I Want Your Job – “Transformational Leadership” with Penn State Football Coach James Franklin

This Season 2 special edition episode of “I Want Your Job” features a video and audio interview with Penn State Football Coach James Franklin.

You can find the video interview below or on the INFLCR YouTube channel. The audio version of the podcast will be released across platforms on Tuesday, May 5, 2020.

Coach Franklin shares the story behind his decision to become a football coach, the lessons he’s kept with him throughout his career, and the core values he teaches his student-athletes that push him and Penn State football to reach new heights every day.

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Interview Highlights:

1:07 – Coach Franklin talks about adapting to the current realities of the COVID-19 world

2:56 – Coach Franklin talks about the non-linear path that brought him to the sports world (going from a student of psychology to a coach), and how a fundamental goal of his was to find an occupation where he could help people

6:28 – Coach Franklin describes how he grew personally and how his mindset changed thanks to his college experience, and how it helped him realize how much he valued the people in his life who helped him along the way (coaches, teachers, other families in his community)

“Sports provided structure for me, sports provided confidence for me, coaches had a big influence on my life…and you know, I was a guy, I was naive like a lot of people, I went to East Strasburg (a little Division II school in Pennsylvania) thinking I was going to play in the NFL, and while I was there….I screwed up and got an education. And really, you know, got there, and really appreciated it. You know, really appreciated the education I was getting, really appreciated how I was growing, how my perspectives were changing. I think that’s one of the great things about college: you meet so many different people from so many different backgrounds and perspectives, and your view of the world expands and grows.

For me, I wanted to make an impact because I’ve always been a people person, number one, but number two, I really started to…appreciate and value the people that had made an impact on my life. 

10:32 – “I’ve always been an optimist, I’ve always been a ‘glass-half-full’ type of guy, I’ve always been drawn to people that were like that. I tell our players all the time: you’re going to have to do the work. You’re going to do the work.

Everybody in the country that we’re competing with is working hard, so you might as well learn an unbelievable value and learn an unbelievable lesson that people that can find ways to have fun and enjoy the work are the people that are going to be the most successful.”

“What we talk about all the time is learning how to have fun with what you’re doing….there’s going to be aspects of your job and of your life, for the rest of your life, that you may not enjoy. That are maybe, you know, menial tasks and things like that. But the reality is, you’re going to have to do them! And you better do them well.”

“It’s…waking up every single morning, doing a back handspring out of bed, ready to attack the day with everything you have, and being appreciative of the people in your life and being appreciative of the blessings in your life, every single day.”

14:10 – Coach Franklin talks about the risks and rewards that came from his first big coaching job at Vanderbilt, and the takeaways that still impact his decision-making today

“I think there’s tremendous value at being at a big-time school, and that level, and understanding what it takes to compete at that level. But I also think there’s tremendous value at being at a really small school where you have to wear a lot of hats. You have less resources, and you have to be creative to find ways to overcome challenges and issues.”

20:30 – Coach Franklin talks about the core values at Penn State:

“We’re big believers in preparation. We’re not a goal-oriented program, we’re not talking about the end line, we’re talking about the journey. That’s waking up every single morning and being the best student, and being the best son, and being the brother, and being the best friend…being the best football player you possibly can be. And the reality is, the more days you put together like that…the Saturday afternoons, the games, they take care of themselves. The exams on Fridays, they take care of themselves. The job promotions, or the job opportunities, or the business opportunities take care of themselves, because you’re living right.”

23:54 – Coach Franklin talks about the awareness that coaches need to have when coming to a new school, and the planning it takes to bring strong lessons and beliefs with you from past coaching positions and to make them into something new.

“I think you have to be very careful when people say ‘we’re going to take the model, or we’re going to take the plan from school X and bring it to school Z.’ Or same thing in business: there are lessons, and there are maybe core beliefs and core values that are not going to change, and those things are going to go with you, and what we did at Vanderbilt kind of reinforced and engrained those values and beliefs in us. But to think that you were going to bring the Vanderbilt model and just plug it in at Penn State…that’s just not going to happen. All these places are unique, and all these places are sophisticated, and you can bring lessons with you, but you better be able to adapt your plan to that university, to that community. And that institutional knowledge is extremely valuable, and that community knowledge is extremely valuable.”

28:00 – Coach Franklin talks about the brand at Penn State, and how coaches need to be mindful of bringing new ideas to the table that can move the program forward, while embracing a lot of the existing values and traditions of the institution and its community.

“So, how do you come to a place like Penn State, and how do you embrace the history and the traditions, and all the wonderful things about the football program and about the university, but how do you still move it forward and become more modern, and become more…aligned with how the best college football programs in the country are operating now? But not lose that aspect of your past? That was the challenge.

And, there was a lot of change in a short period of time, and you know, I think we’ve done a pretty good job at that. It wasn’t always perfect, but I think we did a pretty good job of that: of showing the people in the community, showing the people on campus, showing our lettermen, that…the core beliefs, the core values of the program aren’t changing. We’re probably going to present it….in a different way. We had a great story to tell, but we weren’t telling the story in the way that 16, 17, 18, 19, all the way up to maybe 25-year-old kids consume information now. So, we needed to do that.”

“I think a lot of people, right away, think about external branding. And there’s a part of that. But I would also make the argument that the same way you brand and get your message across externally, is very similar to what you have to do internally. You know, inside a program, to get people to buy into the philosophy, the plan, the vision. They’re very similar. Getting people to buy into a plan within the organization is the most important thing you have to do first, and then once that happens, then you can start making an impact on how people view your program in the region, nationally, and then globally.”

32:40 – Coach Franklin thanks Jim for the connections Jim has made with staff and student-athletes at Penn State

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