DR.CUMMINGS: Coach Bob Hoffman’s secret

March 30, 2014 

In victory: “The Mercer Bears beat Duke!!” Last week’s win over one of the nation’s top teams was stunning. The screaming in the street and in the stands was duplicated in business offices all over Middle Georgia -- not just Macon. Many companies set up big-screen TVs in their conference rooms, and the employees jumped up and down and hugged each other as the unbelievable took place before their eyes.

In defeat: “Tennessee beats the Bears.” Did you see our team at the end of the game? They didn’t sneak out without a word. They walked to the end of the court and waved to their loyal fans who rose to their feet and clapped -- in unison with their fans on the street in Macon.

How many teams do you know that manage to be winners even in defeat?

But our winning team has a leader, Coach Bob Hoffman. And even though our coach gives all the credit to his hard-charging seniors, we know better. The coach is the boss. Teams don’t win this way without a leader who guides them, corrects them and picks them up when they fall. Teams win because their coach has a winning secret.

What is Bob Hoffman’s secret?

I don’t know how Bob would answer that question. He’d probably say the secret lies totally with his talented and dedicated players. But I think there’s more to it. I’ve watched our coach, and I think he embodies the three characteristics of all winning leaders -- not just basketball coaches, but managers, teachers, pastors, politicians, university presidents and yes, parents. People with power can either be winning coaches or losing dictators. Bob Hoffman is a model of winning coaches. Here’s what he is:

A visionary: Every winning leader (of any kind) has a vision, a picture of the future, a goal to reach. Bob’s vision has always been to win. Can you imagine him telling his team on the trip to Raleigh: “Duke can sink those three-pointers every time; it’s OK if we lose to them.” Not a chance. I agree with Charles E. Richardson’s column last week. Mediocrity is not for Macon, and it’s not for the Mercer Bears. And it’s not for anybody who wants to get ahead. We want to win -- even when we lose -- and we want leaders to get us there.

A listener: Every winning leader listens to the people who follow him. Bob listens to each player. Hamstrings, cramps, stomach flu, girlfriends, tough tests, missed shots, lost games. There’s nothing Bob has not heard, but listening is more than hearing. The great leaders of winning teams stop what they’re doing while the person is talking, they swing around from their desk, they take their hands off their computer, and they focus completely. You can’t do this if you don’t really love the people you’re leading. And that’s a fact.

A decision-maker: Every winning leader makes the tough decisions. Bob decides who plays and who sits on the bench -- who shoots and who passes. Bob makes the big decisions just like every leader, and many of them sting. A few of them make a mom cry and a dad get angry, and some of them make the fans scream their heads off in the stands. But this is the job of the leader. All the great leaders, like Bob, take this job very seriously. The buck stops here even when the decision is unpopular. The leader is the one who makes it.

Coach Bob Hoffman embodies the secret of a winning leader. We’re glad he’s ours. Go Bears!

View Dr.C.’s video: www.youtu.be/TtMK9S9A6CM.

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