Dean Smith Coached Me on Paying Attention

Dean Smith Coached Me on Paying Attention

I’ve missed a month or so of writing. This has everything to do with a lack of inspiration. Normally I wait for some aspect of business to show itself, define how an improvement on that might affect your business and then clarify that aspect in terms of profitability. Last week it hit me. You may recall that I last wrote about the difficulty in hiring in this full employment economy and suggested a strategy to pay for it. Now, it’s more about retention.

Let me explain it this way; the cost of losing an experienced employee and then hiring and training a new one is through the roof. If you have an employee that you value and want to keep, then start paying attention. Let me tell a story of personal experience.  

In an earlier life I was a 3rd shift supervisor for a local corporate giant in the garment manufacturing and distribution industry. We shipped out and billed $11 Million on a weekly average so this was no little operation. There was a period of about 4-5 months were I was the only supervisor where normally there would be 3 of us. I was overseeing multiple operations and 400 people. In the morning at shift change my direct supervisor and I would meet for 2-3 minutes in order for me to report on the activities of the night and the prioritization of product moving through the building. As I sat in front of him, he was totally focused on his computer and email and as we spoke he would type away responses to emails. He never once looked up except to occasionally badger me about something I should have done differently.

 He didn’t like me and made that clear.

Fast forward to 2018, where I now spend time each week between coaching clients and working with an enlightened local company. Whenever I’m approached by a manager or supervisor I’m warmly and genuinely welcomed and questioned about how I am doing. Regardless of the importance of the work on his computer, the person to whom I report completely takes his hands away from the keyboard, turns toward me, focuses entirely on me and converses with only me. 

It reminded me of the time when I managed a fine dining restaurant in Chapel Hill and appreciated feeding the UNC Men’s Basketball Team their pregame meals before home games. Several times each year I would visit Dean Smith in his office at the Smith Center to discuss a variety of topics related to the team, the coaching staff and the visits of the opposing teams’ coaches whom he frequently sent to our restaurant and picked up the tab for their meals. Coach Smith was classy like that.

As busy as Coach Smith always was and regardless of the importance of his work at that moment, he possessed this innate ability that all great leaders and managers have to focus completely on the person in front of them.  Imagine how you feel when you are the subject of this kind of focus.

You can either train or retain; it’s up to you.

Now Go Run a Lap!! Business is Fun.

Tony Marder is a Gastonia resident and President of ASM Ventures Corporation. His clients are family businesses and their teams who need to develop and implement new strategies to make more profit.  You can reach him for questions or comments at

Comments are closed.