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Be A Leader Worth Following: Oklahoma’s Joe Castiglione

Guest Joe Castiglione, Oklahoma
46:57 min watch

Summary

Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione sits down with AthleticDirectorU to discuss creating organizational culture where individuals can grow and thrive, commonalities and traits for leaders, and preparing leaders to lead. Castiglione also touches on personal development, the path to becoming an AD, and diversity and inclusion.

 

Click the timestamp below to jump to a specific question/topic. Scroll below for a full transcript.

  • - Does the culture of the organization need to be in place when hiring people or do the people make up the organization's culture?
  • - Are there commonalities among the people who have worked for you that have gone on to lead their own organizations?
  • - During an interview, do you ask about purpose or does the topic come up organically?
  • - When hiring or interviewing, is your lens colored by the people who have worked for you in the past? Is this a good or bad thing?
  • - How do you respond when someone on your staff mentions they want to be an athletics director?
  • - How do you respond when someone mentions they want to be an athletics director but you know they may not be ready?
  • - What kind of internal, self-development work have you done throughout your 40 year career?
  • - How should people who aren't very outspoken about themselves let it be known that they want to be put in a leadership position?
  • - How important is diversity and inclusion to organizational success and leadership development?
  • - How do you train people to lead other people?

Full Transcript

 

Tai Brown: Greetings. This is Tai Brown with Athletic Director U. I’m here on campus at University of Oklahoma and I’m joined by Joe Castiglione. Joe is the Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics here with the Sooners. Greetings, Joe. Thanks for being here.

 

Joe Castiglione: Tai, it’s great to have you on our campus. 

 

Now, Joe, you you’ve been in intercollegiate athletics full time for 40 years and in leadership role for, what is it, 20, 27?

 

Twenty-seven overall. This is my…

 

As an athletic director.

 

…22nd here at Oklahoma.

 

Okay, 27, time at Missouri and then now here at Oklahoma.

 

Right.

 

Well, anybody in the industry, in the profession, college athletics understands and knows about the lore of Joe Castiglione, about leadership development and the people that have gone on to become athletic directors. We hear about the hats in your office. We hear about a number of those things. And that’s kind of the reason why I wanted to sit down here with you. I, I have always been intrigued with what you do here. I worked for a long time with the American Football Coaches Association.

 

Right.

 

And I was always intrigued with Hayden Fry and his coaching tree and a lot… he developed a whole bunch of leaders that went on to lead their own program. So, what I want to do is, I want to read two things to you, and they’re my thoughts on leadership. And I think you do this here. The first thing is, is that the role of a leader is to create and maintain an environment that people want to be a part of. And the second thing is that if you are an effective leader, those you lead will go on to become effective leaders themselves. And those two things, I think you have done very well here at Oklahoma.

 

Well, thank you very much. That’s quite a… quite an honor to be considered in that way.

 

Right, right. Well, I have a question about culture. And this is a question I’m sure you can answer. Does the culture of an organization need to be in place when you’re hiring the people or do the people make up the culture of an organization?

 

Well, it can certainly happen…

 

Either way…

 

…the first way, but to sustain it, it has to be both. There are opportunities where one goes in and start, starts a new and has to create a culture that is perhaps antithetical to the one that existed because of it wasn’t working and for whatever reason, but the culture itself is promoted, is developed, is sustained by the people who carry it forward day to day. So whatever the culture is, is going to be the reflection of the people that are part of it. And I’ve always believed it has to be intentional. You cannot abdicate the authority to invest in that culture. Because a culture will still exist. It may not be the one you want.

 

Right.

 

You don’t just say, “Hey, we have a…” and want a great culture and then walk away from it and think it’s going to blossom the way one wants; it doesn’t work that way. So, you know, it’s the kind of way that we convey our beliefs, our value system, the experiences, the knowledge, the way we communicate that, the way we pass it on to each other, and the way it gets returned to us and in a sustainable fashion that ends up being probably the greatest example than just like you and I talking about it.

