John Beilein: The team in leadership

February 23, 2021 0:55:00
Kaltura Video

Join us for a discussion on leadership featuring Coach John Beilein and Professor Paula Lantz, associate dean of the Ford School. February 2021.



Paula Lantz: Good afternoon everyone, 
and welcome to our virtual event today.  

I'm Paula Lantz, I'm the James B. Hudak, 
Professor of Health Policy and the Associate  

Dean for Academic Affairs here at the Ford School 
of Public Policy, and it is my great honor and  

pleasure today to be hosting a conversation with 
the amazing coach, John Beilein. Welcome Coach.

John Beilein: Thank you. Thanks, Paula, 
very much. This is great to be back  

sort of in the classroom again 
right now with a lot of people,  

a lot smarter than me, but maybe 
I got some things we can share.

PL: Well, I think we're gonna have a really fun 
conversation today, so... We're so glad you're  

here with us. I know Coach Beilein does not 
need any kind of introduction for many people,  

but let me just do a little bit of introduction 
before we get going here, John Beilein was the  

head coach of the University of Michigan's 
men's basketball program from 2007 to 2019.

PL: And during this time, he led a golden era in 
the men's basketball program, appearing in two  

national title games and making it to the NCAA 
tournament nine times out of his 12 seasons at  

the University of Michigan. He is the winningest 
coach in the history of the University of Michigan  

men's basketball program. He is beloved in the 
University of Michigan community, and it's not  

just for his coaching ability and record, but 
he's also greatly admired because of his positive  

spirit and his winning approach to 
team development and leadership.

PL: So again, thank you, coach, for sharing your 
time with us today to talk about leadership, and  

how lessons from elite competitive athletics are 
relevant to leadership and team building and other  

arenas, including the arena of public service, 
which we care so much about at the Ford School.

JB: Thanks. Thank you.

PL: Great, so I have some questions I'm gonna ask 
Coach Beilein. We also have received a number of  

questions already from people in the audience, and 
so I'll be weaving those into my conversation with  

him, we hope we have time for some more questions 
from the audience, so those of you joining us  

right now, please submit your questions either 
via the chat function, or you also can tweet your  

questions via Twitter using the hashtag "policy 
talks". Alright, Coach, you're ready to get going?

JB: I am ready. Let's go.

PL: Alright.

JB: Let's go.

PL: Alright, question number one. A little bit 
of background. So here at the Ford School, our  

core mission is really making a difference, and 
we're a community dedicated to the public good.  

Our definition of leadership here 
at the Ford School is really simple.  

We define leadership as the intentional 
behavioral process of having a positive impact  

on others, on organizations and communities. 
So leadership to us is just really having  

an intentional positive impact on 
others, organizations and communities.

PL: What's your working definition 
of leadership? How do you define it,  

how do you see it? And also, why is 
leadership such an important component  

of athletic programs and also really specifically 
related to team building and team performance?

JB: Yeah, I think we're on the same page 
with the definition. I have sort of that  

defined just slightly different, that 
leadership is the practice of educating,  

inspiring, influencing and motivating others to 
be their best selves. Let me break those four  

things down to you, one of the things that 
we've learned as we build a culture of, and  

teaching our players to be leaders to assistant 
coaches, is there's an education component to it.

JB: I think you have to understand leadership 
is, we're not just born leaders, and some may be,  

but most people, most people, I have to learn 
about it. And that's why I have a passion for  

teaching it, now I'm teaching it over in 
the School of Education, and it's important  

that you educate it. We found that people 
aren't gonna learn to lead through osmosis,  

you have to actually give them some of the steps 
that you have to take. I think that inspiring them  

is huge, and I think that has an awful lot to 
do with how you build relationships in leading.

JB: You can't aspire anyone, if you don't have a 
good relationship with them or really a positive  

one, that you know them, you have empathy for 
them. We say, "The player is inside the person,"  

you don't get the player 
unless you get the person,  

and that's so important. And then next 
is just influencing, I think old leaders  

and still some leaders today, they 
think they influence through power.

PL: "Oh I'm gonna lead you because why? Because 
I said that's why, that's 'cause I'm the leader."  

And that's not the way you're gonna lead, you 
have to really choose power over influence...  

Or choose influence over power all the time. 
It's really... General Martin Dempsey told me  

that when I was with the Cavaliers 
last year. He's a tremendous hero,  

army general, and talked to me about that as 
I was trying a different method of leadership.

JB: And then finally in motivating there, that's 
so important that you said a positive... This  

tone at the top, that Dave Brandon used to 
talk about with me, our ex athletic director,  

is this positive sort of, I'm there, I'm there 
every day. It's like Michigan's defense right now.  

Every day they're coming to play defense. They 
may have a bad day now and then in offense,  

but their defense is there. If you come 
every day with this positive attitude,  

people will go your way and they 
will follow you if they feel it's...

JB: It's amazing, it's a heliotropic 
effect that people go towards sunshine,  

they're gonna go that way whenever they can. 
Kim Cameron is a great teacher at Michigan  

over at the Business School, and he's taught me 
a lot about this heliotropic effect. So that's  

my... That's my long-winded one of leadership, 
but it's got four pretty good components to it.

PL: Yeah, I really, I like that. I wanna riff off 
of that a little bit and go a little deeper into  

this. What are some lessons about team building 
and leadership from athletic teams, that you  

think are important for other groups of people 
who work together professionally? Or even people  

in communities who are trying to get together to 
make some kind of positive change within their  

community? And what are the behaviors and skills 
that are important for leaders across the board?

JB: We spent, teaching this course, as I 
said, and we spent the first couple of weeks  

about self-awareness. In order to be a good 
leader, you have to really know who you are.  

One year, I tried to lead, I was reading a book  

about Bobby Knight, this great coach from 
Indiana, and one of the best ever, three national  

championships, and probably tried to coach 
more like him, and that's not my personality.

