Olympian Greatness – players and coaches



Here’s the stuff we’ve shared this week:  Michael Phelps.  Kwame.  Michael Phelps.  Kwame.  Michael Phelps.  Kwa…  It’s amazing how our attention is drawn to the HUGE – figuratively, and in this case, literally huge – characters in our world.  Last week, I suggested we consciously reclaim our focus from our obsession with condemning fallen heroes and instead direct it to our own tendency to fail or fall.  (And, by the way, your blogging was exceptionally good.)  This week I invite you to learn from the Olympians – our modern-day athletic, Greek gods – about excellence and the thrill of victory.  How do they do it?  What can we learn?


Phelps, we were repeatedly told by the sportscasters, had a vision of greatness and pushed himself to extraordinary limits.  What’s your gold?  Where might you be in 10 or 15 or 20 years?   Imagine the power that comes from having a clear picture of success, and claiming it, now!  And can you imagine emulating this aspect of Phelps’ behavior:  he took the newspaper stories in which people criticized or doubted him, and he put them up in his locker – to remind him, to inspire and challenge him.  He’d show them.  How cool is that?  Often a negative opinion can drag you down, generate self-doubt, or even lead you to give up?  How awesome to take your opponent or adversary or critic and put ‘em right in front of you to motivate you.  Bring it on!!!!


A change in Olympic practice also echoes through the professional world:  using the power of a personal coach.  If you want to excel like a Phelps, get yourself a Bob Bowman!


Or be for others like Bowman, Phelps’ dedicated coach, is for Michael.  As a coach you can make all the difference in the world.  Many of us may do much more good being a Bowman than a Phelps.  And every supervisor should see development of their people’s talent as one of the central purposes of their existence (and I don’t even mean just work existence!).  Being a great coach is a high calling.  And here’s the central art:  a constant balancing of challenge on the one hand, with loving encouragement on the other.  Whether it’s in the Beijing National Indoor Stadium, the Water Cube, or the Bird’s Nest, great coaches believe in and challenge, support and push, embrace and drive their athletes to greatness.  Get out there – set great goals, hold their feet to the fire of their commitments, and let them know you’re committed to their success.


Work like Mike or coach like Bob to


Lead with your best self!



  • This will be a first in responding to one of your emails. I just wanted to say that i’m please that your encouraging “moving on.” It’s disheartening to see so much anger directed towards one person that none of the public knows personally – yet, has allowed the media to totally shape it’s decision making. Unfortunately, I also see it as something else…a window of opportunity for those who really are racists and cannot otherwise air it publically. There is a much bigger picture going on here. That picture? There’s someone “they” want to put in office that will be their “puppet” ORRR..that is just as sneaky and haneous as they are when it comes to politics and control. It’s unfortunate..but true. Whether it’s admitted or not. Who is available right now that would “sincerely” have the cities “best interest at heart” than MAYOR Kilpatrick??? Who…Ken Cockrel?! Another city council member perhaps?!! P-L-E-A-S-E!!! Oh wait…lemme guess..Mike Cox!! THAT in and of itself would make me move right out of the D! But then that’s what “they” want isn’t it??
    I’m sorry that the Govenor felt it her duty to step into this mess. I think it’s inappropriate. I feel sorry for her, especially because I “thought” she was honest and fair. This is truly a witch hunt..But then the majority wins in these types of situations…now doesn’t it? What do the majority of the voters want? Right?! Quote: “The majority is usually wrong!” Ben Franklin.

    • Purgery, graft etc. are grounds for the Governor to step into the mess in the City. Please remember the progress Detroit schools made when the state intervened. Now with local political corruption the schools may have to be taken over. The Governor has higher duty as she represents all of the citizens and if a cancer starts it will spread. Look at Highland Park, Delray etc.

  • On Point as usual!

    It is important to have a person in your life who you respect and tells you the truth (even if you don’t want to hear it!) So that you can stay focused and make the correct choices to achieve both personal and programmatic success.

    The TIP Lady~

  • I’ve had good coaches, and bad. The bad are sad examples, multiplied many times over. We’ve heard the story lines, so I won’t repeat them. Some have to do with the idea that it is about them, the coach, and not about the student (the coached). Others are living vicariously through their own child when they ‘volunteer’ to coach a little league team.
    THEN….there are real coaches!! One that I was blessed to know through a book mysteriously arriving in my mailbox 14 years ago (Champions Forever) was one of three books written by or about a Michigan legend,

    Floyd Eby http://callinggodstower.org/

    I called him after reading his book, and we conversed for several years. I was new to coaching, and he was a wonderful sounding board. Wise and serene. He exemplified courage, compassion and commitment. His walk through life (flying too!!) instilled in me many ideas and ideals.

    I found out through talking with Floyd that we had a mutual friend, the late Pistol Pete. To this day I have no idea how that book came to be inside my mailbox……such mysteries are awesome!!

    Another fine example of coach was a man named Bob Freehan. He has a famous brother, but it was Bob who came through in Boy Scout involvement, camping and canoeing trips….etc. Fame is not a necessity in the equation of being successful in impacting others positively!!

    Proud to have been born a Michigander, forever!!

  • So much is in the news lately with Kwame sightings. It is important as a leader to be seen and heard; however, the better leaders would recognize there’s a time and place for everything.

    That being said, I’d like to commend the Olympians for their being sighted last week and through this coming week. They’ve worked so hard and so long without any in-the-news time and now there’s all these new names (to most of us, myself included) and faces. There fifteen minutes of fame may not come again for four more years if even at all.

