Unlocking Failure Through A Leadership Mindset With Coach Matt Doherty

Skot Waldron:

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Hello and welcome to another episode of Unlocked where we talk about unlocking the potential of our people and sometimes ourselves in order to unlock the potential of organizations and those people around us and today I've got an awesome guest. 

Matt Doherty, coach Matt Doherty, who many of you probably know, head coach of UNC, worked with James Worthy and Michael Jordan, if you maybe know that name. He coached and worked alongside them, went to national championships, became a coach of the year, did a lot of things. Played at UNC and then worked his way up to coaching at UNC. 

Two years later, after he became head coach, was asked to resign and that was a huge gut punch for Coach. He tells us a little bit about that story in this interview and about his new book, called Rebound, and it's all about that, of course it had to be called Rebound, right. But it's all about how do we bounce back from failure? How do we use that pain to our advantage to make something great out of what we do as leaders? 

And that's where he's focused now, is on leadership and executive leadership and how do we train leaders to be more aware, to use that knowledge to our advantage to mine for the truth is what he's going to talk about. We're going to unpack a lot of thoughts here that are in his book, things about his journey and his story and I'm super excited. So let's get into this. Coach Matt, here we go. 

All right, Coach, how we doing?

MATT DOHERTY:

Doing great. Good to be on the show, Skot. 

I am super excited for this interview. I have never interviewed somebody who's had some kind of relationship with Michael Jordan. 

Okay. There you go. 

SKOT WALDRON:

Check it off my bucket list. That's amazing. That's awesome. You've got a new book coming out here called Rebound: Pain to Passion and let's talk about the premise of that book. So it obviously has a basketball theme, title behind that, obviously the basketball paraphernalia behind you. You coached for UNC. Let's talk about that angle a little bit. What is the book premise about? What made you want to write it?

Matt Doherty:

Yeah, it's about failure. It's about rebounding from failure. That's the name that ties in with basketball but also bouncing back from setbacks and adversity, which we all go through at some point or another and if you haven't, you probably will. 

And then pain, the pain of me losing my job at the University of North Carolina, where I played and was recruited to come back to. My first year we had great success, was voted national coach of the year and two years later I was forced to resign. So the pain of losing my job. My leadership was questioned publicly and so I went on a leadership journey and leadership then became my passion. 

And now I'm an executive coach. I do corporate talks, wrote a book and that book is basically about leadership and the lessons that I learned on my leadership journey after I lost my job that I want to share with other people. So as they get ready to ascend in their leadership role that maybe they'll avoid the landmines I stepped on. 

SKOT WALDRON:

So you went through this journey, right? You were recruited. You came back and you're a coach. You went to championships. You had some success, okay. People would say, "Ah, he had some success. This looks great, right. Just follow his path. Follow his path," right. But then, oh wait a second, two years later you're asked to resign. 

That must have been a bit of a gut punch, as you said, the pain part, right. So talk about why did that even happen? What could have prevented that from happening in the first place? You probably thought you were a great leader, right, at some point in time and then that happened. 

MATT DOHERTY:

Right. Yeah. No. Leadership is the most important topic that's the least formally taught. You have to seek out leadership. When we go through high school and college we get math, we get science, we get English. You don't get any leadership classes but the only way to learn really leadership is observing it or being part of an athletic team but even then you might not be led properly and a big part of leadership is understanding yourself and I think one of the biggest blind spots people have is self awareness. 

They don't know what they don't know and so I thought I was a good leader and then when my leadership was questioned I did what most coaches and players do. You go watch the film and you try to get better. So I went and studied my mistakes. I had 360 degree surveys done by my former staff. I took assessments and realized my blind spots because I then surrounded myself with truth tellers. 

And so when I talk in the book about the six knows of leadership, K-N-O-W-S. Two of them, one is know yourself, the other one is know ... the other big one is know the truth and they work hand-in-hand because the only way you're going to know yourself is if you get mined for the truth and surround yourself with truth tellers. 

Now people say they want to hear the truth but a lot of people are too insecure to accept the truth because they get defensive and then they bully you or they ignore it or they don't give you the lane to communicate it. And I think that's where dysfunction sets in. 

SKOT WALDRON:

Mining for the truth. That's a really great kind of picture, right. It's not like the truth sits on the surface. It's not like it's handed to us, right. 

MATT DOHERTY:

Right. 

SKOT WALDRON:

It's not like we just stroll outside and go, "Oh, there's the truth laying on the lawn over there." Right? It's like, I've got to dig for the truth and that takes effort and it takes intentionality. 