JB: I'm not saying one's better or the other, 
but you have to find out who you have, build your  

own core values, decide just right now, what's 
really important to you. That's how we came to  

our core values in Michigan. We huddled up with my 
staff, I had a new staff, and they said, "Coach,  

we gotta put this down, we gotta teach this, 
we cannot just wait for it to happen. What's  

really important to you? And then we'll work with 
the team, see what's really important to them,  

and try and mesh these things." And that's where 
it starts. That self-awareness that you have.

JB: And then after that, to be this good leader,  

you gotta stay true to those values as you 
go through. If that's what you believe in,  

you gotta go there, with certain flexibility, 
versatility is huge, but you have to be true  

to that and stay there. And then I call 
it the VET, and I learned this from...

JB: I don't like throwing names around, but 
I don't like to take credit for something I  

didn't think of, but I was fortunate last year 
to go down and see the St. Louis Cardinals in  

spring training, and I wanted to talk with 
their GM about leadership, John Mozeliak,  

and he mentioned three things that were 
really important in today's leadership,  

and I call it now the VET, I teach it to my class.

JB: Being vulnerable, V. Be vulnerable. You don't 
know it all. People won't follow you if you will  

not, you will not admit your mistakes, and I think 
if you look at this past year with this pandemic,  

if we had addressed it maybe differently, if 
several people were saying, "We goofed, let's do  

this, let's do that." What could have happened in 
that? Or the political parties now fighting with  

each other, how about, "My bad, just, I was wrong, 
you were right." Admit it. And what a good thing.

JB: And then empathy. I think today's world, it's 
so important that we have that for each other,  

I think we've seen that in all different ways 
of inclusion right now of people reaching out,  

social justice. Empathy is so important.  

And then as we're all in the Twitter world, 
in the email world, in the Instagram world,  

if you aren't transparent, people are gonna find 
out the other way. And you don't... You'd rather  

be out front and be transparent and say, in 
vulnerability, "I goofed." Or. "We're gonna  

do this 'cause this is what the big data says, 
not because I said so." Those things are huge.

JB: And then the last thing in being this leader 
is, you gotta be a listener. I finally went to  

this point where never having assistant coaches 
early in my career, I thought I had to do it all.  

And when I started listening to more, and 
reaching out and asking questions, I found  

out I certainly didn't know it all, and let's 
bring in people who know differently than me,  

and let's blend together or incorporate that. 
Including with your team, listen to your team.

JB: And there may be some values you're not... 
If they all say to you, "Alright, we really wanna  

be late for practice every day," there's some 
non-negotiables you're not gonna do, but they're  

gonna say, "Hey Coach... " I used to make the guys 
really dress up for dinner, and then after a few  

years, I just ended up saying, and I don't even 
know if it was in Michigan, I think it was in West  

Virginia, they said, "Coach, do we really have to 
dress up for dinner? It's just a pre-game meal."

JB: And I said, "Yeah, I think you're right. 
We don't have to... " You just give in to these  

different areas. Or, "Coach, we're practicing 
too early on a Saturday, could we move it back?"  

Those are those little things that are 
so important, that you listen to them.  

'Cause then you give them ownership. When 
you listen to them, you give them ownership.  

And our best teams, our best teams, the 
championship teams are the ones that  

went all the way national champion, 
we were on cruise control in March.

JB: The coaches and I put together a few things,  

the Mo Wagners, the Trey Burkes, 
the Tim Hardaways, Duncan Robinsons,  

they were running those teams at the 
end. Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson,  

that was their team, "Coach, we got it, we got 
it." And that's where I think you wanna get to.

PL: That's great, and that's a great segue into 
the next question. And you had mentioned this  

before, that leadership is not about power, and 
here at the Ford School, we talk a lot about how  

being a leader doesn't mean you're the boss 
of everything or that you have control of all  

the resources, and every team needs everyone 
to show up with their leadership skills.

PL: But an audience member did pose a, I think 
what is a fair question, and that is, does a team  

have to have one clear leader? You might 
have a lot of leaders on your team,  

but should there be someone who is more sort 
of a point person on the leadership position  

on a team? Or can you just have a 
team where everyone's the leader?

JB: Well, I do think there's gotta be somebody, 
maybe in name to be able to do that. But they  

don't have to be the leader. They could 
be the coach. But there's teams that,  

in the NBA or things like that, that 
when it came to the decision time,  

they would look to the captain and 
say, "What do you wanna do?" And so...

JB: But I think that the more leaders, the 
better. Really, the more leaders the better.  

We studied leadership, we went down to see 
Lieutenant Colonel Mike Erwin at West Point,  

'cause they're teaching, to the West Point 
cadets there, they're teaching leadership  

every single day. And truth is, not everyone 
becomes a general. So they're not... They  

don't all become these ultimate leaders, 
but they can lead in different ways.

JB: Somebody decides for them to charge, 
but somebody's gotta lead them out of there,  

and somebody's gotta have the rear flank while 
they're charging, so there's all different  

elements to leadership. And our teams, many times 
are non-scholarship guys were our best leaders,  

because they brought it every day with no agendas.  

And that example was really 
leadership to the great players.

JB: Austin Hatch brought us leadership every day 
without saying a word. When he came in every day  

for practice, a great player could not play 
anymore, but was just his visualization showed  

leadership in some ways. But I don't think you can 
have too many leaders unless they're like this,  

and they're not willing to have empathy 
for each other, walk in each other's shoes.

PL: So here's another question from an audience 
member. And you spoke before about the core values  

that you had, that were motivating. So can you 
talk a little bit about what were those core  

values? But also, what were the methods you used 
to get your players to buy into the core values  

and the team culture you were trying to create? 
And how do you think that impacted performance?

JB: As I said, well, we went on this 
mission. And we actually wrote up  

a mission statement. And then we went to our 
core values, and it came out to be as an acronym,  

UPAID. "Unity", that we were gonna 
be the team, the team, the team.  

You know, we listen to Bo Schembechler's 
speech every year to start our season.

JB: "Passion", we wanted people that 
we were looking for and recruiting on  

the team, everything they love 
Michigan, they love basketball  

and they love their teammates. Appreciation, 
we always wanted this attitude of gratitude  

for everything we did. We're blessed 
to be able to play at this university.  

