • To become a strategic leader and instill that mindset in your organization, consider the following tips:
  • Establish a regular and consistent meeting time for strategic planning; make strategy and a specific outcome part of each manager’s responsibility.
  • Connect managers, both up and down the organization, with a mentor; each can help the other focus on business more strategically.
  • Communicate organizational goals and management philosophies; each employee needs to understand the broader strategy in order to focus on the factors that contribute to success.
  • Reward people for strategic thinking, not just reacting to a crisis of the moment. Your culture should encourage anticipating opportunities and avoiding problems before they manifest.
  • Promote a future perspective; think about desirable and undesirable consequences; inspire strategic thinking and encourage thoughts of “how, when, and why not?”



Originally published as 'Leadership is Coaching and Coaching is Leadership' (November 2014) for North American Equipment Dealers Association for 'Equipment Dealer' magazine.

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