The Deseret Bookshelf version is enhanced with video.
Bronco Mendenhall is recognized as one of the best and most intriguing coaches in college football. When he took the helm of Brigham Young University football in 2005, he pulled a troubled team coming off three losing seasons into an era marked by 11 consecutive winning seasons. His teams averaged 9 wins a season and posted 5 top 25 finishes. He led the Cougars to a bowl game each year, winning more bowl games in that period of time than any other school but one. When the University of Virginia came knocking in 2015 offering Bronco the chance to revive its struggling program, he seized upon the challenge, and his move was one of the big surprise coaching appointments of the year.
How have Bronco’s teams consistently recorded winning seasons? What methods has Bronco relied on to create such sustained success? Bronco’s approach to coaching is described in Running into the Wind—the title a reference to his philosophies and practices that at times seem counter-cultural in the world of college football. The book details his unorthodox style of mentoring, strengthening, teaching, and even recruiting his players. It tells how he designed the football program at BYU around a clear football strategy and a set of values that emphasized hard work, accountability, faith, and family in order to create a sustained competitive advantage. It is the same approach he has now tailored for the Cavaliers.
The first section of the book, "On the Field," discusses the challenges Bronco faced as a new head coach at BYU, the principles and practices he learned to face those challenges, and the on-field applications and results. The second section, "In the Football Offices," looks deeper into Bronco's system and the business principles and tools—labeled "five smooth stones"--that help create and sustain high performing teams and organizations, which Bronco learned from co-author Paul Gustavson and adapted to a football environment. Whether you're a coach or a leader, the organization strategies and models that Bronco uses can be applied to any business or team. Simply, this section is where the coach of the coach will coach you, too.
I've known of Paul's "Five Smooth Stones" for nearly 15 years, and in that span I have called upon them countless times to revitalize and align organizations of which I've been a part. While I am not at all suprised to see that BYU's recent football success is due in part to the application of these principles, it is nonetheless inspiring and heartening. It speaks to Broncho's humility as a leader, as well as Paul's immense capacity in his field, that these principles were so completely and thoroughly embraced and implemented. The story of how this was done is well worth anyone's time and effort.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading and learning about great leadership and organizational design through the example of Coach Mendenhall and the BYU football program. The concepts and principles I learned have spurred many new thoughts as to how I can more effectively lead and design my organization and team to achieve sustained success. These principles can be applied in any environment. I couldn't put the book down. I loved the experiences that were shared, both on and off the field...the challenges and the great success. And, great admiration and respect for Coach Mendenhall and his commitment to an even higher purpose. A truly fantastic read!
If you are a football fan, it goes without saying - you will find this book a tremendous leadership and team resource using a metaphor you know well. I must admit that I am not a football fan--yet there is so much value in learning about Bronco's practical tools and profound "lessons learned" that I am here writing a recommendation you read it, even if you are one of the last to jump at "sports metaphors."
Why? In short, this book explains in clear terms what any business person seeks to do-increase performance. Section one takes you through Bronco's compelling story, giving you the context for understanding how the team has applied core principles about knowledge and learning to drive performance in an extremely competitive environment. Fascinating--especially since many would not guess that a football team would be such a great model for how any organization works. As a leader, Bronco is an inspiration to anyone like me, a CEO trying hard everyday to make the best decisions for the organization. Section two, explains the nuts and bolts of Gustavson's consulting work, in essence the roadmap that Bronco followed to achieve his results-an invaluable resource for any business person looking to expand their organizations ability to learn, grow and win!