A new era began at the University of Minnesota when P.J. Fleck was hired as the head football coach. Since he landed in Minnesota less than two years ago, he has already begun to energize the entire state. He is always up for a challenge and setting records, which he did on his high school and college football teams as a wide receiver. He was an undrafted free agent with the San Francisco 49ers until his playing days ended with injuries.

That’s when he hit the coaching profession with full force, leading one of the greatest turnarounds in college football history — a 12-0 undefeated regular season at Western Michigan in 2016. He is one of the youngest and brightest minds in college football. His commitment to character development with his players is unparalleled.

I love his message on leadership and culture change. For example, he doesn’t believe that leaders should separate their personal and professional lives. He says, “As the leader, you are the walking, talking vision of whatever you say.”

He practices the three L's of Leadership:

Look — “Leaders have to look around every corner,” Fleck said. “Leaders should never be surprised. It’s not IF something will happen, it’s WHEN it will happen. Leaders must look for everyone else.”

Listen — Listening is crucial for Fleck. He believes there is a big difference between communicating and connecting: “Leaders pull people along with them. They surround themselves with smart people and listen to them.”

Lift — This is No. 1 for Fleck. Leaders must lift people up. “You can’t just tell people to do things and put your fist down,” he says. “There are times to be demanding, but if you do it too much, all you do is wear people out. Getting to know how your people are motivated and inspired is a true characteristic of an elite leader.”

Fleck lives by the never-give-up slogan “Row the boat.” There are three parts to it: the oar, the boat and the compass.

The oar is the energy you bring to your life. It’s what moves the boat. The oar is what you can control now.

The boat is the sacrifice. We all want something that we don’t have. What are you willing to give up to get what you want? The more you give and the more you serve, the bigger that boat gets, and the more people you can take on that trip.

The compass is the direction, which Fleck considers the most important part. Who you surround yourself with is who you become. If you surround yourself with bad people, you will do bad things. If you surround yourself with elite people, you will do elite things.

“When you row a boat, your back is to the future,” he says. “You can’t see what’s ahead of you. You row in the present. You can’t control the past, but you can learn from it.”

Fleck said he and his staff and players operate in a HYPRR culture, which stands for how, yours, process, results and response.

The how is your people. If your company is struggling, either your people or your processes are screwed up, or both. Take a long time to hire, but fire quickly. The how is also your heart, spirit and will. How you do something matters more than what you do.

Yours stands for your vision. Everyone should have a vision for their company and what their life should look like. Every person you hire should know that vision very clearly.

If your process is on target, you get the results you want. Leaders should never be surprised by the results. They should know what’s coming and how to fix it by looking, listening and lifting.

The response is crucial. Watch your body language, because that’s the first way people respond. Your body language as a leader sets the tone in your organization.

“Love equals sacrifice,” Fleck says. “My players know that I am not here to be liked, but I am here to be loved. There is a big difference.”

Mackay’s Moral: Leaders find a way to get it done.


Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail harvey@mackay.com.