 

Right, exactly. Well, you know, over the… I mentioned over the past 20 some odd years people have, have come under your, your tutelage and work with and for you and gone on to be leaders themselves. I wonder the number of people, whether they work for you at Missouri here at Oklahoma, where there commonalities in the traits they possessed that made it possible for them to go on to become leaders at…? We know there’s a lot of traits to be a great leader. But it… are there any commonalities and if you think reflect on the last couple of decades of people working for you?

 

There certainly is. The value system, number one. I personally didn’t want to hire nor be around people who don’t share similar value system. Number two, it’s the focus on the “why” versus the “what”. We understand that early in our career, people tell us, “You need to do this. You need to go here. Make sure you get this experience.” And it’s all about the “what” and very few stop to think about and talk to us about the “why”. So, if people aren’t in touch with their “why” when they start here, we try to help create an opportunity for them to grow in that area. And again, it’s, it’s an ongoing process, because we all get pulled in different directions. Even I do, and I am very intentional about trying to keep that first and foremost. But once we get in touch with and commit to the why, the rest can follow in great order.

The idea is not to get the title. The idea is not to have a position or even this, you know, sort of stature that people think is what’s needed to be named or considered a leader. It is really individually to be somebody that’s worth following. And it might be geared toward a special expertise, skill set, you know, a particular job, or set of responsibilities one is given. But ultimately, people gravitate to the ones they want to follow, good or bad. And so, we hopefully provide the right kind of structure and role modeling that is reflective of what we want and others in our program to, you know, adopt that and reflect that to the people that they influence on a day-to-day basis.

 

Right. I wonder when you interview, it’s asking people their purpose or asking… or does it just come up in a conversation their “why” for either wanting to be here at Oklahoma, wanting to be in college athletics or their existence as a person, a family member or whatever, does that come up in the interviews?

 

It certainly does. Sometimes I would initiate it. Sometimes during an interview or getting to know someone, they’ll talk about that intentionally. I personally like it better when it comes out other way, I won’t hold it against them if it doesn’t, but it, it does start to help, help us understand the type of person that we might be bringing into our organization. And we, we want our, our department to grow and the people that were most responsible for—our student athletes to—to feel that day-to-day commitment that we have to creating a world-class experience for them. So if they’re not focused on whatever it is they’re doing, relating to or tying back to their experience, then they’ve got a problem with the perspective.

Now, we might do that working through others. Obviously, we have great coaches, be it the head coaches, the assistant coaches, that all interact with student athletes on a day-to-day basis so that’s a means of supporting them to support student athletes themselves. But if we’re not in this whole endeavor for the right reasons, then why are we doing it? And so, I’ve, I’ve interacted with people that way. And I’ve had a couple… have some interesting responses. And one time somebody said to the question, “Why do you want to do this?” they said, “Well, because I hear this is where you’re supposed to come to be an athletic director.”

 

Oh, wow.

 

And I…

 

Mental note.

 

That didn’t resonate very well.

 

Maybe mental note, okay.

 

Yeah, it didn’t resonate very well.

 

That’s interesting.

 

But, you know, I think in, in time, you get, they get to understand that about us. And then we find ways to turn that into investing in them and their future.

 

Right, right. That’s interesting. When you, when you’re hiring or interviewing people and you have a history of developing leaders that go on to become leaders at other organizations, it seems to me, now, you’ll have to educate me on this, this is a curiosity question, the lens, your perspective of viewing people is probably colored by the previous leaders who have worked for you, is that a positive thing when you’re interviewing? Or, can that be a negative or a challenge? Because you’re basing it on the people who have come before you? Or, talk to me a little bit about that part.

 

I think you would see common characteristics…

 

Like you mentioned the value isn’t in the what.

