Posted by jlubans on December 28, 2018

Caption: Ruffin McNeill (L) with OU’s Head Coach. Lincoln Riley. Interestingly, Mr. McNeill was Mr. Riley’s boss at East Carolina University.

I first heard “FIDO” in a post Vietnam War song sung by Johnny Cash: Forget it, “Drive on – It don’t mean nothin’, drive on”. FIDO for short.
More recently, I heard it during the 2018 football season, American football.
FIDO means make a mistake, learn from it and move on. In other words, don’t dwell on it so much you wind up doubting yourself. It’s a favorite refrain for Ruffin McNeill, Assistant Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator at the #4 ranked University of Oklahoma.
N. B. In case you agree with the snide sports writer that FIDO is just another clichéd business term, like a Wal-Mart motivational poster, do consider the context in which it is applied and used.
Mr. McNeill took over coaching OUs defensive platoon in mid season after an upset loss to the University of Texas Longhorns team.
He was hired to instill confidence (belief in self) and to ameliorate self-doubt. Is not communicating trust and confidence a leader’s key role?
In American football, the offense - the 11-member team that has the ball - is composed of different players from those on the defensive "eleven" that tries to stop the other team’s offense.
Unlike OUs number one ranked offense, the defense has been much criticized. One kindly writer called it “porous”.
Complicating this is the new strategy of “spreading the field” - distributing players far apart so there’s more acreage to defend. If defense is “porous” on both teams then some games devolve into what are called, “shoot outs”, with 50 points each team!
Most American football games finish in the low 20s.
Since Mr. McNeill’s been in charge of the defense (coaching and anticipating what the other team might do), there’s been some noticeable improvement.
While the OU offense continues to rack up touchdowns the defense has tackled better, and has made some momentum-swinging interceptions and forced fumbles.
Mr. McNeill – ever mindful of the importance of player confidence – attributes the improvements to the FIDO mantra.
Do your best. When you make a mistake or the other team does something brilliant, forget it and drive on and do better the next time.
If you do something brilliant, savor it, then move on to the next play.
Mr. McNeill’s confidence in his players is evident in his demeanor.
In the Big12 championship game, when an OU defender sacked the Texas quarterback in the end zone for a game changing “safety” (2 points for OU), TV cameras showed McNeill's reaction to the play, “except there was no reaction — not even the slightest of smiles or fist pumps.” He was saying by not saying, “No surprise! It’s what I know you can do. Now move on.”
His predecessor, Mike Stoops, was far more excitable.
Often the TV cameras showed Mike, up in the coach’s booth high above the field, jumping out of his chair and letting fly with some rapid fist pumping.
Mike sure had enthusiasm, maybe too much of it. How long can players buy into extreme external emotion and keep it at fever pitch during 60 minutes of play (approximately 3.5-4 hours on the field)?
The unanswered question under Mike was “How do you invert that external emotion into an internal motivator for the player?
Mr. McNeill’s way is to offer steady guidance and positive feedback.
If you have the best people, you can implicitly count on them to do their best and when they mess up, remember FIDO.
In a way, the fiery locker room speech is a lack of confidence, a holding on instead of letting go. It is the coach doing the inspiring not the players from within themselves.
Mr. McNeill’s quiet enthusiasm in the coaching booth may do more for the players’ confidence than were he to run up and down, with hair on fire, fist bumping everyone in sight.
In press conferences, it is not unusual for Mr. McNeill to mention the names of his defensive coaching team and how they contribute to the defense getting better.
While many coaches (and bosses) fail to name their assistants, Mr. McNeill is deliberate in spreading confidence among his team, players and coaches.
You don’t think his positive sharing of success makes it back to the players (and the coaches)?
Of course, FIDO has relevance to the work place. When things go awry for good people, ask them to reflect, learn and move on.
Don’t stop making the extra effort; don’t cave in; don’t worry about what the boss thinks. You already know he thinks you will do the best you possibly can.
When things really click and hum along, enjoy it, reflect, and drive on.
OU plays the “Crimson Tide” of Alabama this Saturday, January 29 in the Orange Bowl down in sunny Miami, Florida.
I’ll be watching.

PS. Dec 30.
OU lost to a well balanced U of A team. After a weak start, OUs offense and defense got much better but the deficit was too great to overcome.
Apart from football, Mr. McNeill's coaching of these young men will influence them in positive ways for the rest of their lives.

My book, Fables for Leaders is only a click away:

Also, My 2010 book, Leading from the Middle, is available at Amazon.

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

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