Jon M. Huntsman School of Business

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Wells on Leadership

By Steve Eaton

Hundreds of business leaders and students gathered on the USU campus in March to see what they could learn about management and leadership from a football coach whose team has been able to continue winning despite serious adversity.

What they got from Utah State University Head Football Coach Matt Wells, ’96, Marketing, at the Partners In Business Leadership Conference was clear, concise and direct advice on leadership from the perspective of a coach. Coach Wells said that the people you lead must trust you and that everyone has to be prepared to meet high standards even in the face of adversity, which will always come.

Coach Wells presents at Huntsman School luncheon
Later in the day Coach Wells was recognized by the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business with a Professional Achievement Award.

Coach Wells led his team to 9-5 record and a 21-14 win against No. 24 Northern Illinois in the 2013 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, despite the fact that five starters from his offense were lost to season-ending injuries during the year.

“You know adversity is coming,” he said. “The minute you get comfortable or the minute I get comfortable and think this thing is going smooth, boom, something hits.”

He said that he teaches his players to mentally prepare for rough times that come to everyone.

“It’s just adversity,” he continued. “It’s called life. Deal with it.”

He said there will always be stress but a leader’s job is to “reduce the drama” that can come with challenges.

“There are only two things you can control in life and I’m not talking about death, and I’m not talking about taxes,” he said. “I’m talking about attitude, and I’m talking about effort.”

Throughout his speech he emphasized the importance of leaders earning the trust of the people they work with. He said from January to August his coaches meet weekly, one-on-one with each player, and in those meeting they do not discuss football. They talk about academics, family life and other aspects of life.

Coach Matt Wells with Dean Douglas D. Anderson
“You’d better have a relationship (with those you lead),” he said. “If you don’t, all your knowledge, all your degrees, all the stuff that you have learned, goes right out the door; forget it.”

“Give them something they can do and then demand that they do it,” he advised. “Give your staff something that they can do physically, mentally and then demand that they do it.”

At a private luncheon that day Dean Douglas D. Anderson presented Coach Wells with a Professional Achievement Award, saying that he was being given the award not just because of his wins on the field but because of the way he has succeeded.

He explained to Wells that he earned the award because of the “leadership you are providing and the leadership you are developing with our student athletes, and also the examples that you and the team are setting for this university.”

“It’s a huge honor, but I’m just the head coach of those guys and that staff, and it’s a team effort,” he said. “I couldn’t do it without them. I couldn’t do it without their attitude and their effort.”
Coach Wells graduated in 1996 with a bachelor’s in marketing, cum laude, from the Huntsman School of Business.
When people trust their leaders they will work hard to meet high standards.

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