 

…in certain individuals, the value system, but not necessarily all exact skill sets. And some of the people in our department, even within a leadership team would probably tell you, they may have questioned why I brought someone in that didn’t fit the exact profile of the one we lost. And there’s a reason because of the way that we’re trying to develop our staff. Hopefully, their growth has been positive. They may have evolved to take on more responsibilities or show something that they didn’t quite possess when they were elevated to that role, but now they’re comfortable. They can do more. So, when we have a position, particularly at the senior leadership team or a director level, I’m always looking to hire someone that brings something to our program, to our culture that we don’t quite have. And that’s what helps us get better. And I’m a big believer in bringing people that will not only seek great challenge, but that would respond to the challenge and bring something back to us that we feel we’re challenged to be even greater. And that’s why I have probably hired people that maybe someone didn’t see…

 

Right.

 

…that sort of square peg in a square hole or this particular skill set being identical. I really can give you countless examples of people I’ve hired who have gone on now and become the athletic directors you refer to, or conference commissioners, and just so grateful for their time here and what they brought to us and how they contributed making us even stronger.

 

Right. It’s very important. I wonder, if you think about people and their, let’s say, leadership evolution or scale of leadership, people are different points, you know, on the leadership scale, I guess, right? Zero to Joe Castiglione. If somebody says to you, “Hey, you know, I’ve been here for four or five years, and I’ve really liked what I’m doing. And I’ve watched you and I’ve seen other people in the industry and I think I want to be on the path to become an athletic director,” do you make or have you made up to that point, or do you make some type of formal assessment or what goes through your mind when somebody comes to you and say something like that? There has to be some type of thought process you have when somebody brings that to your attention.

 

The first question I ask him is, “Why?” Not just about their purpose, but what do they hope to accomplish? What interests them in that kind of position? More often than not, and it’s candidly not surprising because I walked in those same shoes, but more often than not, people have an incomplete idea of what this role really entails. So that’s okay. Maybe their experiences haven’t quite given them the glimpse. Maybe they haven’t interacted with athletic directors at previous positions to really understand what, what is expected in that room. So we’ll talk a little bit about that.

Sometimes it scares them. And other times, it inspires them. And we work through that. And maybe they need to seek some other positions or, or some other experiences before they get themselves, you know, more, you know, closely onto the path of being an athletic director and some maybe just needed to tweak, you know, a little bit of what they were doing. But I certainly don’t think I have all the answers.

 

Right.

 

And I don’t necessarily think there’s one…

 

One specific.

 

…specific path that somebody has to travel. I went about it in an unconventional fashion. I’m not a product of growing up thinking I wanted to be an athletic director, never crossed my mind. So, I have an unconventional path. It worked for me, but it doesn’t mean that it has to be the path for someone else. I think that the best leaders find the characteristics that make an individual special and help them develop that even more and then perhaps add in some additional skills that they will need as they move on down the journey.

 

I wonder how, how would you address… I imagine if they’re working here and they’ve been through the process of identifying why they’re here, why they exist, their purpose and, and they’re, they’re evolving and growing. They’re probably on a path to leadership or some type of leader. But if somebody isn’t ready and they told you they want to be an athletic director, how do you, how do you, how do, how would you or have you handled that type of conversation, I guess?

 

Well, I’d like them to elaborate a little bit more.

 

Like you mentioned, right.

 

Because I, I realize that our perceptions, perspectives, they might see a certain person, individual having a lot of enjoyment in the role and think, you know, that’s something I’d like to do. I’ve had people come up to me countless times and say, “You’ve got the greatest job in the world. All you do is go to games.”

I like, “Yes, that’s all I do.” But, you know, you can’t criticize them because they don’t really understand. And I think that’s the point with some that are seeking the role. You know, it’s an old Stephen, Stephen Covey line, “seek first to understand”. So I, I try to understand where they’re going and then help provide some perspective that would create some clarity in their goal setting and then maybe some points to consider that they could tact, you know, their… along their longer journey a little differently, and they can take it or leave it. They’re asking me. So it’s free advice. Now, if they’re working for me, it’s a different story because you have a little bit more time to work with an individual to help them grow.