MATT DOHERTY:

Exactly. 

SKOT WALDRON:

That's where it all comes down to, right and a lot of leaders aren't willing to make the effort, right, be the intentional person they need to be. 

MATT DOHERTY:

They don't create a safe environment for somebody to share the truth and I say that in my next job I'm going to have an assistant coach that says on his or her business card, their name and their title is truth teller and that's almost a pass for them to come to me whenever something's on their mind that they want to tell me. I need to know the bad news. I want to know the bad news first. I want to know the mistakes I made first because if you don't manage the truth, the truth will manage you right out the door. 

And I say this, wouldn't you, as a leader, love to put a microphone in the break room so after you have a staff meeting you go to your office and your senior staff goes to the break room and then you hear them bitch about you. Wouldn't you like to know what they're complaining about so you could fix it? That's like you saying, "Let's bring it to the front lawn". 

I want to bring it so I can hear it. I want to hear it because then I can address it because I don't know that I was too short to Angela in that meeting. I didn't know that my body language stinks. I didn't know that I was on my iPad while someone was giving their presentation. I didn't know that you felt these meetings were a waste of time because we don't have an agenda. I don't know what I don't know. So if I can create an environment where you tell me this then you feel like I care. You feel a stake in the operation and I get better. We become more efficient. What a concept. 

SKOT WALDRON:

Brilliant, right. 

MATT DOHERTY:

Brilliant. 

SKOT WALDRON:

I like to call it broccoli in your teeth, right. 

MATT DOHERTY:

Yeah. 

SKOT WALDRON:

Nobody knows really they have the broccoli in their teeth right?

MATT DOHERTY:

Right. 

SKOT WALDRON:

The truth teller can come along and say, 'Hey, dude, you got something, right." Right?

MATT DOHERTY:

My wife was a dental hygienist so she tells you between eight and nine, "Hey, broccoli, eight and nine." And then you're like, "Oh, thanks." Yeah. [crosstalk 00:10:23]

SKOT WALDRON:

My wife's a dental hygienist too. I love it. I love it. She doesn't say the teeth numbers to me but ...

MATT DOHERTY:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So, yeah, no the same deal. Hey, dude, Skot, right there, boom, fix it now. Yeah. 

SKOT WALDRON:

Yeah. Yeah. Brilliant. Brilliant. [crosstalk 00:10:39] and I love that analogy of rewatch the film. Let's go back and watch the film and that truth teller can help you do that, right and that all goes back to analysis. And how much time, just give us an idea, how much time do teams, leaders, coaches spend watching film for basketball?

MATT DOHERTY:

After a game the average time I would spend watching the film with my staff and grading the tape would be three hours. 

SKOT WALDRON:

Okay. What if we had leaders that worked on themselves every week, right, for three hours?

MATT DOHERTY:

That's why I'm an executive coach. I'm an executive coach for Vistage, it's the leading executive coaching organization in the world and that's why I do what I do because if you play golf or tennis the best golfers in the world work with a swing coach every day and they watch film every day but leaders, "I'm good. I'm good. No, I got this." It's like once you think you've got it figured out in golf you hit it out of bounds. 

Once a leader thinks they have it figured out they hit it out of bounds and they could really screw things up if they're not continually on top of their game. That's why I talk about having a leadership practice. I'm quoting Allen Iverson now, we're talking about practice, we've got to practice leadership because it's a skill like hitting a golf ball. You don't get a degree and say, "I've arrived and now I know what I'm talking about." 

You need to practice it because Roy Williams, the coach that just retired at North Carolina I worked for for seven years and he'd say, "You might be on the right track but if you're standing still you're going to get run over." So we need to continually be lifelong learners, to continue to get better each and every day. 

SKOT WALDRON:

I love it. That is really good. A lot of leaders get to where they are and I would imagine a lot of players get to where they are by being good, right. Your skills get you there and then they start getting ... they reach the top. They reach an upper level and they start thinking, "Excuse me, do you know how I got here? I'm here because I'm good at my job." You're like, "That's fine. You're good at that thing you do but you suck when it comes to leadership and communication. You realize that, right?" And they wonder why they don't make it. 

MATT DOHERTY:

Right. 

SKOT WALDRON:

And I don't know if that parallels your journey at all, right, of going into where you got to as a coach and I'm not trying to put this on you in any way, shape or form, but that awakening, I had that awakening myself, right, running my own agency and then going I help companies communicate all over the world but yet I was a horrible communicator, right. Like, what?

