A retired four-star general in the United States Air Force and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Dick Myers graduated from K-State in 1965, served in the Vietnam War, and traveled the world during a distinguished 45-year military career.
It wasn’t until Myers listened to Bill Snyder address his K-State Wildcats after a 26-13 loss at No. 8 Stanford in the 2016 season-opener that Myers adopted a new ritual on the road. That day, the 74-year-old learned a life lesson. [Sports for the Soul].
Meyers, “What grabbed me was when we were in the locker room, and we lost the game, of course, so were going through all of that kind of stuff, and at the end, Coach Snyder said, ‘You know, when we go back to check out of the hotel, I want all of you to write a thank-you note to the housekeeping staff, because they don’t get a lot of thank-yous,’” Myers was announced as permanent K-State president on Nov. 15, 2016.
Meyers adds, “Now, I’d venture to say there are not many people in the world that would think about doing that. Personally, I think about leaving a tip for the housekeeping staff. I’ve never thought about writing a thank-you note.
“I mean, that tells you a lot about who (Bill Snyder) is and how he’s trying to influence these young men who are in his charge. That’s, to me, an amazing story. That a head coach, a Hall of Fame coach, would say, ‘and don’t forget the housekeeping staff, write them a note.’
“Well, guess what? I’m writing notes now.”
— D. Scott Fritchen, from his book Expect to Win
Exceptional people do exceptional things.
What I find even more revealing about this story and the timing of Coach Snyder’s character-building lesson; is that it is so easy to remind your players to be classy and teach them the importance of good manners and humility after a big win. But how many leaders think to do such things after a major disappointment? How many coaches think to add such lessons into a postgame speech after a devastating defeat?
This is exactly what makes a coach like Bill Snyder exceptional.
Great coaches and leaders do the exceptional things—the things that go above and beyond the ordinary. Every coach can spend hours breaking down film, teaching the fundamentals, and instilling courage, toughness, and grit. And these things are essential to a program’s success.
But, to truly be a great leader, you must go beyond what everyone else is doing. You must be exceptional. And being exceptional begins with instilling character.