And I think, honestly, Tai, the best thing that we can do in communication is to be honest. So, honestly, it’s to be honest…

 

As you’re telling, right.

 

Be forthright…

 

Yeah.

 

…to not tell them what they want to hear, tell them what they need here. And sometimes that can be a little bit of a difficult conversation. But if you’ve worked with a person and have developed trust, then they’re going to want that kind of unvarnished perspective. And there are some that just really aren’t suited for it. And it’s just not the commitment that they really want to make. It’s not just time commitment, but it’s the commitment to themselves. You know, one has to know themselves and lead themselves before they lead others. And if they don’t want to do that, they’re going to struggle mightily in trying to lead others. Remember, it gets back to that one statement we made early, and that is, “Be a person worth following”.

 

Right. Exactly. You mentioned that one has to know themselves, even before they become a leader, who are you? I talked to Mark Jackson about that one time. He’s a big introspective guy. And I made a joke earlier about leadership scale zero to Joe Castiglione or 0 to Gene Smith, zero to Jim Cohen, zero to Debbie Yow, zero to Val Ackerman, zero to people who are considered great leaders, people see that and don’t know the work it takes to get there and don’t know the internal work you have to do. I wonder about you in the 40 years in the profession, how have you got to know yourself and your leadership style? What was the work you did early on to develop who you are now and what is some of the work you do now, now that you’re in a role and have been in the role for a while?

 

I was just like the person I described earlier. I focused early in my career on what I needed to do to help advance along in the profession.

 

Checking boxes.

 

And I thought if you go to point A to point B to point C to point D, it just sort of was a conventional path, then you get to a certain point, and voila, you’re an AD.

 

Yeah, right.

 

And so, I learned after a few years and a couple of different universities that I had looked at it completely wrong. So first, for me was, like I said earlier, to get in touch with the “why,” the why I was even in the profession to begin with, and, most importantly, why I wanted to do it. What did I feel I was getting out of it? Certainly not the paycheck. Early in the career, you know, the, we’re working to get experiences. In the jobs that we had, it really never mattered who we were as long as we did the right job, because they were roles that you were given. Hopefully, you could develop them to become stronger and get more responsibility. But they weren’t the most important jobs to the overall picture. So they could wipe the jobs out that we had. And most people wouldn’t notice. Most of the jobs in that athletic department wouldn’t exist if not for the fact that they have a direct tie to creating the student athlete experience that we talked of. That was first realization. You don’t need sports information. You don’t need… you don’t need promotions and marketing. You don’t need digital media. Those are all tools and things we do to help enhance but if it’s not geared toward that world-class experience, the question has to be asked, “Why would we be doing it?” So, learning that piece.

And then trying to figure out the experiences that would really help develop my skillset and the role of a leader. And that’s where I, I understood that it wasn’t just position-driven. Oh, sure, a title, a stature in a department can get you some, some level of authority, power and people have to listen to you, but that doesn’t mean they want to follow you. That’s… those are people that are just using their title to get something done. They are dominating people. They… the people might have to do it because that’s the way the hierarchy says, but they don’t feel good doing it. When I got in touch with that concept of how to get people to do things they want to do that is tied to the overall goals, objectives or initiatives of the organization, that’s where it clicked for me. So, I, I was able to do that by talking to other leaders, getting to understand how they would handle certain situations. I have a commitment to lifelong learning. So I read, you know, I, constantly looking at evaluating; even today, trying to find a way to sharpen my saw, yeah, in, in leadership, and it’s a constant, intentional effort.

So, and I make mistakes even now, you know, of course, like everybody every day, you know, so I have to, you know, always continue to be committed to that. But I realized that if my… if I was ever going to have success, the way it was going to happen is put others, people in a position to be successful. And never worry about who gets the credit. It’s not about who gets the credit. Did we get it done the right way and at the right time and for the right reasons? That’s the measuring stick. And to, to have the, you know, the success that I want in, in any one of the roles that I had, as I grew in this profession, and of course, now my 27th year as an athletic director, it was always trying to find a way to put others in a position to be successful and still do that today, do that with… and we’re doing that for student athletes, number one. We’re doing that for our coaches. And we do that for our leadership team. And hopefully, that kind of theme carries through the entire organization.

