Coach Harbaugh’s Epiphany — Preferences
Remember, regardless of how this discussion on Coach and preference turns out, Jim Harbaugh, by his personal background and related success, was literally tracked by his environment to be a football coach; tracked more so into a profession than most or all of us. Because of Harbaugh’s leadership role as a quarterback, and being the team leader for a head coach who was the penultimate leader, Bo Schembechler, his preference was clearly to be a head coach, one to lead, define and build a football program.
As theory describes preference traits, the reader may wish to stop on occasion and think of specific instances where the presented descriptors of Myers-Briggs and Pepper Worldview match real life happenings.
There is no precise assessment known (most have taken indicator instruments) here concerning Coach’s surveyed Myers-Briggs (M-B) personality type. The informed guess is that he is an introverted intuitive (known as IN), a complex personality type, The professoriate ranks, known by some to be a little far out, have far more introverted intuitive (IN’s) types than the normal population.
So, how then can a football coach who talks, plans, corrects, and guides others all day, every day, be an introvert and sometimes appear to welcome the spotlight? Introversion, in Carl Jung’s ground breaking type theory, refers to an inner world preference, as opposed to the external world of the extrovert. Labeling one as an introvert does not necessarily mean a person says little or nothing. Many introverts are very quiet, some are not. Introverts talk and react well with those deemed to be within an inner circle. With others, perhaps not so well, as many times happens with Coach Harbaugh’s interactions with media and others who may be perceived as non-trusted or even threatening outsiders.
Introverts gain momentum and energy from their own inner thoughts, they can be assessed by other types to be complex and for some difficult to understand the basic essence of the IN’s. IN’s practice inner reflection when making important decisions, making choices and decisions becomes a process more than a reflex.
Intuition preference relates to how information is processed, information that will be needed for strong decision making. Intuitives value the big picture, the glorious vision; they are theory-oriented (as are thinkers), interconnections and perception are important. As such IN’s can be idealistic (which perhaps can contribute to stubbornness). Intuitives value perfection and are not keen on excessive planning or doing the legwork after creating an idea or theory. As a head coach, the latter is not a choice, football coaching always involves legwork. Practice seems to be a joy for Coach Harbaugh, it immerses him into the external world, one could say, but he is also with his favored circle doing what he likes.
Take into consideration the need for a superior/perfect machine derived from the intuitive type with a worldview of a Mechanist and Coach Harbaugh’s idealistic view of the machine (too many times blamed on Bo) makes sense.
The machine last year was wounded, the parts missing or incomplete, so Coach is as frustrated as anyone else with last year’s shortcomings. Parts can be improved but the real missing link is the blueprint for the machine, in football terms the offensive philosophy/scheme. And so the machine bogged down and change, although slow, was inevitable.
Change for the introverted intuitive involves deep inner reflection and other characteristics: (1) no need to impulsively make change; (2) not really caring as much as other personality types what is thought of problem solving decisions; (3) a reluctance to seek out outsiders, and (4) a need to trust himself/herself, also known as the gut feeling. But the thinker in Harbaugh throws a little curve into the decision making process by trusting logic and valuing the naked truth probably more than a simple intuitive gut feeling.
Back now to self-evaluation and collaboration, two of Coach Harbaugh’s verbal bits of evidence that an epiphany has evolved. Reflection is self-evaluation, so it becomes no surprise that Harbaugh evoked this strategy.
In a business setting, a strong introvert if given a choice of working within a “collaborative group” or doing a piece assignment by himself/herself, would choose the later option and retreat to a quiet room to engage in inner thinking, idea creation, future visions, etc, far away from the banter of fifteen other people offering solutions.
Coaching does not hold this luxury of choice. Collaboration is an everyday event in coaching, without this the result is friction, disorganization, and chaos; willing coordination is a pure necessity. The deep, theory-heavy, minimal communicating, keep to yourself, individual may not last long in coaching. So, no real surprise that Harbaugh involved other staff members in the process. This strategy spreads the work, creates agreement, and makes the entire staff stakeholders.
Take note: the fact that Coach Harbaugh announced and discussed self-evaluation is a little more difficult for the inner world and reflective intuitive introvert, it may or may not be an uncomfortable public mini-confession where the outer circle is informed of problems and solutions. Thus, a semi-epiphany is accurate. Something stirred Coach and caused this course of action, obviously the breakdowns and conditions that negatively affected the on-field results of last year.
