[The below posting is my twice-monthly column for Tudor Recruiting Strategies called, College Recruiting Weekly. I cross-post it here with all the links for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online by clicking here.]
Jack is standing in line at the supermarket, waiting to pay for his bananas. He knows exactly what he is going to do as soon as he gets his change. He has a plan.
Barb, a fifth grader, is watching the calendar slowly move toward summer vacation. She has big plans when school is over.
Both Jack and Barb have what is commonly known as an “exit-plan.” They know what they are going to do after they have finished what they are currently doing. They know “what’s next.”
It amazes me how few coaches do.
Sooner or later every coach leaves their current job. Either holding a pink slip after the first year, with a gold plated wrist watch after 45 years, or somewhere in between — we all leave. Right now, just down the hall, or up the street is a coach who is getting ready to move on.
But to what?
Over the past few years I’ve worked with hundreds of coaches and I’ve had the opportunity to ask many what they would do “next,” if they were to leave their job.
Very few, if any, knew.
Leaving On Your Mind
It is hard to dwell on that sometimes, especially if you’ve had to fight hard to get the job, but having leaving-on-your-mind, specifically, having an exit-plan — can help you be a better coach.
It Sure Did Me
Before I left my first coaching job I had an exit-plan. The plan was to travel to New Zealand and work as a white water raft guide. And that is exactly what I did. It was a great experience and one thing that helped make it amazing was that I had my exit-plan in hand two years before I left.
How’d that help? As soon as I knew the plan I starting becoming a better employee and a better coach. An exit-plan can help you, right now, to be a better coach. It did me. Here are three ways how.
1: Building better relationships
You want to leave your job on good terms, right? Sure, most people do. They want to be liked, remembered fondly, and be able to use the employer for a good reference. Okay, there are few folks who don’t care about those, but they are a special, small group. Me, I want to leave on good terms and I bet you do also.
See, that’s one way right there where having an exit-plan makes you a better coach. My plan made me realize that the relationships I had at work were critical to my success, so I became better at my end of the relationship.
Listen, it is commonly thought that a poor win/loss ratio is why most coaches find themselves out of a job. Not so — relationship issues is the number one reason. So build positive relationships. That’s what I did. Help out your co-coaches and peers. Jazz up the place with your positive attitude and great work ethic. Be methodical with random acts of kindness. Doing things now so to build strong relationships could give your career a boost, and you’ll be a better coach because of it.
2: Becoming a student of the game
If you plan to stay in coaching, are you learning as much as you can? Are you developing skills to take you to the next level? Not just sport-specific skills but other critical skills such as problem-solving skills, communicating-skills, recruiting-skills.
Let’s say you are currently a college assistant coach, and you have an exit-plan to become a head coach. There is a lot to learn to make that step to the next level. Your exit-plan (knowing you want to be a head coach) should motivate you to learn as much as you can. Become a student-of-the-game, a sponge that absorbs as much as possible, and then a little bit more.
You learn more, you are a better coach right now. You learn more, you’ll be a better coach tomorrow. You learn more and you’ll be much more likely to keep that next job when you get there.
Two down, one to go …
3: Leaving with grace
How you leave is often remembered more than what you did while you were there. And your legacy, what you leave behind, is an important part of your coaching career. That is the third way an exit-plan can help you be a better coach — grace in leaving.
Remember I told you about leaving my first coaching job? My Dad, who had been in business for years gave me great advice he used when he changed jobs — be thankful. So, when it was time to leave (according to my exit-plan) I made sure that I found everyone at the school who helped me along the way and thanked them. From bus driver to athletic director, I told them how much I appreciated their help, shook their hand, gave them a card.
How did that make me a better coach? Well, it made be a better person, and thus a better coach. See the connection?
To Tomorrow And Beyond
There are no guarantees in coaching except that one day you will be leaving your job. It happens to every single coach. Your decision, or theirs, that day is coming. Don’t you want to be prepared?
The future is right outside your locker room. That’s why it’s important you have an exit plan.