We're blessed to have the skills to play at a high 
level, to have a scholarship for some of them.

JB: "Integrity", the absolute most important 
one. I would have had it first, but... I  

should have... I guess I could go to IPAID, 
but I wouldn't know what to do with the U then,  

so it is... That's really... You can have all 
this stuff. You can have passion, unity. You lie,  

cheat, steal, you short-cut, you're not gonna 
have integrity. You lose it all. You lose it all.

JB: And then "diligence" was the last one, that we 
were gonna work and everybody thinks all the time,  

"I'm gonna work really hard, that's gonna put me 
ahead." Yes, 'cause if you don't work, you won't  

get ahead. But everybody else is working hard too. 
So you have to understand that. That other teams,  

other companies, they're working hard too. 
Yours isn't the only ones to invent hard work,  

and that's why you have to be efficient with it 
and know that you will not survive without it.

JB: You might get some breaks, you might do the 
right thing here or there. So how did we teach it,  

is we taught it. That we would go in and the 
first day of practice or video or something,  

we'd use unity. And we would give the definition 
of unity. We would look at every word in it.  

We would talk of... We'd give 
different examples of unity.

JB: Go to when we'd have different 
speakers come in, "Alright,  

tell me about a team in the past that 
you've heard that was very unified,  

and how did they do? And then tell me about a team 
that wasn't and how did they do?" Just giving them  

those ideas. 'Cause you know what? Many times, 
and I don't mean this in a bad way. Mom and dad,  

brothers and sisters, your friends back home, they 
don't care if you win, they wanna know how many  

points and rebounds you have. And it's absolutely 
conflicting. And you gotta get to that point.

JB: So we taught all those things every day and 
brought people in, also speakers to do it as well.  

And pretty soon, there's not one of our... There's 
a lot of people that have core values, they can't  

remember them. There's not one of our guys, I'm 
confident doesn't know what UPAID stands for.

PL: And it's probably applying 
it in every aspect of their life.

JB: Exactly.

PL: After college.

JB: We added accountability in year five 
or six, because we had lost a lot of people  

to the NBA and we had a bunch of young people, and 
they were still learning how important it was to  

hold themselves accountable and each other. Brian 
Townsend said something, what is the... Oh shoot,  

I'm forgetting. Now, Brian Townsend teaches 
leadership over in the Athletic Department.

JB: The weight of honesty. Your 
team can bear the weight of honesty.  

Just think about that. That you can 
tell the truth and people can take it.  

And that's so important that people don't 
wanna hold each other accountable because  

they're afraid whether, that people 
can bear that weight of honesty.

PL: That's great, I love that. Alright, 
so next question. What is your advice for  

teams in regard to understanding and 
working through differences they might have,  

and especially differences that arise from people 
coming together from really different backgrounds,  

cultures, identities and life experiences?  

What can individuals and then teams do to 
get past conflicts and tensions that arise?

JB: We ended up every year, Paula, bringing 
Brian Townsend over from the Leadership  

Department and the Athletic Department. And we 
had everybody by themselves at their own tables,  

put down their values. "What's the three 
things most important to you?" And very rarely  

were they the same. And then we put 
them up in a spectrum going across,  

and there would be somebody I love and I would 
coach to the end of the earth, and I did it too,  

and I would see he's at the other end of the 
spectrum than me. He values different things.

JB: When I became a father, in particular, 
Andy, my son, may be watching right now,  

the fourth of my four children, when I 
found Andy, when I got to know Andy better,  

he's not a baby anymore but I'm just watching 
him move around, I said, "I'm four for four."  

All four of my children are very different. 
And so I became a better coach immediately that  

Sean and Patrick, Mark and Andy, that they were 
all so different, that how could I ever expect  

my team to all be the same? When with the same 
mom and same dad, these were all so different?

JB: So we would teach the values, and I'd say at 
the other end of the spectrum is, for example,  

Jon Teske. And I'm way over here. And we are 
very aligned but we think differently. And  

once you understand that different people have 
different values and you respect them, you just  

get there. There's so much respect 'cause they'll 
do it to you. They'll do it to you. And you don't  

know how they were raised or what challenges 
they had, or maybe they had no challenges too.

JB: And if you realize that, then you 
understand maybe that's why they're  

having trouble with this challenge. 
The whole thing is, try and find out  

why they are the way they are, by just 
getting to know them. And it's very,  

very simple. So we really put a lot of 
time into that and have coaches go on  

and just... Greg Harden from university 
would come in and talk with every player.

JB: And I remember we had one 
player, I won't mention, but  

he really broke down in front of the team to 
say about a relationship he had that really  

been difficult for him his whole life. And now 
the team knew all the time. They know all...  

They knew from the rest of the time, what he 
had gone through and look at him differently.

JB: So again, walking steps in someone 
else's shoes is really important.  

Even as Joe Biden said... Joe 
Biden's mother, "For a moment."  

She said, "For a moment, just walk in their 
shoes". And I think we need to do that for  

a moment, no matter what political party you 
are, and what type of leadership you're in.

PL: Were there things you 
looked for in potential recruits  

related to these leadership things we're 
talking about and how could you see them?  

Or how did you try to get things revealed 
as you were trying to build and recruit?

JB: Yeah, you know what? It was the... And you 
couldn't do it now, so I probably wouldn't have  

done very well recruiting right 
now, but we used to make everyone...  

A lot of people will offer scholarships and they 
haven't even met the guy yet. We intentionally  

made everybody had to come to campus to meet 
us, to get a scholarship offered. And even,  

we didn't... Might not have even seen them 
play yet, but we get that out of the way.

JB: Once you come to camp, we get to know 
you. We didn't care who we didn't get,  

Paula. We cared who we got. I told the group 
today at 12, 35 games of the season, you don't  

do your due diligence and you get the wrong guys 
on your team, right? They could beat you 35 times.  

