Tag Archives: patriots

NFL playoffs and Leadership…It Matters

The beauty of sports is it’s crystal clear definition of success. Games and matches are played, points are scored, finish lines crossed, a winner is determined. Moving into the heart of winter, there is no better illustrator than the NFL, the playoffs and ultimately the Super Bowl. It is without question the most American of sports institutions. The hype, the media, the corporate money, the halftime show, the commercials, the pre-game shows, and even post-game shows. It is an absolute spectacle. Yet it is all about determining a winner. A champion. While coaching and leadership matters in all sports, there is something about football that seems to magnify the impact of leadership.

Tom Coughlin was the head coach who built the Jaguars. He lead an expansion franchise from concept to the most successful expansion team in league history. The Jaguars of the mid to late 90’s were a perennial contender, culminating in two AFC Championship game appearances. They were a standard of what a franchise could be, and at the center of it all was an old fashioned, hard-nosed, detail oriented, disciplinarian. It was a no-nonsense organization, and the results were clearly visible on the field.

As the cliche goes in sports, the window closed. The players aged, injuries took their toll, salary caps and retirements all changed the team. The leadership message grew stale, and Tom Coughlin was fired after 8 years in Jacksonville. The next 15 years would not be fun for the Jaguars.

After a year away from football, Tom Coughlin was hired by the New York Giants in 2004. His demeanor, approach, attention to detail and style were exactly the same. He immediately set the tone for the Giants. “Colonel Coughlin” had arrived and it was all business. The first few years were a rough transition, but the next several seasons saw the Giants earning multiple playoff berths as well as two Super Bowl titles. But with time, the message and leadership style of Tom Coughlin grew stale, and by the end of the 2015 season he “retired” from the Giants. It was a graceful exit, but everyone knew the truth; it was time for all parties to part ways.

Sunday the Jaguars will play in the AFC Championship game. It will be their first since 1999. Tom Couglin will not be coaching, but it is clear his return to Jacksonville last year as an executive leader has set the tone. He changed the morale of the organization. He instilled a sense of pride, professionalism, and winning. The Jags have went from “worst to first”.

While leadership alone will not make a winner, a lack of leadership can certainly ensure failure. The Jaguars are a team and organization of hundreds. But the right leadership has set the tone, and that has made all the difference, at least for this season. Unfortunately, they face the Patriots. Within the confines of the NFL, the Patriots are the gold standard when it comes to leadership, organizational culture, and winning. At the center of the Patriots stands Bill Belichick, who outwardly appears to be the same sort of gruff, “old school”, “my way or the highway” type of leader as Tom Coughlin. However, Belichick has been at the helm for 18 years with the Patriots.

Clearly, leaders set the tone, but those leaders who make lasting change are not tone deaf. Leaders have to evolve, adapt, temper their message, alter their presentation, all while never losing their followers and above all, without sacrificing the core message.

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Thanks Eli

Much like most everyone, I too enjoyed partaking in all that is Super Bowl Sunday. Fortunately we seem to be in the midst of a pretty good run of Super Bowl games – competitive, down to the wire, class organizations and players – all that really any casual fan could hope for in a Super Bowl. And of course the drama and hype. The story lines of Brady and his legacy, the Patriots dynasty and Belichick, will Peyton play again and for whom, the Giants defense, and all of the other fodder of websites, talking heads, media moguls and bloggers. Nothing like Super Bowl Sunday.

Yet through all the noise, there stood Eli- quiet and focused, never the center of attention. He was probably the fourth most talked about quarterback in the week before the game. All the focus was on Tom Brady and his chance to join Montana and Bradshaw in the elite-of-elite 4 time Super Bowl Champion club. Then of course there were the Peyton stories – is he coming back, is he healthy enough to play again, will the Colts re-sign him, and of course how will Eli compare to him with his second Super Bowl appearance. And with Peyton comes the Andrew Luck talk. And yet, there was Eli, quietly preparing for the game – the one that will be played on the field.

Eli is the quiet warrior, the leader without ego.  In a market that has a long history of destroying the strongest, Eli has thrived.  New York and its media do not phase him, not with their relentless criticism in times of struggle, nor with their praise in times of greatness.  He is always steady, always calm, and above all always focused.  It is refreshing to see, in an era of flash and hype, statistics and marketing, celebrity in the name of celebrity, that the fundamentals still remain true in leadership and winning.  Focus on what matters and ignore what does not.  Practice, prepare, plan, and execute.  Think long not short-term.  Lead through action, both on and off the field.  But above all, make it about the team, about the organization, and the overall win.  There is always enough glory to go around – always.

Thanks Eli for reminding us all how it can be and should be done.  Your actions and lack of words send a very clear message.

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So Your “Tebow” is Winning

They say one bad apple can ruin the bunch. Yet, does one special apple make the bunch better? It is the ultimate question when it comes to team dynamics and hiring…will one person really make that much of a difference?  Not a linear difference, but an exponential difference.

Of course, this whole saga of Tebow and the Broncos has provided some interesting fodder. From “So You Hired a Tebow” to the “So You Inherited a Tebow” it has been an interesting case study. It has evolved into the story of the NFL season, of an incredible example of leadership and team performance. How does one person impact and effect a team?  Strip away all of the talent, religious, personal and other debates that surround Tim Tebow, there is no questioning his role as starting quarterback has impacted the performance of the Denver Broncos…the whole team is playing at an incredibly high level the last two months.

It is the most basic of questions in hiring…do the unquantifiables matter?  Can the ability to inspire and lead really make that big of a difference?  Can passion and sheer will to win trump talent and training?  Does relentless work ethic overcome lack of training and technical skill?   Truth be told it is not a binary issue.  Tebow has abilities and skills, physical size and athletic gifts that got him to the professional level.  He threw a lot of passes in college and won a lot of games.  The answer, as with all answers, lies somewhere in the middle.

It takes both skills and passion, training and committment, work ethic and natural ability.  Leadership is funny that way…the trained versus born debate.  It is all about the mix, about what degree of each makes for that perfect combination.  Leadership is both art and science.  It is a combination that is beyond measure; it is unquantifiable after all.  But it is a combination and recognizing that fact is the key to hiring leaders.  You have to embrace both the art and the sceince…the degree is up to you.

Yes, I have to admit it, I am addicted. Never, not one time in my life have I ever “needed” to watch an NFL game. Not even the Super Bowl. But this Sunday afternoon I will be watching the Patriots-Broncos game.  Bradey versus Tebow – that is a need to watch event.  The experiment, the winning record, the drama, the story, the love, the hate, the talent argument, and especially the “unquantifiables” debate. To put it simply, it is flipping crazy and I am hooked on the entire thing.

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