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I know…pretty profound, right?

Do you ever wonder why business leaders continue to invite successful collegiate and professional coaches to speak to their employees at their annual meeting?

Is it for the inspiration?

Well, partly but that inspiration will soon dissipate.

Is it because we love to be associated with winners?

Yes, that is part of it. There is no doubt America loves a winner.

Is it because we want to know how they got to be so successful?


As a collegiate wrestler, I have had the privilege of being on three national championship teams in four years with two different colleges. The older I get, the more thankful I am for having that experience.

  • In 1978, my freshman year, we won the first and only NCAA Championship in the University of Buffalo’s history by winning the NCAA Division III Wrestling Championship.

  • In 1979, I transferred to Trenton State College (now The College of New Jersey) and we went on to win the 1979 and 1981 NCAA Division III Championships, finishing second in 1980.

  • At TCNJ, my team was 47-1 over those three years and finished 14th in the 1981 NCAA Division I Championships—unheard of for a Division III team.

  • That is the equivalent of a Division III team in football winning a major FBS bowl game.

This experience has had a profound effect on my approach to business and as I learned a long time ago that simply: winning is winning. And here’s why:

Assuming your strategy is sound, there are four keys a great coach or business leader must have in place to ensure they not only get to the top, but they stay on top.

1. Develop a “North Star” Goal: ours was simple: win a national championship—every year! It is called a North Star goal because it is designed to guide your actions every single day. It is all we talked about. It was the benchmark for success. Anything less was a failure. What is your North Star goal? Whether you are running a department or a company, it doesn’t matter! How do you get your team to pull in the same direction, every single day?

2. Build a “System of Reinforcing Activities” that matches your goal. It is one thing to have a goal. It is quite another to ensure that the infrastructure and employee behavior at every single touch point matches your goal. Whether an athletic team or a business you must have the following as a part of your “system”:

  • Cultural readiness: leveraging the four cornerstones to success - attitude, personal accountability, perseverance (through continuous learning) and habit

  • Best in class processes, tools and training to enable your employees to be successful

  • Metrics (KPI's), recognition and rewards in alignment to drive the desired behavior

3. Recruit, onboard and develop the best people that fit your culture and your system of reinforcing activities. Map your recruiting and onboarding process. Hiring is the gateway to your company and the process should be highly scrutinized and continuously improved. Once hired, ensure that you have the right people in the right roles and that you continue to invest in their development.

4. Operate in a steady state of uneasiness. Sometimes referred to as “constructive discontent.” Reserve the right to get smarter. Benefit from “successful failures” by making the necessary adjustments. As a leader, you must understand that being good is not a permanent place. If you are not continuously improving at a more rapid rate than your principal competitors, then you are actually getting worse, relative to your competition.

At Butler Street, we’re former operating executives who have successfully built “systems of reinforcing activities” across four industries. We help companies and their people grow.

Watch excerpts from Mike Jacoutot’s Keynote at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta and CONTACT US to learn more. We’d love to hear from you.

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