In Search of Excellence

I met with my old college coach, Howard Schnellenberger, recently. We reminisced about our days together years ago, and I acknowledged him for his vision, leadership and giving me the opportunity to play. He had other choices he could have made. One was allowing me to play my last season after spending nine months recovering from what usually is a career - ending injury the season prior.

CEOs are like coaches. They lead different teams in different sports on different playing fields, yet they all face the same or similar issues. They want to win. They want the right players on their teams.

The Best, The Great, The Outstanding.

The best ones - the best coaches - are the ones who recognize talent and ability and get the right player in the right position. Sometimes it's not the position that the player thought they would be playing or the one they wanted to play. But the best coaches have a knack for getting it right usually.

The best ones are disciplined, consistent, and competitive. The great ones are focused and have a purpose. And they care. These coaches care about excellence, they care about winning and most importantly, they care about their players. The outstanding ones are the coaches who set a vision, communicate it with clarity and purpose and lead authentically.

Actions Speak Louder.

Outstanding coaches create teams built on trust and expectations of excellence, and lead championship teams. The players on these championship teams trust each other, believe in the vision and know that their coach cares about them. They know this not through words or slogans or signs on the wall. Yes, they have those, too. The players know this and recognize it each and every day from the coaches’ actions.

I’ve experienced great coaches and others not so great. The same can be said of CEOs.

It’s Complicated.

Coaching, leading, being a CEO – it’s messy stuff. It's complicated. The lives of many others are in the balance.

Everyone is watching the leader. In professional sports, there is great transparency. Every decision that is made on game day is scrutinized, analyzed and witnessed by thousands simultaneously. Every play dissected. Every performance evaluated and graded.

In your company or organization, everyone is watching your next move. What will it be?

Do you desire excellence?

So ask yourself, do you have all the answers? Do want to have a Good organization or a GREAT ONE?

Who does the head coach turn to when he/she faces new challenges or old ones that keep resurfacing? Where do they turn for help?


One of the biggest lessons for me, which I discovered much later in my business career, was to ask for help. I grew up relying on my talents and that I alone could create my destiny. There is some truth in this and it worked - to a point.


Maybe you are lucky enough to have a mentor. There seems to be a lot written about mentors these days.

So whom do you turn to? Your spouse? They love you but they're tired of hearing about your day at the office. They've heard it a hundred times before.

Everyone needs a coach.

You see we all have blind spots, those traits that we don’t know or see about ourselves that usually are obvious to those around us. Where can you go to get unbiased, unfiltered, and honest with no-agenda advice? Who’s going to point out your blind spots when the people you lead or your love-ones at home don’t have the heart or the courage to tell the emperor that he has no clothes?

The answer is quite simple. You see, great coaches confide in other great coaches, their mentors.

Great athletes have coaches. Even though they are at the top of their games, they work with and confide in their personal coach. Sometimes, they have multiple coaches.

If you want to lead a great organization and lead in excellence, then having a coach, the right coach, and can make all the difference. If you have a mentor or several mentors, that’s great. If not, find a coach.

A great coach has experience and has been in your shoes. They have you and your organization’s best interests at heart. They are patient. The best coaches and mentors know that they don’t have all the answers. And when their work is done, you and your team will say, “Amazing! We did it!”

John J FentonComment