MATT DOHERTY:

Right. Right. The cobbler's children have no shoes. 

SKOT WALDRON:

That's my story. That's my story. 

MATT DOHERTY:

No. It resonates with me because I got to be the national coach of the year at North Carolina and forced to resign two years later and I went on a leadership journey and I was taking a class at Wharton with Mike Useem. I was just on their podcast. And we were talking about emotional intelligence in 2003 and I never had heard about emotional intelligence before that moment. 

And so I said, "Man, if I would have taken that class before I was a head coach I might still be the head coach." So I valued the science of coaching more than the art of coaching. I liked the X's and the O's and the strategy but I wasn't great at understanding how each individual was different and how I was different from them and that's when I go back to the six knows of leadership, the first being, S. I talk about Stevit is the name I made up, S-T-E-V-I-T. Knowing yourself but you got to know your team. 

So I'm one way. I'm a, if you go by the disc assessment, I'm a driver and an influencer but most of the population are steady. They don't like change. I like change. I get excited by change but most people don't like it and I didn't understand that. So if 70% of the population don't like change and I have 10 players, do the math, right. Seven of them don't want a lot of change. So I didn't understand that at that point. 

And then you got to know your environment. You got know your vision. You got to know the industry and then lastly, you got to know the truth. You got to mine for the truth and that's hard because people don't like to tell you the truth. They don't like to create conflict. That's why you got to create a safe environment to get feedback because people will tell you what you want to hear because they want to get out of an awkward conversation as quickly as possible. 

SKOT WALDRON:

And we don't get the best out of them when they're just telling us what we want to hear, right. When we're not creating a safe place for them. I mean, Google did a study, their Aristotle Study and they were analyzing high performing teams within Google and the top thing that indicated a high performing team was psychological safety. That was it. The ability to say, "Hey, you have broccoli in your teeth." And the ability to come out and speak the truth-

MATT DOHERTY:

Do I? Do I?

SKOT WALDRON:

I've been trying to tell you this whole time, Coach, that you've had ... I'm just kidding. No. But that's what it's all about. Now let's-

MATT DOHERTY:

Your fly is open. Your fly is open. 

SKOT WALDRON:

That's the beauty about Zoom, right, you can't tell. I could not even have pants on right now, you wouldn't know. It doesn't matter. But here, let's talk about failure. Okay, so you know something about that. You know a thing or two. You've lost I don't know how many-

MATT DOHERTY:

I'm good at that, man. 

SKOT WALDRON:

... how many games in your life.

MATT DOHERTY:

I'm good at that. 

SKOT WALDRON:

Yeah, you lost your coaching gig, right. So you could have easily just gone, "I'm done. I'm out. There's nothing more for me, right. I've failed too much in life. I've failed too much in this. I've hit the top and now I'm a failure again." What did that do to you? What sparked?

MATT DOHERTY:

Well, I think the beautiful thing about athletics, growing up and I talked to my brother about this a long time ago. He got his law degree at Fordham, went to Wharton, works at Goldman Sachs and we talk about ... Well, you talk about Angela Duckworth's book, Grit, in sports you fail a lot and you put it out there. You're putting it out there for the public to see. I jokingly say, "Players that want exposure, you better be careful, you just might get exposed." 

People are going to criticize you, "Oh, you stink. You're slow. You lost. You can't shoot. You missed that foul shot." So there's risk in doing that but you deal with failure often and so what do you do? You rebound. You get back to practice. You watch the film and you try to get better so that the next time you perform at a higher level. That's competition. That's business. That's life and I think sports gives you that foundation that is a real advantage. 

You hear a lot of businesses saying, "We like to recruit athletes. We like to recruit because they understand goals. They understand failure. They understand working hard. They understand teamwork." And I think there's a lot to be said for that. 

SKOT WALDRON:

There is. Embracing failure, you talk about learning from it, growing from it. How do we look at that, right, people talked about the phrase, fail forward, right, of using failure as a way to set up a platform for future growth in what we're doing. Part of that failure is being able to forgive, right, in that process and you speak about that as well. 

MATT DOHERTY:

Yeah. 

SKOT WALDRON:

Talk about-

MATT DOHERTY:

[crosstalk 00:19:48]

SKOT WALDRON:

... your thoughts about that. 

