Beyond the Build



If I was a college football player, I would want Dabo Swinney for a coach. Like most Division I coaches, he’s talented in strategy and implementation, but to me, what sets him apart is his empathy, passion and ability to see things others may not. That’s all true both on and off the field.

A few years ago, a college teammate of Dabo’s was nearing death from ALS. He had a son who was pretty good player, maybe not great, but certainly capable of playing college ball. Dabo went to the father and asked if he could offer his son a scholarship, and the father said he would be honored. He knew he would not be here much longer, and if his son was playing for Dabo, he would not only have a solid coach, but a father figure as well. That’s just what has happened. The son has become an outstanding starter on the Clemson team. He has two national championship rings and more importantly, a wonderful mentor. I wish his father could see him now, but life doesn’t always work that way.

As we move through life, we all play multiple roles. Whether it’s business leader, parent, coach or any of the other hats we might wear, empathy is powerful. Done right, being empathetic helps us connect on a level that could never be achieved otherwise. Genuine empathy feeds loyalty, collaboration and performance. It’s also the right thing to do.

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Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.