He’s back.

Nick Saban, legendary coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide football team, again quieted the doubters and led his team to another national championship.

How does he do it?

The answer might best be explained (ironically since the Tide’s mascot is a pachyderm) by first asking the question how do you eat an elephant?

A Coach’s Coach

I’m a strong proponent of the coaching revolution, which is driven by a mindset that you either are a coach, have a coach or coach, or (sadly), don’t want to be coached.

Saban has a coach. His name is Lionel “Lonny” Rosen, a professor and psychiatrist who has been working with Saban and his football teams since Saban’s Michigan State days in the late ‘90s.

As described in Monte Burke’s book on Saban, titled “Saban” The Making of a Coach,” Rosen is credited with inspiring Saban’s now well-known method for running a successful football program, called “The Process.” It’s based on what’s called process thinking, or, in my professorial world in the study of health and human performance, cognitive behavioral thinking. Burke describes it well as “the breaking down of things—like meetings, practices, games, and seasons—into smaller pieces that can be handled without anxiety.”

Burke adds that it provides a “way of functioning without being overwhelmed by the bigger picture.”

Said another way, you eat an elephant one bite at a time.

As but one example of Saban/Rosen’s process thinking as it relates to football, Saban has smartly communicated to his players that the average football play lasts about seven seconds. Then he tasks his players with one simple goal. It’s not winning the game. Or winning a championship. It’s certainly not about looking at the scoreboard or focusing on the end result. It’s about winning those seven seconds of play. Then, regrouping (regardless of outcome) and focusing on winning the next seven seconds.

The Application

Imagine how this concept might translate into your own life and bring you (like Saban) to the cusp of championship (professional or otherwise) in your own life.

  • Can you win the first hour of the day when you get out of bed by controlling your thoughts and sending yourself positive messages and inspiration for the day?
  • Can you win the next 30 minutes of your day in the office by being efficient on the task at hand?
  • Can you win your 2 o’clock meeting?
  • Can you say something nice to your wife within the first five minutes of being at home that will set the tone for a nice evening at home with your loved ones?
  • Can you focus for seven seconds every time you stand over a shot on the golf course thereby maximizing your chances of making good shots that add up to a solid round?

I’m not asking you to create overnight company profitability. Or save your marriage. Or lower your handicap. All I’m asking you to do is think in bite-sized increments in your quest for success. Stop thinking about perfection and start thinking about progress. Marry this behavioral technique to your dominate focus and watch the personal championships rack up.

While watching a sporting event, ask yourself: Do their players and coaches make more sensible choices than the other team? Do they produce repeatable outcomes? Do they appear overwhelmed?

The Process

For those of you looking for quick takeaways for the boardroom “The Process” looks something like this:

  • Develop A Process
  • Manage The Message
  • Keep It Simple
  • Surround Yourself With Talent
  • Make Wise Investments in the Future

Yes, Alabama is blessed with the pick of the crop of the best athletes in America. But Alabama’s players and coaches are winning football games as much with their system and mindset as they are with their actions.