Potential Is Empowering

I was watching Dabo Swinney, the football coach at Clemson, talk about his opportunity to step up seven years ago.

He was an assistant at Clemson. The head coach had been released mid-season and Swinney had been named interim coach. He went to his first meeting with his boss athletic director Terry Don Phillips.

“I expected him to tell me to hold things together while he found a new replacement,” remembers Swinney. “He took a different approach. He told me that he had watched me for five and a half years. He said he thought I had what it takes to do the job and hoped I could. He told me not to be an interim coach but be the head coach. He said at the end of the season I would get an interview. He said I had a chance but I’d have to win some games.”

They won four of the six remaining games and Swinney, who had no previous head coaching experience, was given the job.

Two observations:

Swinney’s destiny was changed by the words of possibility spoken by his boss. “I went into the meeting thinking this was a short term, temporary thing. I came out empowered. Fired up for the opportunity.”

If you see potential in someone and speak it, it can have an impact. Your kids, your relatives, your spouse, your friends, your colleagues. Don’t let potential go unspoken.

The other observation is that Swinney was auditioning for a job and didn’t know it. He was an assistant coach. He recruited well. He coached hard. He had an impact on the team.

He didn’t realize the athletic director was watching. He wasn’t trying to impress. He was doing his job the best way he knew. His impact was noted.

Swinney sums it up this way: “I tell my players all the time to squeeze every thing they can out of every minute they have here. Because you never know who is paying attention.”

Go about your work as if someone is paying attention. Chances are someone is.