Trust the Process: Brian Kight Breaks Down How to Build a Culture that Lasts

Urban Meyer quickly saw the value in Kight’s philosophy. Now coaches everywhere are paying attention.

Trust the Process: Brian Kight Breaks Down How to Build a Culture that Lasts

Urban Meyer quickly saw the value in Kight’s philosophy. Now coaches everywhere are paying attention.

Put yourself, for a moment, in the shoes of Brian Kight in 2014. The CEO of Focus 3, you’ve been working in the business sector for 10 years but have always wanted to penetrate the sports world. You’ll never get a better chance to do so than right now, sitting in Urban Meyer’s office in an attempt to pitch your philosophy to the Ohio State head coach.

Three minutes into the meeting, Meyer raises his hand. He turns to the other two men in the room and utters the words that will change your career.

“This is it,” Meyer told his confidantes. “We’re all in.”

“I think if I were to whittle it down to just one sentence, we help coaches build the discipline they need to get the results they want,” Kight said in a recent interview. “When I talk about discipline, I just don’t mean a coach getting his discipline, although that is a huge part of it. But there’s a lot that goes into running a football program or any athletic program. Football hinges on discipline - discipline at the coaching level, at the support level and at the athlete level.

“If you look at most successes and failures in the sport of football, they’re not tied to athletic ability. They’re not tied to intelligence. They’re most closely tied to discipline.”

Kight uses Ohio State’s 2014 season, his second with the program, as an example of Focus 3’s success. Braxton Miller, the returning starter at quarterback, was lost for the season with a shoulder injury in fall camp. Redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett stepped in and excelled before going down with an injury of his own against Michigan. The Buckeyes remained undaunted and rode third-stringer Cardale Jones to victories in the Big Ten Championship, College Football Semifinal and eventual National Championship.

No one could have predicted that OSU would undergo such calamities before the season, but the coaching staff had built a culture that kept the players confident despite the changes under center. The shocks of the season didn’t destroy the Buckeyes - if anything, they strengthened them.

“The training took over for the unpredictable things that show up,” Kight said. “I don’t want to talk about guarantees or give coaches guarantees. You have to go compete, and variables are going to show up that you didn’t plan for or prepare for or couldn’t have expected. That’s how life works. What we want to do is make sure that when those situations come up, you have a reliable system to lean on and execute against.”

But before players can trust a coach’s philosophy, they need to see it work. Words without results ring empty, and athletes won’t listen to or respect a coach who doesn’t win or make them better.

Kight said the quickest way to engender trust is creating a simple message that can be quickly explained and has obvious value.

“People will buy in once it’s useful and it’s valuable because you’ve taught it well and they’ve actually tested it in the environment that shows them the ROI, but they won’t buy in before that,” Kight said. “If you’re a really good teacher and you’re a really good explainer and if you have something worth buying into, it’ll make sense really fast. If it’s harder, it’s going to require field testing.

“I see this in business, I see it in athletics, you see it in the educational environment - asking for buy in before it’s had time to be validated. Don’t ask for buy in. Teach it, put them into reps and show them, and once it works, you don’t have to ask for buy in. They’ll do it willingly.”

You can find to our entire podcast with Kight on the Hudl Radio homepage, or you can listen on iTunes or through Soundcloud.

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