Reports of internal strife within last year’s staff may or may not be overblown, but the pronounced effort at revamping a staff with new members that appear to “correct” obvious weaknesses speaks to the obvious.
Stephen Pepper Worldview
The final section of Part 2 explores the Worldview preference (World Hypotheses) theory of Stephen Pepper, a mid-20th Century philosopher sought to explain actions through Worldview. preference. The Myers-Briggs type theory speaks to preferences that have a range. For example, a person may be indexed as almost equal in introvert and extrovert traits. Such a person would be labeled a hybrid. Not so in Pepper’s theory, each person is believed to have a clearcut preference. He stated that attempting to overhaul or change preference leads to confusion and perhaps failure.
Theory is metaphysical and therefore does not consider the physical nature of football. Football is physical and talent is critical, but football, like all professions, is not immune to the influence of underlying theory of the metaphysical world. Worldviews can explain actions regarding the genesis and execution of program philosophy, organization, management strategies, flexibility, ability to adapt, and vision.
Pepper identified only four supported world hypotheses: Formism, Mechanism, Contextualism, and Organicism that have survived with validity the span of human history. The first two, Formism and Mechanism, are analytical. The second pairing, Contextualism and Organicism, are synthetic. The strength of Formism and Contextualism is scope; seeing the entire picture and making sense of all the interrelated components. The strength of Mechanism and Organicism is precision.
Worldviews are not to be viewed as competing or one being declared superior to another according to Pepper; all have strengths and all have weaknesses; some are linked together and some are more polar opposites in design. Each has a sole purpose, keeping with the historical nature of philosophy, namely to seek truth. But what is truth to one viewpoint may not sit well with another.
So, as the reader browses through the article, continue to look for Coach Harbaugh descriptors and clues intertwined within the theory discussion, for example the Mechanist seeks perfection, the Mechanist metaphor is the machine.
And yes, Pepper’s work becomes very useful to explain human actions of football coaches since football coaching almost mandates frequent trips into the realm of all four Worldviews.
The coach with a Formist preference likely has slogans, sayings, underlying foundation, goals, etc., visible everywhere; ideas and words count! A living philosophy takes on more value for a Formist.
The Mechanist values parts and creating and maintaining a precise machine. All parts must function and the eventual success of the machine counts. Maintaining a strong machine counts, if the machine breaks, replace the parts, fix it, more so than create a very different machine. Throwing the machine away and bending to the pragmatism of the Contextualist or the invention of the Organicist may become a near last resort.
The Contextualist is pragmatic, has simplistic but clear objectives, and uses strategies and actions that cause the program to work, whatever it takes. What counts is that the venture works, how it comes to success is less important, just make it work.
The Organicist loves and welcomes change, tinkering, becoming an inventor, and creating systems that can be fluid and not too static, like the Mechanist. Even if something is fine, working well, the Organicist loves change and creating other options.
The position here is that Coach Harbaugh is a Mechanist. The clues and dots line up that way. As such, a little more will be offered about the Mechanist coach before continuing on to the Part 3.
Many coaches are strong Mechanists, not just Coach Harbaugh. Bob Knight, Vince Lombardi, and Bill Belichick come to mind. All coaches, regardless of Worldview preference, engage in Formist planning and Mechanist practice. The symbol and metaphor that is assigned to the Worldview of Mechanism is the machine. Football, having 11 independent parts reacting as a working unit on every play, automatically becomes attached to machine metaphor. To those coaches who value the machine and parts more than others, the label of Mechanist is appropriate.
The only fly in the theoretical ointment of Pepper’s Mechanism’s attachment to football is his stated underlying assumption that in the machine metaphor the parts are independent, unrelated, and function on their own: there are no real relationships, the final conglomeration results in a machine, a form made for a specific purpose.
The Mechanist’s game day performance has always been a hot topic of discussion for fans. It is an observable coaching trait, success is observable, and lends well to Monday armchair quarterbacking. The Mechanist is less inclined to change the game plan when the machine and parts are up against the wall. Fans complain about a limited playbook, poor play selection, and on and on, but the Mechanist believes in the machine and how it was prepared and put together. This may be called stubborn by some, or loyal and having belief in the machine.