The Man Who Helps Coaches Design a ‘Culture Playbook’

By Brent Glasgow, FNF Coaches Contributor

What if coaches could provide a playbook for developing leadership and character? Brian Kight believes coaches can with Focus 3.

Sought out for their knowledge and skill in culture development, Brian Kight and Focus 3 – the leadership company his father, Tim Kight, founded – has helped Ohio State, Washington, Boise State, Houston, SMU, San Jose State, Texas State and even the Chicago Bears grasp often-elusive intangibles.

So how did Kight become the go-to leadership guy for the football community?

Back in the game

Kight grew up in Southern California. Upon graduation from Fallbrook High in 2000, he headed to the College of Wooster in Ohio to continue his academic and football career.

“I wanted to play college football in a place where it mattered,” Kight said of Ohio. “Football was central to my life, pivotal to everything that I wanted to do. It came down to Wooster and the University of San Diego, and my dad encouraged me to go to a different part of the country, to live in a different type of town, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.”

Toward the end of his time there, Kight developed a thesis paper on a unique concept – “Who is Coaching the Coaches?”

“Anyone who’s played any sport has had good coaches and bad, and it dawned on me that there wasn’t a correlation between years of experience and quality of coaching,” Kight said. “I was curious how a coach could be 20 years in, in high school, college or the NFL, and be career .500 and not have any championships. I wanted to know how coaches get better at their job.”

Kight studied and visited programs at various levels, and found no real system to coach coaches. He formulated his plan, and after a brief post-graduation occupational detour as an information technology recruiter in LA, he returned to Ohio and shopped it to coaches.

“I got turned down by everyone I spoke to,” Kight said. “I reluctantly helped my dad in his business, which is our business now. I fell in love with the competitive side of business and helping people.”

Over nearly a decade, Kight developed leadership plans for successful companies and took over as Focus 3 CEO. Then came a moment of destiny in mid-2013, when Tim attended a fundraiser at Ohio State coach Urban Meyer’s home. The two chatted for two hours about the business, and Meyer extended an invite to one of his leadership sessions, asking for feedback. With Brian on vacation, Tim went, and upon his return and joint evaluation, they gave Meyer their thoughts.

“We told him he had great content, lots of energy and good messages, but the fact that it doesn’t have a system, it’ll struggle to get applied in any meaningful way,” Kight said. “He asked if we had a system, and we said, ‘We sure do.’”

The Kights met with Meyer and staff, and spelled out their system on a whiteboard.

“About three minutes in, Urban told me to stop, turned to the others in the room and said, ‘Get on board, because we’re going all in on this,’” Kight said. “We gave him a system to do what he was doing, better.”

How to coach coaches

Kight’s program is about developing culture – something that’s easy to say, but difficult to achieve.

“Average coaches use quotes, good coaches have a plan, but elite coaches have a system,” Kight says. “The best have a definitive, declared, disciplined system on how to build leaders, exactly what their culture is and the behavior required to get the desired results – typically wins and building great young men.”

A big element is that leaders create the culture that drives the behavior that produces results.

“What coaches see is winning isn’t about strategy. What really counts is whether the players are disciplined enough to execute what they’re trying to teach,” Kight said. “I already know they’re good at football. The question is if they can keep a young man mentally, emotionally disciplined over a 14-week season.”

Kight helps each program design a “culture playbook,” then teaches coaches and players how to live it, to build the culture they want and need. Just like its long-term corporate clients, Focus 3 works with teams as they evolve, usually meeting with them four to six times a year.

“We observe where they are, what they need, and we, too, are evolving how we teach, constantly applying better applications,” Kight said. “Another thing is weekly messaging – teaching points that let coaches fold it into their weekly activities.”

In working with football programs and businesses, Kight sees similarities and differences.

“They’re both hyper-competitive, and they’re environments where the competitive advantages on the strategic side are shrinking,” Kight said. “You can’t rely on talent and strategy to win anymore. You win by executing better and being more disciplined, adjusting faster with more toughness and endurance.”

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