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By: Jaye Scholl Editor of Marshall Magazine Marshall School of Business University of Southern California Imagine that you are about to give a speech, or take an important exam or play a top-ranked college football team for the National Title. Now, imagine that instead of raw fear and self doubt, you feel so prepared and so confident that there is no nervousness. An energy flows through you, creating excitement and anticipation. You feel so free of fear that you cannot wait to speak, take the test, or compete on the gridiron. That feeling explains why the University of Southern California’s football team could not wait to play Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl in January 2005, according to its coach, Pete Carroll. “Our guys love to compete. Competing is what makes us better. It’s the most fun that we could have,” says Carroll. Carroll’s success in coaching the USC Trojans to back-to-back championship games in just four years shares little with the autocratic coaching methods of say, a Vince Lombardi, a George Allen or a Woody Hayes. Instead of coercion, intimidation or fear, Carroll uses positive psychology, discipline and hard work to prepare his players and his coaches, and then more positive psychology, discipline and more hard work to get them to the point where, as Carroll puts it, “they feel they are worthy and have the right to be supremely successful.” Carroll says he has been “incubating” his ideas for 30 years, processing the experiences he gained as head coach for the New York Jets for one season and the New England Patriots for three and assistant positions with the Minnesota Vikings, the Jets, the San Francisco 49ers and at the University of Arkansas, and Ohio State. “When I got here, I was way more ready than people realized,” he says. Carroll is talking in his office on the second floor of USC’s Heritage Hall, an imposing building of red brick, concrete and glass. On the first floor, USC athletic trophies and awards fill a large, square room that is protected from the sun’s ultraviolet rays by tinted, floor-to-ceiling windows. Six pedestals display the Heisman Trophies won by USC Trojans, two of them by quarterbacks on Carroll’s teams, Carson Palmer in 2002 and Matt Leinart in 2004. In contrast to the cool, museum-like space below, Carroll’s office has the comfortable, informal interior of a fraternity house, with large overstuffed leather chairs and a couch. A white and blue surf board leans against a corner wall and a golf club lies on a coffee table. Carroll’s dark wood desk has an abandoned look, as if it isn’t visited by its owner for long stretches. Like others with a talent for directing people, Carroll’s leadership skills are both readily apparent, yet difficult to decode. It’s hard to know how much to ascribe to nature, how much to nurture. What is clear is that Carroll has what the news and entertainment industry calls a high “Q score,” – an immense likeability factor. At 54, with youthful good looks, he always appears energetic and “up.” The energy and optimism appear to flow naturally, but in fact, Carroll is always conscious of his supply of positive energy. If he feels the needle moving toward half-empty, Carroll says he “cranks it up,” psychologically refueling himself out of concern that by his appearing sluggish or down could have a negative effect on others. Why Carroll feels a responsibility to invigorate, not dampen, the human spirit gets to the core of his leadership style. His projection of vitality and optimism, his reluctance to criticize, his view that losing one’s temper is a sign of weakness – all draw on the work of psychologist Abraham Maslow, the field of positive psychology and a new academic discipline called Positive Organizational Scholarship.