 

Right, right. And those are major inflection points in your career when you came to that realization of your purpose for being here, and then about the people and those kind of things. And you mentioned about the big picture, right? I think the reason why you’re valued here, specifically, when you say things such as there are parts of an athletic department that may not be necessary to make sure the experience is good for a student athlete, but a good leader such as yourself makes them feel valued, right? Because the, the big picture, if you zoom in digitally on a picture, you come into pixels, right? And each pixel was a picture in itself. So the big picture is made up of many small pictures. And a good leader makes somebody who’s responsible for that one small picture feel like they’re valued in a company. I think you’ve done that here specifically.

 

Well, thank you. And we work on that even daily. Our maintenance and ground staff, they don’t just show up to fix things, or to clean things or to mow the fields. You know, what they’re doing in perspective is vitally important. The cleanliness of our facilities, the operating capacity of our facilities allow the student athletes and the coaches to spend more of their time getting better at their sport or developing in them physically, mentally, socially, whatever.

 

Right.

 

But when they mow those fields, that’s not just a field, that’s the stage. That’s where they’re going to perform. And people are going to notice the stage in which the student athletes are out there doing what they have wanted and love to do, and have prepared themselves to do. And that’s where they see a bigger picture. I’m not just going to, you know, hop on a lawn mower and cut the field, you know, or they walk in and the facilities are clean, and they’re healthy, you know, because of all the… these are the ways… it’s not just going in and say we thank you, which is part of it, but you get them to understand their signature of great work is being reflected by the success of the student athletes because they get to go out there and be able to have great competition in their sport because they’re involved in doing it in great facilities.

 

Right, right. I’ll ask you a couple more questions here before we wrap. One of them, specifically, is about people who may aspire to be in leadership positions but aren’t necessarily the type of person who is a self-promoter. Or, maybe they just are nose to the grind, and they work hard and they may have leadership qualities, but they’re not the type to lift their head up and come and say, “I want to be an athletic director.” How do you suggest people who have those types of traits to navigate career progression if they want to actually become a leader somewhere?

 

Embrace their weakness, if that’s in fact one of them. So I will tell you, Tai, outside of working with unethical people or not doing things the right way, there’s very few things I hate doing more than talking about myself. So this interview is not, you know, I really…

 

I was just going to ask the right question.

 

I just…

 

I got to put it out to you.

 

I really don’t like to talk… I could talk about my staff. I could talk about coaches.

 

Yeah.

 

Talk about student athletes, obviously, could talk about my family. I could talk about everybody. I’m Italian. I love to talk. I don’t like to speak about myself. So I understand that question. So your point rings true with me. I wasn’t, and ten still I’m not a self-promoter. I just mentioned earlier, I had it mixed up in my mind early in my career.

 

Right. Yes, sir.

 

So I thought you’re supposed to get credit. And it would frustrate me when others would get credit for something I was doing. And nobody… I felt like people weren’t paying attention to what I was doing. So then I got in this tug of war, well, “Am I supposed to get out there and promote myself a little bit more?” Well, still keeping humility is one of my core values, I did figure out that at least someone needs to know that you have self-respect. And to that end, you should be proud of the goals that you set for yourself. And if you are trying to achieve something, be visible. It doesn’t mean you have to step on somebody else, or demean somebody else, or try to jump in front and be disingenuous about taking credit for something a person never had any real stake in achieving. But you get yourself visible. There’s a couple of ADs, a couple who are now retired, we were all sort of seeking the role and to, you know, give you story for your point. I think to this day we are still on the all-century lobby team.

 

Oh, really?