Your own guys could beat you. He goes somewhere 
else, 'cause you're unsure? He might beat you once  

or twice. So we don't want people that just don't 
get that. Or to come from, have that same values.

JB: Now, with all that being said, we have 
kids that came from the dirt poor situations  

and just barely, because of lack of opportunity 
in their grade school and junior high and high  

school, they had the ability, but they 
didn't have the resources to actualize  

their potential. And then we had other ones 
that were the valedictorian of their class,  

and every guy graduated because we 
made sure we saw that they got it.

JB: Michigan, they understood Michigan was come 
out of the academics first. Yeah, you could go to  

the pros, but unpack your bags for four years, and 
if you go to the pros, fine. But if not, you're  

going to study all... You're doing everything, 
just like everybody else. Embrace this experience.

JB: So I think that's it. Getting to understand 
each other and knowing that we're all different.  

And the world has come so much farther. 
We're not there yet, maybe not even close.  

But I just look back 23 years 
with inclusion in all areas,  

and we're moving in the right 
direction, just not fast enough.

PL: Thank you. So I think some Ford School 
students and some of my colleagues at the  

Ford School might be surprised to learn that I 
was actually a competitive athlete back in the  

day. My sport was gymnastics. And gymnastics is 
a very different sport than basketball, for sure.  

I know basketball is hard, but I'm gonna say,  

try thinking a moment about performing feats of 
strength and flexibility and precision and grace,  

on a four-foot piece of wood elevated off 
the floor. It's a very different sport.

JB: Yeah.

PL: But what I really wanna get to is that, 
gymnastics is a really different sport from a lot  

of other sports because it's a team sport, you're 
competing as a team. But you're also competing  

as an individual against your own teammates. 
Which is, it's hard. There was always a tension  

in that for me competing as the team and then 
also trying to beat my teammates as well.

PL: And I think on any team there, we can't 
deny, there is some competitive tension  

on teams who are trying to achieve 
the same goal. So how did you coach  

your team members around this tension regarding 
individual performance versus team performance?

JB: And with the money that's available 
in the NBA and the pressure from home  

or anywhere. When after a game... 
We were fortunate enough to have an  

awful lot of NBA first rounders and second 
rounders. And everybody sort of saw that,  

but everybody else wants to do that too, and 
they think maybe it is their best way to get  

there is to focus on themselves. And really the 
best way to get there is focus on your team.

JB: I can't tell you how much Tim Hardaway, the 
only pressure on him was he wanted to be the best  

player he could be, and winning was so important 
to him over his own self. And his first two years,  

didn't even look at the NBA, because his 
dad had lived it, he wanted to just be good.  

And at his junior year, we had to say, "You know, 
you're a first rounder, what do you wanna do?"

JB: And while he wasn't completely surprised, it 
wasn't like, all he dreamed about, "I gotta get  

to the NBA, I gotta do that." Or something, that 
really gets in the way, that the high... We say,  

"The high tide rises every boat." And we all know 
that. The high tide rises every boat. And so if...

JB: I contend that we've had so many guys drafted 
in the NBA because we were playing in late March,  

when all of the world is 
watching college basketball.  

And so if we don't win, nobody knows about 
you. And so we preached that. I think regarding  

gymnastic, I heard this, one of our speakers at 
my class brought this up, and it was really...

JB: Apparently, the Norwegian 
cross-country rifle team, I believe it is,  

so they'd cross country ski, shoot a rifle, and 
then they go and they're competing against other  

countries, but their own team. And apparently what 
they would do is, some of their best ones would go  

out front first, and then call back to their 
teammates what the challenges were, and so...

PL: The conditions, yeah.

JB: Giving them a chance to do better than 
they were. And what's happened is they've  

become the elite ski team because they all have 
gotten better through it. And they change the  

leaders and different things like this, and 
it's so... People have to understand that,  

that... And if you look at this thing that, 
"I'm okay, you're okay, we both can do this."

JB: Iron sharpens iron, the competition, there's 
so much to that, of the competition, of just  

being at your best every day or, "Somebody 
else is gonna take my spot here, on this team."  

It's healthy, there's that area where you don't 
want it too easy and you don't want it too hard,  

but there's that bell curve at the top that 
is really good, where you have pressure  

and you have demand, that's where 
you get the best out of everybody.

PL: Excellent. Alright, got a question from 
the audience. Someone writes, "I often find  

it hard to judge myself as a leader, things 
are not always easily observable or measurable,  

so how do you recommend that people evaluate 
themselves as leaders?" And do you wanna share  

how... You've done that over the years, how 
have you assessed yourself and your leadership?

JB: Well, I think that you... First of all,  

there's probably a million books on leadership 
out there. I will not be writing one. But  

it is really, it's really important that you know 
there's resources out there to learn about this. I  

think, again, write down what's really important. 
What are your values? What are your core values  

that are really important to you? And they may be 
just with you, they're made exclusively to you,  

but then you may not be comfortable 
going out there with all those things.

JB: We say all the time, "Just pivot 
every now and then. Just pivot and  

move yourself a little bit into that arena 
where you can speak up and say something or  

do something that has leadership, to get you 
comfortable being a leader." And all of a sudden,  

like Trey Burke, Jon Teske, very rarely said much, 
but every now and then they would say something  

in practice or in a game that everybody 
listened to, when they did their little pivot.

JB: Scott Novak or... Yeah, Novak, you never had 
to say anything about him, right? Zack, I'm sorry,  

Zack Novak, I get them mixed up with a guy 
named Scott Ungerer, who's another great  

leader for me at Richmond. But Zack Novak was 
the ultimate leader. I mean, he's giving orders  

or giving leading coming out of the room, but 
the other guys just had to pivot at that time.

JB: And so it is really a... It comes down to 
yourself right now, getting to know yourself and  

then being comfortable with what you wanna lead 
it. Like it could be, when we ask our classes,  

some people say, "I wanna lead in 
empathy, that's my thing." Well then,  

just do it and it will sort of happen to 
you, show you, do that every single day.

