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What we can learn from Nick Saban about success

Written by Ken DeWitt on December 19, 2013

Implementers EOS

What we can learn from ...Two things happened recently that showcase the power of Nick Saban’s famous “Process” for winning college football. This feature aired on CBS’s 60 Minutes, and this photo (Photo originally tweeted by C.J. Schexnayder @kelph ) of Darth Vader reading Saban’s book became an internet sensation, highlighting the only half-joking belief (and the nerve) of some that Saban has aligned himself with dark powers or sold his soul to the Devil to get where he is.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama — I have almost all my life — just a mile from the University of Alabama campus. I met Bear Bryant personally. I have not yet met Saban, but it doesn’t matter if I do or not. One thing has convinced me of why they both became so successful: the power of process.

Many people hate Nick Saban and his Process, but even as they hate it, they’re trying to copy it. After all, any process that has been the vehicle to four BCS Championships must work.

Saban has talked openly about his Process since he arrived at Alabama seven years ago. As Andy Staples explained it in Sports Illustrated, “In its most basic form, the Process is Saban’s term for concentrating on the steps to success rather than worrying about the end result.”

The essence of the Process is:

  1. We have to be champions. Everything we do, every day, must revolve around being what we aspire to be, even before we achieve it.
  2. Set a standard and insist that everyone on the team lives up to it, or else there will be no team chemistry. High achievers don’t like mediocre people, and mediocre people don’t like high achievers. If you don’t buy into this standard or the Process, you’re on the wrong team.
  3. Every play has a life and a history of its own. Don’t think about the score, think about mastering your job. If you do that on every single play, success will follow.

That sounds so simple! It is simple, but not simplistic. It sounds basic, but then you never achieve mastery of anything without first mastering the fundamentals. It merely requires commitment and dedication to following a process that has proven to result in success.

Now how in the world does this apply to business?

Quite simply, businesses are like football teams and CEOs are like coaches. We must recruit the best players for each position; players who want to be champions. We must coach them on how to be champions. And we can’t achieve championship success without sticking to a proven process.

Can we all be like Saban? I hope not! I’m told he’s hard to live with. We certainly can’t go around interacting with our employees the same way Saban deals with his players! But you can’t argue with his success or dismiss the Process he uses to achieve it.

More Blog Posts: ← Just say it! | Trust and Intent