 

So all the great conventions, I mean, NACDA wasn’t as big as it was, or is right now. And NCAA convention wasn’t as large as it is right now. If we were able to go as part of the role of our university  sent us there, we were going to learn, but we were going to make sure that we interacted with the people who were most like the ones we wanted to become. So a couple of us, I could give you some names but I don’t want to and you would know them. We would sort of hang out in the lobby and look at the what we thought were the best, most accomplished, the most respected.

 

The elephants of the profession, yeah.

 

It could be a college president because different kind of governance structure when I was coming up, or at least part of it. ADs, conference commissioners, whatever, I remember seeing Roy Kramer.

 

Yeah.

 

I remember seeing a guy named Don Canham, you know, who was the AD at Michigan and a guy that, early in my career, I really watched even though I never worked for him, I finally got to meet him later on. And I told him, “You don’t realize this, but I consider you and the example that you lead kind of part of mentoring, you know, helping my career.” I would see them and I would just and my colleagues would do the same thing. We make up questions. You know, we’d go over and we’d ask, gosh, you know, Mike Lude, who was really well-known AD at the time or Ced Dempsey or you’d think about somebody like this…

 

For me it would have been Homer Rice or somebody.

 

Homer Rice, he’s definitely one.

 

So you guys are going in the corner, like, I’m, these three questions here if I see him.

 

Okay, I’m going to… this is what I’m going to ask, and we wanted it to be impressive.

 

Right.

 

First of all, you’re catching them coming through the lobby, they’re not expecting somebody to stop them. So you stop up and then you ask them this profound question. And, and literally, and figuratively and literally, literally stop them in their steps. And you’d learn a lot by the person if they would stop, look at you, look in your eye and give you an answer. And then the respect to that person grew even more.

 

And grew.

 

And then you would go back and it’s… everybody would sort of ask about the questions. You know, “What kind of answer did you get?” You know, somebody said, “Oh, it just blew me off,” you know, but others gave a great answer. And then they would remember that you were the one that stopped them. So that was a different way of getting our name and our face and, and who we are out in front of somebody without being, you know, just, well, just trying to be a self-promoter, you know. So you just find different styles. Now, I have to live to the experiences I’ve had. So now when I’m at these conventions, I, people that are in the developmental stage of their career, they come up and start asking me questions.

 

Asking you questions, right.

 

And I stop. I look them in the eye.

 

Answer the question.

 

And I give them an answer…

 

That’s pretty important.

 

…because that is my way of giving back to the people who took time to invest in me when I was that age or that stage of my career.

 

It’s important and respectable. Two more questions here. One is, of course, the environment you’ve created in terms of developing effective leaders, and this includes people of color, women, diverse thought, diverse backgrounds, what place does diversity play in organizational success, leadership development here at Oklahoma for you and why, and how, how has that proven to be important to you—diversity inclusion, various backgrounds? Tell me about that aspect of it because you’re dawned as a champion for it. So tell me, talk to me about that.

 

It is the highest priority here in our program. I, I realized that the diversity of thought, background, experience, perspective has to exist in our culture, because it reflects the people that we are trying to bring to our program or that exist. And to be able to understand the microcosm of the world in which we live and how we can grow by all of the best perspectives, it’s not having to be totally in agreement with everything that everybody says but it’s having that openness, that willingness to listen, to understand, process. Many times it helps refine, it make our perspective even stronger. And yet it also helps people feel like they can contribute to making our culture even better. And so, from a hiring perspective, if we’re going to talk about this and have as part of our value system and prioritize it, then we have to be intentional about seeking candidates for whatever jobs that come open that reflects our value system. Same thing we talked about in the beginning.

 

Yes, sir.

 

And, and I think in that particular case, we want the culture to be something that attracts others to come be part of. And we talked about it before we started airing how we work on this daily. And so, I think that the struggle that I’ve seen where people are looking at certain positions and not seeing diversity at the highest level is still very frustrating to me. And I, I believe in some cases they just haven’t been as intentional at, at opening up a more diverse candidate pool. So, back in… when I got started in understanding this more, I wanted to make the candidate pool stronger. I started with a summit and there was a guy named Floyd Keith, who was the executive director of the Black Coaches Association.