Glenna. are nearly sold out. which studies mental illness. Home games at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. As Bennis put it. She played varsity volleyball and not surprising. The Pacific Institute is publishing a book that Tice and Carroll wrote together called Leadership is a Performance Art. Worth noting is that Bennis’s friend and mentor was Abraham Maslow. fun approach to life which makes him a delight to work for and to be around. takes positive psychology one step further and looks at goodness in organizations that are typified by appreciation.. CA in the 1970s. “Pete has a joyful. an “Exhibit A” for people who want to see it in action. Carroll attended the University of the Pacific in Stockton. collaboration. The University of Michigan is the center of POS. but quite another to be a person who leaps out of bed in the morning with a twinkle in the eye and a smile. which began in a demoralizing 2-5 record. Washington that uses cognitive psychology to teach organizations and individuals how to change their core beliefs to enable them to reach new levels of purposefulness. but the discipline is making inroads into USC as well.” says Lou Tice. a center in Seattle. The Institute also advocates the principle of POS. virtuousness. as evidence of Carroll’s resilience. where he was becoming an academic specialty. the internationally renowned expert on leadership and the director of the USC Leadership Institute. an associate professor of management and organization at USC Marshall. Carroll projects “the sense that everything is going to work out. vitality and meaningfulness. Positive Organizational Scholarship. is an assistant football coach for the Trojans. Brennan. The six time-tested characteristics of leadership that Bennis has identified are the ability to: • • • • • • create a sense of mission engage an adaptive and agile social architecture build an adaptive and agile social architecture generate and sustain trust develop leaders get results The third trait requires a sense of hardiness. As one POS scholar writes. . it is one thing not to be a depressed person. which he attended with his coaches at Tice’s ranch in Eastern Washington.In contrast to traditional psychology. Carroll is unusual in that he is both a follower of positive psychology and an embodiment of it. An athlete since childhood. It was also Tice whom Carroll called to help him launch “A Better L. This fall.” USC won the last five of the six games that season.” an organization trying to reduce gang violence in Los Angeles. positive psychology studies mental health. Warren Bennis. business schools including USC Marshall School of Business. there. Christine Porath. which was originated by scholars at U. and Bennis cites Carroll’s first season.S.” to describe people like Carroll whose behavior is a conscious effort to deviate from the norm to improve the human condition. Each spring. Bennis invites the football coach to lecture at a leadership class that Bennis co-teaches with USC President Stephen Sample. the president of The Pacific Institute. all three of the Carroll’s children are athletes. Carroll’s interest in the intersection between sports and psychology was sparked in high school. He also met his wife.” Bennis observes. “When I think about the six characteristics of terrific leaders. as it is called. Carroll chose the Institute’s “Investment in Excellence” course. there isn’t one that’s missing from Pete Carroll’s quiver.A. His oldest. Tice has been a close friend of Carroll’s since 1994 when Carroll was the head coach of the New York Jets and was looking for a program to motivate his players and coaches. has been an early and influential contributor of POS. It begins from the premise that people are good and seeks to explain why exemplary people are the way they are. wrote the book’s foreword. POS has a term. with a capacity for 92. “positive deviant.000 avid Trojan fans.
do it? “I would love the thought of taking something over and seeing if I could do it. in effect that you have a clear sense of who you are. water. The fourth principle. a former faculty member and now a sports psychologist who has consulted with 27 professional golfers on the PGA Tour. Place people in positions where they can excel. a requirement. But behind each principle lie a “million factors that contribute to your makeup. people can move to a higher stage. Maslow. Carroll wrote his thesis under the guidance of Glen Albaugh. When people work for you to avoid getting yelled at. Only at that point can people achieve what Maslow called “self-actualization. Carroll’s principles of leadership are: • • • • Have your own belief systems in order before leading others. Unadorned. relentlessly pursuing the competitive edge. Placing people in positions where they can excel prevents paralyzing self-doubt. subsequently meeting their needs for a safe environment.Carroll remained at Pacific to get his master’s degree in applied sports psychology and wrote his thesis on Maslow. Having your own belief systems in order lets a leader give others a clear vision of his or her goals.” The other question he says he is asked most often is. People who reach this stage are free to seek peace. At the bottom is the basic need for food. With those needs met. which is why. it is typically middle to upperclass students – people whose lower needs have been met – who join the Peace Corps or an environmental cause or a monastery. theorized that people are motivated by unsatisfied needs. but I would love to see the principles put in place.” cautions Carroll. who died in 1970. leaders who are oppressive. one of the first sports books to address ways of ridding yourself of paralyzing fear and self-doubt. knowledge. in fact. psychologists suggest. “Look. Carroll also found inspiration in Tim Gallwey’s best-seller The Inner Game of Tennis. Relentlessly pursue the competitive edge. there are a lot of ways to lead. stacked in layers to form a pyramid. Allow people to perform in the absence of fear. I don’t have the expertise. means practicing and preparing so much that winning is not in doubt. “Do you wish you were back in the NFL?” Carroll’s answer: “No.” Carroll says. sleep and all the bodily functions. “But tough guys.” Carroll has a clear sense of who he is. one of the fathers of positive psychology. it’s not effective.” Carroll.” a point where a person can maximize his potential. Performing in the absence of fear frees people to be successful. Carroll says one of the two most common questions he gets is whether he thinks a company could be run with the same approach. then love and a sense of community and finally. Could he. never get the best out of people. esteem. a oneness with God or self-fulfillment. . summing up. The combination of Carroll’s coaching success and his optimistic demeanor often leads people to seek his advice.
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