Michigan’s Juwan Howard: Know What You Can Do (And Believe)

Creighton v Michigan

Head coach Juwan Howard of the Michigan Wolverines (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

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What do you do when you are hired as the head coach of your alma matter, the University of Michigan?

You hire Phil Martelli, a former two-decade-plus head coach of St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia for the past 24 years, as your chief assistant.

Why? Because you have not yet been a head coach. But you have accomplished a great deal in your life already.

You are Juwan Howard, a legend at Michigan, having taken it to two NCAA Finals and then matriculated to the NBA where you played 14 seasons, won 2 NBA titles with the Miami Heat and collected over $100 million in salary. 

(Pretty heady achievements for someone born into extreme poverty and raised by his grandmother who died just before he arrived at Michigan. He also earned his college degree, something he had promised his grandmother he would do.)

Doing so propelled you and Michigan to a 6-0 record beating two top-10 ranked teams in succession, North Carolina and Gonzaga. This feat launched previously unranked Michigan to No. 4 in the AP poll, the biggest leap of an unranked team in the history of the poll.

The challenge ahead

Michigan next faced No. 1 Louisville and lost by 15 points. One might be tempted to say Cinderella broke her slipper, but Howard would have none of it, even dismissing the fatigue factor since Michigan had played four games in six days. "This [loss] builds characters, and it's the best way to learn,” said Howard. “Sometimes we get punched in the mouth and our guys, they will respond. I trust, we all trust

It is early in the season certainly and no one knows where the team will end up, but one thing is for certain. The players understand what is expected of them and they want to do the best for themselves and their coaches. According to the Detroit Free Press’s Orion Sang, a catchword Howard uses is “growth mindset,” and certainly he believes the team will develop further as a unit after losing such a game.

What Juwan Howard has done in a short period of time has demonstrated something that all good leaders know instinctively. Know what you can do as well as you can. And by the way, don’t let your ego get in the way. 

Too often successful people become so enamored of their accomplishments they overlook their shortcomings. Howard’s biggest shortcoming was not something of his own doing; rather it was something he had not done yet. Been a head coach.

Certainly, Howard knew the game as a collegian and pro, and as an assistant coach, but he had not until this year helmed the team. Rather than fake it, he decided to surround himself with coaches, beginning with Martelli, who knew the collegiate coaching game better than he did.

What you need to do

Lessons managers can draw from Juwan Howard are this.

Know your game. You would not have been put into a leadership position without accomplishing good things professionally. This means you know your business, your competition and your strengths. These will be your foundation as you move forward.

Know your weaknesses. You may never have led a team of people different from yourself. Spend time getting to know them. Ask questions about what they need. Never be afraid to ask for help. Doing so is not weakness. It is a strength that comes from the courage you possess to lead others.

Know what you need to do better. You will stumble; you will fall. What you do next matters more. Giving up may be an option as well as a ticket to a short tenure. Recognizing your mistakes and again reaching out to people you trust for assistance will enable you to move forward. 

“Self-awareness,” said retired CEO Larry Bossidy, “gives you the capacity to learn from your mistakes as well as your successes. It enables you to keep growing.”

Knowing yourself is the first step to knowing how to lead and manage with a reasonable chance of success.

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What do you do when you are hired as the head coach of your alma matter, the University of Michigan?

You hire Phil Martelli, a former two-decade-plus head coach of St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia for the past 24 years, as your chief assistant.

Why? Because you have not yet been a head coach. But you have accomplished a great deal in your life already.

You are Juwan Howard, a legend at Michigan, having taken it to two NCAA Finals and then matriculated to the NBA where you played 14 seasons, won 2 NBA titles with the Miami Heat and collected over $100 million in salary. 

(Pretty heady achievements for someone born into extreme poverty and raised by his grandmother who died just before he arrived at Michigan. He also earned his college degree, something he had promised his grandmother he would do.)

Doing so propelled you and Michigan to a 6-0 record beating two top-10 ranked teams in succession, North Carolina and Gonzaga. This feat launched previously unranked Michigan to No. 4 in the AP poll, the biggest leap of an unranked team in the history of the poll.

The challenge ahead

Michigan next faced No. 1 Louisville and lost by 15 points. One might be tempted to say Cinderella broke her slipper, but Howard would have none of it, even dismissing the fatigue factor since Michigan had played four games in six days. "This [loss] builds characters, and it's the best way to learn,” said Howard. “Sometimes we get punched in the mouth and our guys, they will respond. I trust, we all trust

It is early in the season certainly and no one knows where the team will end up, but one thing is for certain. The players understand what is expected of them and they want to do the best for themselves and their coaches. According to the Detroit Free Press’s Orion Sang, a catchword Howard uses is “growth mindset,” and certainly he believes the team will develop further as a unit after losing such a game.

What Juwan Howard has done in a short period of time has demonstrated something that all good leaders know instinctively. Know what you can do as well as you can. And by the way, don’t let your ego get in the way. 

Too often successful people become so enamored of their accomplishments they overlook their shortcomings. Howard’s biggest shortcoming was not something of his own doing; rather it was something he had not done yet. Been a head coach.

Certainly, Howard knew the game as a collegian and pro, and as an assistant coach, but he had not until this year helmed the team. Rather than fake it, he decided to surround himself with coaches, beginning with Martelli, who knew the collegiate coaching game better than he did.

What you need to do

Lessons managers can draw from Juwan Howard are this.

Know your game. You would not have been put into a leadership position without accomplishing good things professionally. This means you know your business, your competition and your strengths. These will be your foundation as you move forward.

Know your weaknesses. You may never have led a team of people different from yourself. Spend time getting to know them. Ask questions about what they need. Never be afraid to ask for help. Doing so is not weakness. It is a strength that comes from the courage you possess to lead others.

Know what you need to do better. You will stumble; you will fall. What you do next matters more. Giving up may be an option as well as a ticket to a short tenure. Recognizing your mistakes and again reaching out to people you trust for assistance will enable you to move forward. 

“Self-awareness,” said retired CEO Larry Bossidy, “gives you the capacity to learn from your mistakes as well as your successes. It enables you to keep growing.”

Knowing yourself is the first step to knowing how to lead and manage with a reasonable chance of success.

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I am an internationally recognized leadership educator and executive coach. In 2018 Inc.com named me a top 100 leadership speaker, and Trust Across America gave me the

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