    Often, that’ll be consistent with leadership. It’s the people that you motivate, It’s the people that you praise, It’s the people that help in no uncertain terms to accomplish a greater goal.

    Have you had a sighting? Do your people get any of the sightings? A moment in the spotlight? They’ve earned it, haven’t they?

    Help someone find their moment, get them into the sightings. You’ll both grow and take on greater challenges because of it.

    • Mark,
      What a great story – the anonymous book that helped you to be a great coach. I, too, knew Bob Freehan, as I coached him and the leadership team at Warren Consolidated Schools. I loved his understated manner; he was very smart and very caring, and he showed both in the gentlest of manners.
      Love your closing line – almost as good as lead with your best self!

      • One lesson I learned from Floyd……he was dealing with an advanced deteriorated state of his wife, and he, himself, had Parkinson’s. Yet, although he did not actually know me, we enjoyed talking. He had a son who lived two hours from me, in Richmond, VA, and enjoyed visiting the state I reside in. I took away from him the most important lesson in life…..live it with passion and zeal. I passed the book, Champions Forever (which he had signed inside the cover, with a shaky signature reminiscent of a Parkinson’s inflicted hand) on to Coach Debbie Ryan, a legend at the University of Virginia, in hopes that it would inspire her to a higher level. Je ne c’est pas…….But I can hope. Sometimes just being the messenger is all that you are supposed to be!

  • Phelps was fabulous, no doubt; thrilling to watch each match, learn about his vision and goals, and how he used his adversary’s comments as a motivator, and hear about his coach. Great stories for sure! Let’s also not forget Dara Torres . . . for those of us facing our senior years, she is a model, inspiration and joy beyond words. 3 silver medals are great . . . true, it’s not Phelps’ record, but she is 41 and this is her 5th Olympic races! She said, “You don’t have to put an age limit on your dreams,” and she proved it!

    • She was going to go home and get back in the pool!!! I loved what seemed to be her sense of grace about it all. She seemed to just love what she was doing and being there. I’d like to have such love for the game – to play it with intensity – but with a certain abandon!

  • Dan,I am proof positive that having a vision also works in politics. I narrowly lost my first two races–then finally won my third race for Schoolcraft College Trustee. You have always been so positive and encouraging in your Everyday Leadership messages! I read them religiously and it really works. I won in the August 2008 Democratic Primary for Wayne County Commissioner–and WON! Now on to November…

  • I think the best coaches teach two things:

    1) How to push oneself beyond self-imposed limits
    2) How to take lemons (failures, disappointments, obstacles) and make lemonade.

    May we all strive for excellence and become expert lemonade makers!

  • Right on, Dan. All athletes have coaches. What’s your game plan for personal success?

    For how to build your innate signature talents into winning strengths, go to: http://www.LifeSignature.com

    Also, all ethical great leaders are excellent coaches. Peter F. Drucker was probably the first executive/leadership coach. His genius lay in his ability to find patterns among seemingly unconnected disciplines and to focus on opportunities rather than problems. Asked how he came up with so many original insights, Drucker said, “I learn only through listening,” pausing, “to myself.”

    It was never Drucker’s style to bring people clear, concise answers to their problems but rather to frame questions that could uncover the larger issues standing in the way of performance. “My job,” he once lectured a client, “is to ask questions. It’s your job to provide answers.”

    Many executives decide not to coach and mentor associates because they are uncertain as to how to approach them and concerned about the time it would take away from their functional duties.

    However, leaders as coaches and mentors can make a huge difference in a person’s life with little effort. And coaching isn’t a distraction from getting work done, it’s about building trust with the people where you work and managing the relationships that gets the work done. Results are achieved as people understand what they need to learn through your coaching and mentoring.

  • Right on target! Coaching is not difficult; but it requires commitment from both individuals and willingness to act upon the advice being given. It is a partnership!

  • I can’t agree more with what you said in this piece. I think that there are too many bosses that know how to set goals but fail to give the employees the support they need to reach the goals. I have been working on a website called http://www.Leadingwithkindness.com and am continually amazed how the relationships that great bosses have with their employees goes beyond the traditional work place relationships. It doesn’t mean that these bosses are push over just that they relate and support their employees better because of their relationship.

    • Tom,
      there’s a lot written on “heroic customer service,” but your comment makes me think we should talk about “heroic service of employees.” Maybe you can play with that idea on your site.

  • I was happy for Phelps because his hard work has paid off for him.

    Kwame on the other hand must go. He is a pathetic representative for the City of Detroit.

  • One of the best NFL quarterbacks from about two generations ago was Fran Tarkenton. Fran wrote about people he admired, and about what he learned from various people in world of football and elsewhere. When asked if he had learned anything from one particular NFL coach who was considered to be a jerk by most people, Fran replied, “Yes, I learned how not to treat people.” It’s a case of learning by example, albeit a bad one, and I do wonder if that coach himself learned anything important later in life.

  • To say that I agree with your article this week is an understatement.

    It is my belief that we as a society owe it to ourselves and others be be “coachable” and to be masterful coaches.

    Imagine the possibility if each young person growing up today had parents and teachers who were great coaches that
    fully supported their authentic life journey.

    Imagine the level satisfaction, fulfillment, and accomplishment if each working person was to
    realize their full potential and contribute that potential to the world in a way that makes a difference by having supportive coaches.

    As you know the International Coach Federation http://www.coachfederation.com has about 14,000 plus members working in over 80 countries around the world and we here in Michigan have around 100 members of PCAM (Professional Coaches Association of Michigan)
    http://www.michigancoaches.org .

    Thank you for being such a great coach. Together we are off to a pretty good start.

    Barry Demp

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