JB: Make a list, make a list of things you're 
gonna do that are gonna be empathetic that  

day and do 'em. They, both Scott Ungerer and Zack 
Novak will laugh now because I called Zack, Scott,  

many, many times. [chuckle] They were both 
left-handed, both playing out of possession,  

both bright as can be, and both great leaders. 
So I'm sorry about that guys, I mixed your names.

PL: What do you think about... The 360 Evaluations 
are pretty... They've been around for a while,  

and pretty common. What do you think about that? 
Everyone asking everyone else they work with,  

"How am I doing? Let's all take 
a look at each other and see  

how everyone's doing individually, but 
then also how we're doing as a team."

JB: Yeah, it is... Can I say I love 
it and I want people to do it? No.  

We did virtually do it one time with me. Very 
uncomfortable. But what also happened out of it  

was, there were some clear misunderstandings 
that I had not communicated well but our  

intentions were the same. And it was just 
the simplest mistake that we could correct.

JB: And at the same time, I also heard things 
that probably... I thought I was doing a good job.  

There's a book, Leadership and Self-Deception,  

which my class is reading right 
now. I'd just finished reading.  

And it's exactly about that. You think you're 
leading sometimes and you're not. You're not.

JB: And you got... You're really betraying 
yourself when you do not look at yourself  

truthfully and try to get on the other side 
of that. And it basically comes down to,  

are you treating everyone as a real 
person? Or are you treating everyone,  

"That's the janitor, that's my wife, that 
is the teacher, that is my classmate."?  

Or, "Is that John? This very unique man, 
he has a family does everything and he  

happens to be sweeping the floors."? And 
it's a different thing. And as a result,  

I think that's so important that we get to that 
point with everybody as we're looking to lead.

PL: Thank you. So last week when 
we met and we we're having our  

pre-session for this, we discovered that we both 
have a mutual appreciation for the same person who  

is actually mentioned already, and also a book. 
So University of Michigan alumnus, Michael Erwin,  

has a book called Lead Yourself First: 
Inspiring Leadership Through Solitude.

PL: So I'm wondering if you could speak a little 
bit about this book and Dr. Erwin's main message  

in the book about the really important role 
of solitude and reflection in leadership?

JB: He's not quite a doctor yet, but he'll work...

PL: Okay. That's right.

JB: Lieutenant colonel. But he is a major...

PL: He started a PhD, he was in a PhD program 
in Psychology at the University of Michigan.

JB: Right.

PL: Yeah.

JB: He's an amazing man who has studied this for 
a long time, and just some of the best leaders,  

you just need this time, especially today, to have 
solitude. To think. And if you think about it,  

meditation is the best. I mean it's the best. 
I've used it now for 20 years. Prayer is a similar  

vehicle. Exercise is a similar vehicle, where 
you shut everything down and you just think.  

And it's so important that we turn off the 
noise and just get away from it. You just...

JB: The time right now, the focusing times, I 
think Mike... These are approximate numbers,  

but let's say, people used to stay focused for 30 
seconds. Their attention span was 30 seconds, 10  

years ago. Well, now it's 15 seconds. We actually 
did this with our huddles. When Mike told us,  

we tried to break up our huddles to make sure that 
we did not go too long in a huddle on one subject,  

and changed things around with 
a different person talking.

JB: But you're dealing with it, with a... I forget 
the numbers but it's unbelievable number of times,  

that a high schooler, a college student, a 
grade schooler looks at his phone in a day.  

And it's hundreds and 
hundreds and hundreds that...  

And they did the studies too, about if you 
put a phone next to you and take a test,  

you put a phone in your bag and take a test, 
and you put your phone in the next room and  

take a test. And consistently data was, you do 
the best when the phone is in the other room.

JB: So those things are so important that you shut 
out, so you could think clearly. I mean, you have  

to be able to do this. It was so important 
for me that meditating before every game,  

I had a positive one that I did, that I always 
saw us winning the game. I always saw our team, me  

shaking the hands of the team we'd beat, I could 
smell the hotdogs. I did everything to do that so  

that when I get into a huddle, I'd been there 
before. And it's the power of it, LeBron James  

uses it so much. I'm sure the golfers use that 
like crazy. I need to start doing it with golf.

JB: So it's like this power that we all 
have, you gotta try and make that your  

competitive advantage. You have to 
make it your competitive advantage.  

All the resources we have in that phone, they're 
tremendous. But it's like me running too many  

plays, if we ran... And I probably did run 
too many plays. But we ran 100 plays lousy,  

instead of 10 plays really good, we would 
have not had the success that we had.  

So we're running plays every day, and you gotta 
cut it down so that you do what's most important.

PL: Yeah. Everything you're saying 
is so important. I wanna focus this  

part of our conversation more 
on Ford School and Ford School  

students, and even all of us here at 
the Ford School. We've just come through  

a really... Incredibly contentious election year 
and election cycle and the aftermath from that,  

and to be in the field of public policy and 
public affairs is to be up on the news and...

JB: Yeah.

PL: Every bit of news and what's happening not 
only in the United States, but globally. And you  

sometimes feel like if you 
don't look at your phone  

for two hours, you're way behind in 
the very fast paced news cycle. So,  

I know I'm guilty of it. I have my phone by my 
bed, and if I wake up in... Which I do every  

night, I wake in the middle of night and I check 
the COVID numbers and stuff. It's bad, right?


JB: But I think that a part of it has to come... 
It's better to have all this information at our  

fingertips, but it's too easy. So yeah, actually, 
can you give me some advice? [chuckle] For  

the people who are sort of in our world, 
where again, being up on the news and every  

political take on the news is what we do and 
we have to do, to do our work in the world.

JB: Well, it's same thing with me. I'm checking 
box scores in the middle of the night, see how my  

NBA guys are doing or how different teams in the 
Big Ten are doing. And people forget that we all  

turned out alright when we waited for the paper 
to come in the next morning to read the news.  

And not very... What you have to do, 
anything that's really important,  

you're probably gonna get a phone call on. If 
you don't respond, you're gonna get a... If it's  

really you can't miss it, you're gonna get a phone 
call on, and the next day you can take care of it.