 

Yeah. I know Floyd.

 

And he asked me to be part of this summit and I participated not only then but several others summits to follow. And I realized that, you know, the, the issue of trying to increase diversity in coaching positions, especially in head coaching positions was a struggle because people weren’t intentional about opening up opportunities for others to get into the profession. And so, there were so few candidates that were being interviewed, that even with the best intentions, it was never going to grow. And so, I came back and created two graduate assistant positions. And then the first year and the second year, that would open up opportunities for people to get into this, this profession. And so trying to, you know, address underrepresented gender or minorities, and it’s grown. We still… we have now countless, you know, GAs that are coming through getting their degree and then moving on into full time positions. And that helped, you know, in a very small way, you know, create some opportunities. But then it had to be carried forward in the hiring practices and, and then the growth, being able to help others at once… for every one of our staff members that once they’re here, you know, to help understand what their career interests and goals and objectives are, and, and invest back into them so they can continue to grow and, and prosper, and I feel very proud to see those that have come through our program, be it at Missouri when I was there or now here at Oklahoma to see how well they’re doing. And I don’t need to talk about it because it, like I said, it, it’s not about the talk that’s it’s about what we do. And I think that example is and lies in what we’ve been able to accomplish and, and to see it, you know, reflected in the people that have come to our university and then moved on to be even more successful.

 

And I think that’s very important is that it starts at the executive level, right? And you can put somebody in charge of something but if the person in the lead is not intentional and deliberate with what they’re doing, the outcome can be anywhere on any kind of spectrum. But if, like you, you’re intentional, then you’ll see the outcome, the end results have proven and things you’ve done.

 

Well, that’s reflective of our culture. Yeah. We want a culture of engagement and empowerment. It has challenge, but it also has high support. And so, we work, you know, we work hand in hand to try to strike that right balance.

 

Right. I’ll asked this last question here. It’s about leading and managing people which isn’t easy for everyone and everybody is not a natural leader, but people learn how to do it. I found you talk about millennials and young professionals will come and leave work somewhere for a year, year and a half and leave and many times it’s because the people in mid-level management aren’t necessarily haven’t been trained to be good leaders. They were good at what they did. They get put into a leadership position and they haven’t really been trained to be good leaders. And I wonder how you train people to actually lead other people.

And you pointed out to me when you walked in, you got your professional development series implicit bias, diversity and inclusion and other leadership events to where people are learning how to lead. I wonder through your career, helping people to learn how to be somebody worth following, to use your words, tell me about that, especially when you talk about people who are new to leadership positions, mid-level management because they’re so crucial for the masses of people who operate in those small pixels we talk about and the small pictures that are in big pictures. Tell me about how you how you do that with intent in terms of leadership development.

 

Well, Tai, I realized when we hire people to do certain jobs, once, once it’s explained or taught or, or monitored as needed, there’s a certain amount of autonomy. You expect somebody to go do a job. But if you were to use an analogy of a person and a plant, I realize two different things, but just bear with me on this. If you go and you get a plant, and you bring it to whatever environment you’re in, you just put it on a table and walk away from it and think it’s going to survive. Well, it might survive for a period of time on its own, because it might have some access to sun. It might have some access to moisture. It might have some access to nutrients or air but maybe not enough for it to survive, let alone grow, you know. So it’s no different than hiring, you know, sometimes people will go through the onboarding, your new, here’s what we are, they show you where everything is, the HR department, here’s your parking space, this is your title, this is your desk, go to it. And clock goes, a month leads to more months and several months lead to a year. And here it comes time and it’s a personnel evaluation moment. And then the individual sitting down with their boss and who knows what that kind of conversation goes on.

 

Right.

 

Maybe there’s some frustration. Maybe there’s a lack of understanding of the expectations. Maybe they don’t really feel good in their environment because they’re not getting any feedback, you know.

 

I’m not getting the water.

