The Eye in the Sky

Discernment / Leaders face intimidation working in our “feel good” society. They must remain focused on principles and grow a spine to create change. In today’s world, awards are given to individuals for showing up, trying hard, wanting it, and even for hoping to achieve success. Unfortunately evidence proves that feeling good does not always produce desired results. Leaders must evaluate and discern where change must occur and provide a contrast between what one is doing and what one needs to do. At first, the person who receives correction is often surprised, even offended because feedback is taken personally. Good leaders are capable of facing resistance, overcoming discomfort and translating objective evaluation into a format that makes sense to the one receiving it.

Seeing is Believing

During practice my freshman year at USC, my coach screamed at me, “Budde, how many times do I need to tell you to step with your right foot two inches not four inches! You keep that up and you will be getting splinters in your ass (sitting on the bench)!” As a typical eighteen year old, I believed he didn’t know what he was talking about. I earned my starting spot on the offensive line and I became the first true freshman to start since World War II. Although a hard worker in pursuit of excellence, my youth blinded me to reality. I felt that I was the victim of a mistaken point of view. Two inches may not seem like much, but in competitive sports as in the military, missed details can cause a mistake that affects results of the entire team. This was not a bad attitude issue. My coach believed that I was unable to see the truth for myself. Fortunately, he was confident if the facts were presented correctly, I would receive, assimilate information and apply it.

From 1976 to 1979, I was a member of one of the most successful University of Southern California Trojan football teams of all times. During this period USC Trojans played in three Rose Bowls, winning each of them and in 1978 they won the National Championship. Coveted Awards won by teammates during these years included; two Heisman trophies, one Lombardi award, All-American honors, Academic All- Americans, and first round draft pick selections. Passion for excellence, selfless team work and dominance were the character traits of USC football during those years. Head Coach John Robinson created a united force made up of talented players and coaches who competed and defeated the best in the nation. Playing during this era , empowered me with the skills to reach my potential not only on the field but off the field as well.

Thankfully I learned a crucial lesson freshman year which shaped my USC destiny. After practice, my coach brought me into his office and addressed my two inch dilemma. As we sat down the coach stated, “Brad the “Eye in the Sky” don’t lie.” Although perplexed, the coach had my attention. “Brad, regardless of your sincere feelings, you are dead wrong! Each day we film practice. Walking to the window he leaned out to show me the cameras on the field which he explained were the objective “Eye in the Sky.” As we watched the afternoon practice film, I saw that I was wrong. The film revealed my perception was way off and that I had stepped four inches rather than the two inches. I was humbled realizing how far off my evaluation had been. I had based my belief on my feeling I had done things right not by an objective measure. At that moment, I was finally able to clearly “see” what I had been “blind” to before. I originally presumed my Coach had a mistaken point of view in his evaluation of me, but practice film illustrated the truth. Finally I was awakened to the value of objective evaluation. My Coach/leader had been determined to help me help myself and more importantly to reach my potential. This moment changed my life and to this day I seek objectivity over emotion. Great leaders will work tirelessly to discover a way to translate information into a format which their protégé can receive, assimilate and apply it.

One Reply to The Eye in the Sky

  1. Frank Lieberman, PhD says:

    Your’e correct in that it is important to know how to present and receive communication. The messinger may have the correct message but word it poorly. Learning how to listen is a great skill too.

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