Nick Saban’s first national championship came as head coach of LSU. The Tigers defeated Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. It would be the first of his six national titles.

Many of Saban’s friends and colleagues in the sport asked him how LSU beat Oklahoma for the title that year. His response was simple. They eliminated the clutter.

Nick Saban has his team “eliminate the clutter”

The national championship game that year would be played at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, about an hour from Baton Rouge. It’s a city with a myriad of distractions, with Bourbon Street and people out drinking at all hours of the night. Plus, players would have ticket requests from family and friends. The top players would be hearing from scouts and agents about leaving for the NFL. There would be media obligations and girlfriends hanging around.

Saban is a coach obsessed with processes. His process for focusing despite all of these distractions was called “eliminating the clutter.” Girlfriends, agents, families and friends could all wait. The players had to minimize outside distractions to maximize their focus on winning the championship.

Saban went one step farther than just telling the players to avoid all of those issues, though. He showed his players that he trusted them to do it.

Trust and individual responsibility

LSU would be in New Orleans for seven days and seven nights before the Sugar Bowl. At the start of that season, the senior leaders came together and determined the goals for the LSU football team. In Saban’s eyes, it was their team, and they would have to do the hard work day after day.

Saban recognized that New Orleans and Bourbon Street could be tempting for his players, so he set a curfew of 11 PM. The senior leaders wanted a later curfew, especially in the first few days of the trip. The seniors argued that they could be trusted.

The seniors convinced Saban to change the team curfew to 3 AM the first night, 2 AM the second and so on. Out of over 100 players on the team, only one player missed curfew one night, and he was only 15 minutes late.

The seniors accepted responsibility for their actions and the actions of the entire team. Saban showed his players that he trusted them to take personal responsibility and focus on what matters.

What clutter exists in your life and work?

What clutter exists in your life? What distractions are keeping you from achieving your goals?

You might not have the distractions of Bourbon Street and all-night parties, but social media, texting or binge-watching shows on Netflix could be keeping you from reaching your potential.

It might not be mindless entertainment that’s holding you back. Maybe you have too many projects you’re working on to focus completely on your big goals. Or you spend your day helping others with their tasks so you don’t have time to move your projects forward.

As a leader, you must help your team eliminate distractions and demonstrate trust in them.

As a leader, you must help others eliminate the clutter. It’s not enough to simply tell them to avoid distractions. You must show them that you trust them to do what they need to do to get the work done and do the best they can. Maybe you allow your employees to have to pick up basketball games occasionally during the day. Or you might allow coworkers to work from home several days per week.

Achieving great heights as a team or organization requires setting big goals, eliminating distractions, and working together. Figure out where your team can “eliminate the clutter.” Then show them you trust them to do it.

Ready to win in every aspect of your life?

I’ve created a checklist of 12 qualities of the world’s best athletes and coaches that will help you win in your work and life. If you adopt these traits, you will succeed in every aspect of your life, every single day.

Get the checklist here!

Source: How Good Do You Want To Be? A Champion’s Tips on How to Lead and Succeed at Work and in Life by Nick Saban with Brian Curtis

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