 

So I get it in today’s world, you know, especially sometimes, you know, where everything is experiential, and they’ve got to have immediate feedback. Sometimes the phone gets to them.

 

Exactly.

 

The computer, the social media, and if they don’t get it from the people that they work with every day, why would anybody expect that they’d get frustrated and leave? Why wouldn’t you expect that? I mean, because they’re not getting any kind of feedback. And so, I don’t care if it’s entry level, middle management, director, senior, it doesn’t matter. They all need feedback. And they all need to be engaged with whoever it is that they work for, and hopefully with. And it takes the leader to be mindful of that. And it doesn’t always have to be the conversation about work. You know, it can be something about their family, sort of watching, you know, to see if there’s some kind of a cue or a clue that people pick up in the way that they’re acting.

We talk to our staff now as well as our student athletes to be mindful of those cues or clues when dealing with mental health. You know, we’ve… the days of walking by problems and turning a blind eye to them have since gone. It doesn’t mean we’re always going to know the answer. And it doesn’t mean that there’s really a problem at all. But if something looks like it, you have a responsibility to do something about it, or at least say something to someone who could. And that’s, to me part of the culture, it’s a shared responsibility. It’s a shared accountability and no different than how you deal with and treat the people around you.

You know, “Are you doing okay? Hey, you’ve been working on this, you feel like you understand it? Is there anything I can do to help you?” It’s the kind of ongoing interaction. And it’s holding them accountable. “Let me see where you are on your project. Have you had a problem with it? Are you meeting whatever it is, you know, the certain steps, so it can be completed at a certain time?” So those are the kinds of things where people, especially in today’s world, they need the constant interaction. And we get it, you know, let, somebody asked me like, “What’s your style of leadership?” And, you know, I’ve never been able to answer that with one common response. I’ve answered it this way. Leadership is a lifestyle. I might have my consistency and my value system. We understand, you know, the rules or laws or ethics that govern what we do. So you can predict what I’m going to be doing, if you know that I’m reflective of those. But I can’t lead every single person the exact same way. Some people, you can tell them once, and they take it and they go and run with it and you get a perfect product. Others you can, you know, need to realize they need a little more prodding, a little more interaction. Sometimes, you know, they see the world differently, you got to step back and think about the way we interact and how we explain, try to put yourself in their shoes. Because if you figure out how they’re viewing something, even if it’s not the same way you’re viewing it, but through their lens, this is what they see and you can reach them by understanding that better, they will have one of those moments of “A-ha, now I get it,” and they could still do it in the way that best suits them. But they’re going to appreciate that you stopped to understand it from their perspective. And what is that going to do? Their motivation is just going to go up. And so, it, it’s just more and more about the intentionality of working with staff.

And I think I’ve got to remind myself too every day because I get busy doing things that I need to stop and realize, okay, I’ve got a person here that looks at the world a little differently. And if I just try to tell them in a certain way, they’re going to look at me and maybe not quite get it. But if I understand the way they process something, and I can break it down, so in their way of thinking, they can process it, they’re going to appreciate it, they’re going to be more motivated and best of all, they’re going to get it done the way you want to get it done. And so, it’s, it’s been that kind of level of leadership that is, to me has been, you know, a, an ongoing…

 

It’s evolution.

 

…evolution is right and certainly a way that has been more effective in helping me help the next generation of leaders become the people worth following.

 

Following. Exactly, best way to sum it up. Well, Joe, this has been an excellent conversation. I really appreciate you allowing me to be here on campus here and taking the time out to talk about leadership with me in athletic director.

 

Well, thank you, Tai.

 

Yes, sir.

 

Enjoyed being with you.

 

That was Joe Castiglione. He is the vice president of intercollegiate athletics here at University of Oklahoma, embodiment of the statement that if you are an effective leader, those you lead will go on to become effective leaders themselves.

And of course, this is Tai Brown with Athletic Director U. And keep in mind, the role of a leader is to create and maintain an environment that people want to be a part of, and as always be better tomorrow than you are today.