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USC’s Carroll leads with ‘high touch’

by on
in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

University of Southern California (USC) football coach Pete Carroll is under no delusions about the tenuous nature of his job. As well as he’s done at USC — winning consecutive national championships and producing two Heisman Trophy winners — he knows he’s just a few losing seasons away from unemployment.

Carroll’s been there, having lost coaching jobs with the National Football League’s New York Jets and New England Patriots.

Adding to the pressure, Carroll knows that, no matter how good a coach he is, he’s going to lose up to 25 percent of his USC “work force” every year to graduation and early entry into the NFL’s draft.

So, how does Carroll raise the odds in his favor? He employs high-touch leadership, especially in the way he runs the team’s practices. Here’s how:
  • Jump into the thick of the enterprise. Carroll doesn’t watch team practices from a tower, as many big-time college coaches do. He calls plays, throws passes and reprimands laggards. He keeps practices timed to the minute.

  • Stay available for your people. Carroll hangs out with the families and friends of his players after practice, signing autographs, posing for snapshots and chatting with hundreds of fans, former players, alumni and neighbors who come by.

  • Review performance daily. Carroll assesses his players’ performance every day. Three cameras record each practice, and the players are graded.

  • Hone the competitive spirit. At practices, Carroll pits offense against defense, player against player, and players against the clock, so that they’ll see more competition in practice than they will in a game.
Bottom line: Carroll’s success starts with knowing himself. You have to know what you believe in and figure out how you feel about every aspect of your game. Then, you develop a vision of where you’re headed and go there without stopping.

—Adapted from “Sideline Business,” Douglas P. Shuit, Workforce Management.

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