MATT DOHERTY:

Well, to rebound I think you have to be able to forgive and forgiveness is a hard thing, especially if you are competitive because you're wired to beat other people and if they beat you, you want to beat them back. But if something happens to you like with my loss of my job and I felt betrayed, I needed to forgive.

Nelson Mandela's one of the best leaders that the world's ever seen, talked about upon his release from prison to freedom he said, "I had to get rid of the hatred, otherwise I would be in prison forever." And so the only way to do that is to forgive and forgive other people. I think through failure I've become, hopefully a better Christian and if Jesus could forgive those ... if Jesus, while on the cross, could forgive those who betrayed him, who put him on the cross, then I could forgive somebody that I think betrayed me. 

And then, that's healthy. It doesn't mean you forget but just forgive and then the other thing is you got to forgive yourself because I think sometimes we could be our own worst critic and beat ourselves up and say, "Gosh, why did I make that decision? Why did I leave Notre Dame? Why didn't I show more respect to that person? Why did I do that?" 

And you do that and you just spiral into a dark place and quite frankly, it's a hell of an ego for someone to say that because we're all flawed. We all make mistakes. We are, in fact, human. You made a mistake. I made a mistake. Most people would make the same decisions I made. So you got to forgive yourself and I think once I did that it was very freeing. 

SKOT WALDRON:

That's so important, to understand that in order to truly be able to forgive others we really need to first forgive ourselves. Right? I think that probably needs to be the first step in our journey, right. We coach clients and say, "You cannot give what you don't possess."

MATT DOHERTY:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Right. 

SKOT WALDRON:

And I need to be able to possess that, whether that is like you said earlier, self awareness. If I'm going to preach that to other people I better sure understand who I am, right? 

MATT DOHERTY:

Right. 

SKOT WALDRON:

First, before I can truly help others understand that as well. What would be that advice you would give to, I'll say your younger self as a coach that was on this journey, hit the top, right, championships, head coach? You were rocking it and then what would be that advice you would give yourself now?

MATT DOHERTY:

Slow down and listen. Slow down and listen. Yeah. I mean, sometimes you think you know. You think you're maybe smarter than the smartest guy in the room. You want to get there fast. It's not a sprint and I think going slow and probably have trusted advisors. Have more a personal board of directors that can help you and be the experts and help you see where the landmines are and when you're going too fast and if you don't have those people and you're not listening to them you're going to fast and step on a landmine you get blown up and I think that's what happened to me. 

SKOT WALDRON:

That sounds like a very mature D thing to say, right. As a high D. That whole thing you said had to be very difficult, right. Very intentional about those things that you would say to yourself because all of those things you listed would probably not be natural tendencies for you, right?

MATT DOHERTY:

No. No, because I was ... I go back and I talk about the park in my book and that's where I grew up playing basketball and if you showed any hesitation in the park you were considered soft or a punk. So if there was an opportunity you needed to be the first one to go for it and if someone challenged you and you backed up you were considered soft. 

So if somebody challenged you you need to go at them. So that's the intensity, the drive, that's the way I was wired and too much of a good thing's a bad thing. So knowing how to slow down and observe and gather input, find counsel, wise counsel while you're going fast, that's hard. That's counterintuitive for me. So I think that was something that is a learned behavior but sometimes you got to be smacked in the back of the head before you learn it. 

SKOT WALDRON:

It's true. It's true and that's what failure teaches us, right. 

MATT DOHERTY:

One hundred percent. 

SKOT WALDRON:

Failure comes up and hits you in the back of the head and says, "Hey, Matt, listen up, there's something-

MATT DOHERTY:

Hey, dumbass. 

SKOT WALDRON:

... wrong here. Yeah.

MATT DOHERTY:

Yeah. 

SKOT WALDRON:

Basically. I don't know my failure doesn't say that but yeah. No, my failure calls me other names. But I think that's brilliant to think about that. We have these protections in our life as long as we listen to them and recognize that they exist. Only then we'll be able to make progress and truly rebound from these opportunities, right. 

MATT DOHERTY:

Yeah. Yeah. 

SKOT WALDRON:

Now, your book has had a super successful launch. Congratulations on that. It's out now. People can get their hands on it by going where? How do people get-

MATT DOHERTY:

They can go to two places. Amazon and they can go to rebound-book.com. So either one of those sites they can go to, Amazon or rebound-book.com. 

SKOT WALDRON:

And with you doing what you're doing right now, coaching executives, what is the value proposition you want to put out there for them as what you're bringing to the table, whether it's a speaking event or a coaching session or if it's with Vistage, whatever it is, what is that you want to tell people?