JB: But I'm guilty of it. I'm really guilty of 
it. I have a lot of things going on and we would  

talk with our team about it, but it's something 
that we have to address 'cause it's not gonna  

get better. One suggestion Mike had, take all your 
notifications off your phone. Just eliminate them.  

Don't get any notifications, because how many 
of them are really important? But how many...

PL: All of them.


JB: Are gonna distract you so much and take you 
away from what's really important. And you just  

cannot, you can't go there. The other thing again 
is that, your brain is scrambled. It is scrambled.  

You're not using the parts of the brain that 
allow you to be successful. It's just cluttered  

in a mess, and I think I do a pretty good job 
with it now. I've always done a pretty good  

job with it. But I think we're in danger with 
the younger generation is growing up with it.

JB: That this is huge, that they understand 
this and manage it. You can't eliminate it,  

but just manage it better. And make it one 
of your goals. I'm not... Like right now,  

I'm trying to find a time that I just 
do email at this time, I'm not gonna do  

any emails during the day, but I'm gonna do it 
5:00-6:00 at night or 7:00-8:00 in the morning.

JB: That's it, I'm not gonna look at it again. 
And then I've gone where I'm not looking at the  

sports scores 'til tomorrow morning. I'm just not 
gonna do it. Believe it or not you young ones, if  

the team played on the West Coast back when I was 
growing up, we had to wait for the evening news  

to get the scores the next day. You had to go 
out to the mailbox to get the evening news,  

and then you'd find out how the Cardinals and 
the Dodgers did in a game, 'cause it wasn't...

JB: Or everybody stayed up 'til 11 o'clock  

to get the news, 11 o'clock every night on three 
channels. So we all got through that alright,  

our generation turned out alright, 
we don't need all of this.

PL: Alright. Well, how about we make a deal? 
I'll hold you to not looking at the sports  

scores all the time, and then I'll try not to 
look at the daily new COVID numbers every day.

JB: Yes.

PL: Alright. Alright, I'm looking at some 
questions that have come in from audience members,  

so let me peek at that. So someone from the 
Ford School posted this question. Often,  

teams will have two members who clash in 
some way. It can be just a personality clash,  

it could be a clash around values that you 
talked about before. As a leader, how do you  

help people on a team resolve those differences? 
And then, what do you do if you can't fix it?

JB: I think the best way that we've always 
done this, and we've had these issues before,  

when you have two or three guys all trying 
to have the same goals, make it to the NBA.  

There's gonna be these times where somebody 
shoots when somebody else is open, etcetera.  

The best way that we've been able to handle it 
was, let's all get in the room together with...  

Always say as a leader, always have somebody 
else in the room with you that is another leader.

JB: Do not ever meet with anybody individually,  

because you wanna make sure that everybody repeats 
what was said in there and there's somebody  

else to hear it. But we gotta take an assistant 
coach, and one time we had four players that all  

had taken the same amount of shots over like 
20 games. They were within one shot per game  

of each other, but all of them were wondering, 
didn't think they were getting enough shots.

JB: So we had to say to them, 
"Alright, so what do you want us to do?  

Once so and so gets to eight shots, 
he can't shoot anymore because  

they're leaving him open, but you gotta get your 
shots too." I mean, you just be real with them.  

And I think when you get... When 
you take two people like that  

and you put them in a room with an assistant 
coach or a co-manager or something, and just say,  

"This is our observations, how can we assist 
you? What are the differences? You are two... "

JB: Be positive. "You are two amazing talents, 
and we wanna get the best out of both of you.  

But I don't see that happening right 
now because of some friction. How can  

we eliminate that? Because that's one thing, 
that's one value, we cannot coexist that way."  

And that's where you're gotta be real with 
them. You gotta tell them, "You guys can get  

this done or I'm gonna have to get it done. But 
let's talk it out and maybe I can advise you."

JB: Any time... There are so many 
times that you have to tell the truth.  

Just tell the truth. And I'm not saying people 
lie, I'm just saying tell them the truth  

and show them data. It's always good to have big 
data too. To show them, not, "Oh, this is one game  

or this was one event," show them over a year. 
Keep a log. That's what all these... I always  

keep a log on everything that's going on, for 
your own protection, but more to say, "Okay... "

JB: They'll say, "You know like, 
you... Last night, you didn't... Yeah,  

I didn't like the way you were in the locker 
room, and you said some things," and then,  

"Well, it's only once, Coach." I said, "No, let's 
go back to last year and then via this year,  

and then this." These things are really 
important as a leader. You don't wanna do it,  

but that's... No leader ever 
usually complains on payday.

JB: There's extra responsibilities to being 
a leader, there's extra responsibilities,  

and you can't say, "They'll 
figure it out," or "Damn them,  

they're not good teammates." No, you're the 
leader. You gotta figure out a way to do this,  

and it usually works out. But not if you hide 
from it or you pull one in and talk to him,  

then pull the other one in, and nobody knows 
that you talk to each other and you're trying  

to slip it in the side door. No, just face 
it right in front of you in a positive way.

PL: Did you ever have the experience that 
you couldn't work it out between two people?

JB: It was more of the person in the team.

PL: The person in the team.

JB: And finally at some point, we had to 
let people go. We just had to say, "Listen,  

this is good luck, and you're still on 
scholarship, but we have to move on,  

we have to move on. So it's just best for you, 
and it's best for the team." And it's hard,  

but I think virtually every place that 
I've been, that has happened at least once,  

and virtually every place that we've been, 
there's been success following that. Because...

JB: And maybe success for them too, 
more success for them, but certainly  

for us every time. Addition by 
subtraction, you don't want it,  

but if people have their values are that different 
and they're not willing to see eye to eye,  

then you gotta... And maybe two people have to 
go if... Both if it continues to go, but usually  

the one that you see is the most detrimental to 
it, you know that you have to make a decision.

PL: Hard decision.

JB: Hard decision.

PL: Alright, another question from the audience.  

