Things that matter

Friday, November 30, 2012, Vol. 36, No. 48

This morning I read that John Gagliardi, the somewhat maverick coach of the St. John’s “Johnnies” Division III football team, is retiring after 64 years of coaching.

In addition to holding the record for coaching longevity, there is one more little thing about Gagliardi that is worth noting.

It appears there have been more than 25,000 coaches in college football. A quick search shows 11 of those coaches have won more than 300 games. Two have won more than 400 games.

Gagliardi won 489 games, well ahead of Eddie Robinson (408), Bobby Bowden (377), Pop Warner (336), Bear Bryant (232) and all others.

But that’s not the end of the story. Here’s the maverick-like element of his story.

Gagliardi focused on eliminating things that did not matter in terms of winning football games. No whistles, no playbooks, no mission statements, no team meetings, no staff meetings, no tackling in practice, no tackling dummies or sleds and no compulsory weightlifting programs.

He also directed his players to focus on one game at a time. “It’s pretty hard to be undefeated unless you win the first game,” he explained.

I don’t believe it would be too difficult to transfer Gagliardi’s thinking and approach to practical applications in your business. In a way, Gagliardi and his teams over the years have served as a real-life test laboratory supporting the validity of the Pareto Principle.

As most of you know, the Pareto Principle states that we get 80 percent of our results from 20 percent of our efforts. Stated another way, and somewhat supported by Gagliardi’s 64-year experiment, roughly 80 percent of the things we do at work don’t really matter.

This also makes perfect sense in terms of the discoveries of neuroscience. Rushing around, overloading and other stress-inducing activities at work shut down or severely inhibit the proper functioning of your prefrontal cortex – the part of your brain that helps you exercise sound judgment and control impulsive behavior. In other words, under stress you slip into a mode that prevents you from effectively distinguishing the difference between frenetic motion and constructive action.

It is, as they say, the vital few and not the trivial many that matters. Or as my old boss used to tell me and I have stated previously in this column, “Don’t trip over a dollar to get to nickel.”

What are your vital few activities? Are you totally focused on them?

Chris Crouch is CEO of DME Training and Consulting and author of several books on improving productivity. Contact him through