MATT DOHERTY:

Well, I think that one thing is as a CEO, as a business leader it's lonely at the top and you want to have a thinking partner, somebody that is only interested in your success, doesn't want anything from you, doesn't need anything from you, will tell you the truth. I'll tell you the truth. 

We're going to drill down for the truth and I'm going to hold you accountable to action items that we agree need to be done and some of those are going to be hard. It might be firing somebody. It might be pivoting in your business. It might be having a crucial conversation with your chairman of the board but helping you make better decisions that drive better results because your life is nothing but a series of decisions and dealing with the consequences and the better decisions you make the better your life will be. 

Boom, simple. It's really fundamental and that's why I'm a coach. It's fundamental stuff. It's not rocket science and the issues are consistent across all industries. So I don't focus in an industry. It could be somebody in the steel industry or it could be somebody in financial services. It could be somebody in the construction business. All have the same issues and it centers around people. 

SKOT WALDRON:

Because the fundamentals don't change, right. I mean, how many free throws do you ... you don't stop shooting free throws as soon as you hit college basketball, right. You don't stop practicing layups. It's the fundamentals that are the small pieces that when you put them together will help us win and-

MATT DOHERTY:

That's right. 

SKOT WALDRON:

... achieve greatness and that's where it really comes into as long as well as [inaudible 00:29:20]. So what you're telling me is that if people don't want to get out their shovel and their pick axe and mine for the truth, if they don't want to do that, then don't hire you?

MATT DOHERTY:

Yeah. No, yeah. No, I'm going to challenge you, just like I would as a player. That's the thing I love about this. It's just like coaching a team. I'm coaching a team. And I'm going to put you in the hot seat and we're going to find out what issues you want to deal with and how we can help you resolve them and hold you to action items that need to be done. 

So many of us have blind spots so I want to close up those blind spots and help you learn and grow and as a result ... People will say, "Oh I don't have enough time. I don't have enough money." I'm like, "No, no, no. Vistage and my coaching practice creates time. It doesn't take time and it'll be a return on your investment, not a cost." So it's all about mindset and if they don't have a growth mindset I can't help them. Wait until they fail, then they'll call me. 

SKOT WALDRON:

That's what happens, right. [inaudible 00:30:35] It's the failure slapping you in the back of your head, right. Wake up. Wake up. 

MATT DOHERTY:

Yeah. 

SKOT WALDRON:

So that's so great. That has been fantastic. I've been looking forward to this for a long time. I really appreciate you being on the show. Again, good luck with the book and the coaching and all the relationships that you're building and the lives that you're changing. Well done and keep going. 

MATT DOHERTY:

Thank you, Skot, for your patience in getting the show put together. Thank you and I enjoyed it a great deal. 

SKOT WALDRON:

So good, am I right? Leadership is not taught. It is one of the most important things that we can have in life and I am willing to bet a lot of people out there would be saying, "Hey, if you're going to learn something, learn about leadership. Learn about leading yourself. Learn about leading teams. Learn about leading your family, whatever that aspect is," and yet it is not taught. It is not taught in schools and that type of environment. 

Sure, there's MBA programs and there's other things later we can learn about but as a core curriculum, leadership is not taught and we got to learn about what it means to fail sometimes as a leader. What are those things that we're doing, what are those things that we are understanding about ourselves, about what we've been doing that is not working and how do we improve upon it? How do we make it better? I loved his analogy, watching the film. Let's watch the film. Three hours they spend watching film after each game. 

How much time are you spending watching film about yourself, about your own leadership? How much are you mining for the truth? How many of you want to know the truth? That is so key to us being better is learning those things. So check out that book, okay. It's going to be impactful for you as you learn about what he talks about as the six knows, the K-N-O-W-S, and those things about leadership, they're going to help you be better. Learn from his journey, okay. Learn from your own journey. Learn what you need to do to be a better leader, to be a better father, to be a better mother, to be a better person of the community, of your team, organization, and yourself. To make sure you unlock your own potential. 

Thank you for being here, Matt. It was awesome talking to you. I am super excited to let you know I've got some free tools on my website where you can go and analyze, to become more aware of your own self. I've got a lot of these interviews on my website at skotwaldron.com. Go check those out. I've also got a lot of free videos of tools and principles on YouTube. You can go check those out as well, like, subscribe, share, do all those things. I'd love it. 

Again, I'm really excited to have you on the show today and be viewing this and I will see you next time on another episode of Unlocked. 

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