When you are the leader of a team for a 
long time, how do you maintain engagement  

of that team, and what strategies do 
you use to continually be effective?

JB: Yeah, that is a good question because I 
didn't have to do that until I was at Michigan.  

Every place I'd been except Le Moyne was five 
years. Five years, fix it. Five years, move on.  

Fix the program, move in another direction. 
Then after being at Michigan for the first five,  

I realized I had to continue to 
evolve. I had to do self-analysis  

to see who I was, and understand 
it was I in touch with the team.

JB: It's so important that they understand, I 
said this this morning, that you have to stay,  

continue to relate with your team members, and 
try to stay up with what's important to them.  

And as you're with somebody a long time, 
you're gonna get older, they might get younger,  

and you have to ensure you can relate with 
them, number one. You have to show that  

you care about them off the court, off the 
field, out of the business room, number two.

JB: Then you have to show them you know your 
stuff. So all of a sudden you've been in this,  

you've been coaching or you've been leading, 
but you're not ready to go in the digital age  

because you're uncomfortable with 
it, and you're still trying to lead,  

you're not gonna be able to lead 
anymore. So do you know your stuff?

JB: And then can you benefit them? Can 
you make them better? That's one that  

I brought in a woman from Cal to coach at 
the Cavaliers, one of the first women to be  

on the bench. There's several now, she was not 
the first, but few. And that's how she coached  

those three things, and I talk to everybody 
about that now, those four values there.

JB: But the biggest thing is relate with them, 
that you know that you can relate with them  

and you care about them off the court. So that's 
basically how you get to that point in leadership.

PL: So that, the example you just gave makes me 
really... I really wanna ask you, were there any  

gender issues with bringing in a woman to 
coach at the professional basketball level?  

And I know that it's not the first time this has 
happened. But in my work, I think a lot about  

gender issues and other kinds of identity 
issues on teams. So I'm just wondering if  

you have any... How that experience 
and other experiences, how gender...

JB: Getting Lindsay a locker room was the hardest 
thing in the NBA, that she could have her own  

locker room. And so we built her one, as she was 
the only one, but we built her own locker room,  

and there was just these things that we had to do. 
But she brought a perspective that was very unique  

and we really... She's gonna be as 
long as she wants to stay in the pros,  

she can be able to stay in the pros as 
long as she wants, because she has...

JB: And I don't wanna put it out there that 
just women are empathetic, but she had a  

look at things, her empathy for our players, her 
relationship building with our players was just,  

she was so authentic with them. 
And they really, they loved her,  

and so it was really turned out 
to be a great move for both.  

But that was the only thing. There was no 
really difference that we had to be aware of.

PL: Thanks for that. Alright. So another 
question from the audience. Did you use  

different leadership styles for 
dealing with younger, young men  

when you were coaching college 
basketball versus professional?

JB: Oh yeah, it's gotta be very different. 'Cause 
you have them somewhat... They have school,  

they have their study halls, you have a  

responsibility to make sure they're getting 
an education, and that you can really...  

You might not regulate their life, but you 
can direct their life a little bit different.

JB: So this is the time 
practice is, this is the time...  

You're not gonna go in for the classes, 
you're not gonna go in for the study hall,  

you gotta practice at a certain time, 
these are when your meals are set up.  

Wherein the pros, it's all they have their money 
and they know when practice is, and that's it. And  

that's it. And you try to catch them whenever you 
can to have individual relationships with them.

JB: But it's really hard because they're grown 
up men, they have families and they do not...  

You don't have these situations where you can 
really meet with them the way you'd like to.  

So it's hard, I think and what I learned, if I 
was back in that arena again, I would probably  

work even harder at it now, and I know that how 
hard it was to do. But it is difficult to do.

JB: And then college is... And then younger 
players in college opposed to older players in  

college, our leadership with the younger players 
in college was basically really trying to teach  

them what they didn't have. They didn't not just 
know it, they had no idea they didn't know it.  

They really are coming in extremely naive 
to what it takes to be a good teammate,  

good... They've been stars their whole 
life. And now you bring them in there,  

and there's really, it's a time period.

JB: Very few freshmen are like a Hunter 
Dickinson or a Trey Burke. Very, very few.  

Or have that opportunity. Most need some time.  

And you have to give them that time, 
you have to have patience. But you also  

can't let them slide on the important values of 
integrity, of hard work, those type of things.

PL: Okay, thank you. Another audience 
question. Do you think that our current  

political leaders could use some 
team bonding and leadership training?


JB: Don't get me going here.

PL: Sorry. [chuckle] There are 
Ford School questions, for sure.

JB: Yeah, I'm gonna stay neutral here but 
I have never... I grew up in an era of John  

F. Kennedy being elected to be the President, 
my mother and father, both active in politics.  

This past year has been amazing. But the 
way that I think that we used to have...  

And we got professors out there. I think 
we used to have about 60% in the middle  

and about 20% at each end, and it seems now 
we have 40% at each end and 20% in the middle.

JB: And so somehow, but just 
listening to each other.  

And here's one thing, just tell 
the truth. Just tell the truth. And  

have no political agenda other than do what's 
right and do the next right thing over and over  

again, and a lot of our issues be... Don't worry 
about being re-elected, don't worry about anything  

except doing the next right thing. And I think 
it would solve a lot of our problems right now.

JB: And be vulnerable and you'll bond because 
if you're vulnerable, then he or she on the  

other side of the aisle is gonna be vulnerable. 
And it will go back and forth, and pretty soon  

you'll realize, everybody's got flaws and we 
can work together. How's that? Is that good?

PL: That was good. That was great.

JB: I stayed apolitical.

PL: You're not gonna get 
in trouble on that at all.

JB: I'd get in trouble what I say around my house.


PL: Alright. Bear with me a moment, I'm looking 
at some of the other questions. So someone just  

wrote, "I'm the captain on my volleyball team. 
My teammates are complaining about a player who  

has great potential but won't bring her best, but 
thinks she is the best. What should I say to her?"


JB: You are much more powerful than you think. But 
you are not going to do it by ramming it, by just  

making her, forcing it on her. I think building 
a relationship with her, or he if it was a male,  

that she believes in you and she trusts you. 
And with other teammates, that are willing to  

get her to pivot little by little. 
She's not gonna change overnight.

JB: Little by little, in this direction 
of being a team player, team first.  

The more you give yourself just... Give yourself 
to the team. Just do it. Give yourself to the  

team and watch what a great game you'll have, 
personally. And gradually they'll get there. But  

most young players will come in like that and 
gradually, they will learn and they probably...  

The four stages of learning. Are you ready?

JB: The four stages of learning and as you try and 
teach or lead, is that basically our freshmen were  

unconsciously incompetent. Most of them. That they 
didn't know what they didn't know. Next stage,  

sometime in their freshman year, they'd become 
consciously incompetent. "Oh, I see, there's a  

lot more to this. I gotta eat right. I gotta 
go to bed on time. I need to share the ball."

JB: Then they become consciously competent. They 
really have to think about it, and they can do it,  

but they gotta think about it. And then the 
great players, the great teams, are unconsciously  

competent. They don't have to think about it, 
they coach each other, they coach other people.

JB: And that's where this young 
lady is right now. If she's a young,  

really good player, she probably doesn't 
know it all, and you can't expect her to.  

She's never been in Big Ten, University 
of Michigan, you can't expect her to. So,  

teach her gradually. It could be a 
quiz on those four consciousness.


PL: I like that. Alright, last question.

JB: Okay.

PL: I'll give you a chance to make any parting 
shots that you want. So what advice do you have  

for students today, and in particular Ford School 
students, but all students I think, who share  

the goals of wanting to make a difference and 
wanting to improve institutions and communities  

in a very political and fractured 
world. What advice do you have to  

the leaders and best who are currently 
students at the University of Michigan?

JB: Well, this is another one from Dave Brandon, 
and I hope I've... I don't mean... Again, I  

don't mean to be dropping names, I just... I don't 
wanna take credit, but I'm gonna keep living these  

things 'cause I surrounded myself with leaders 
so I could become a better leader. David's quote,  

"Leadership is not a position. Leadership is 
a lifestyle." Leadership is not a position,  

it's a lifestyle, and that's the advice I give 
people when they're out there and they wanna lead.

JB: There's another quote that, "Integrity 
is a light. Send a signal." Send a signal  

wherever you go about integrity, where it could 
be as simple as, you know when you had the meal  

in the restaurant, they under-charged you and all 
of a sudden you're going back and saying, "Hey  

listen, I owe you five more dollars." Or you know 
that you did not do your group well enough in that  

simple group that you just didn't work hard enough 
that everybody at work, you apologize to it.

JB: There's little signals you can send out that,  

"I'm trying to do everything the right way," 
and that just is a domino effect everywhere.  

And when you live this, you just can't turn 
leadership on and off. With the price of that,  

you could do 100 things well. John Beilein right 
now, I could do 99 things to do well. I could be  

wrapping bandages for the Red Cross all day long, 
but if I go out and get a DUI, it all goes away.

JB: You are held to a higher standard if you 
really wanna be a leader with that responsibility,  

that there's a lot of accountability to it, and 
it's so important that you just live that life  

and it's not easy. This is like my favorite 
quote, "It's simple, but it's not easy."

JB: Just doing the next right thing to 
your conscious every day as a leader,  

or as one who wants to be a leader that is 
not maybe ready for that, just doing the  

next right thing is simple, but it is not easy. 
For example, Paula, tonight when you go to bed,  

you're gonna take that phone, it's simple, 
you could physically put it in the kitchen.

PL: I'm not sure about that. [chuckle]

JB: It's simple but it's not easy. And so 
that's when teams see that, when you see that,  

it's that day-to-day grind. I was on a 
leadership call with some Navy Seals,  

there was five or six guys, this got the 
SALA Series, and there was two Navy Seals  

and they were talking about making it through 
Hell Week, and if anybody knows about that,  

and these are approximate numbers again, but let's 
say 100 guys come in on Sunday, whoever makes it  

to Friday, maybe 10 will make it to Friday 
become Seals, the other 90 get washed out.

JB: And the one that made it said, "The ones that 
don't make it, they don't make it to Friday... Or  

they don't make it, are the ones that are saying, 
"All I gotta do is make it to Friday, all I gotta  

do is make it to Friday." They never make it to 
Friday 'cause they're not living the day-to-day.  

The ones that say, "All I gotta do is make 
it to lunch. And now all I gotta do is make  

it to dinner, and all I gotta do is make it 
to bedtime," those are the ones that make it.

JB: And that's why these little things of going 
through life trying to do just the next right  

thing that comes in front of you. You 
don't know how many times I have a former  

player come up to me and just say, "Just 
trying to do the next right thing Coach,  

just trying to do the next right thing." 
'Cause they're out there, they're out there.

PL: That's so great.

JB: I'll go on for hours, for a long time.


PL: You know, I'm looking at the time. 
We are at the hour, so it's gone so fast.  

It's been amazing. Thank you so much for sharing 
your time, but also your wisdom, your inspiration,  

your experience. Just can't thank you enough 
on behalf of the Ford School community,  

so please accept our warmest thanks. Best 
wishes to you and your family, and go Blue!

JB: Go Blue every day of our lives. Every day. 
So thank you, everybody. Love the Ford School.  

As I said, my son, Andy is a graduate. I love the 
Ford School, and you're all in a great place, and  

I'm envious of all of you because you're 
in the Ford School at one of the most  

interesting political times in the history of 
the world, and certainly the United States.

JB: So embrace every minute of it. It's all... All 
this adversity is gonna provide incredible growth  

for all of you. And if things were easy, you 
don't grow. When things are tough, you get pruned,  

you grow. So good luck to everybody. And thanks 
for listening to me, and I hope I was helpful.

PL: Without a doubt, you were. Thank you so 
much. Thank you everyone for joining us today.  

Everyone be safe. Thank you.