New NFL General Managers – 6 tips for the first 30 days

Michael Kanazawa, a corporate strategy and transformation expert wrote an interesting piece a few years ago regarding getting off to a fast start in the first 100 days as a new leader.  He states, “By the end of 100 days everyone will be done sizing you up as a leader, the organization will either be on a new trajectory or settle back down in to the current track, and you will have set the stage for your next 2-3 years as a leader.”

Korn Ferry, one of America’s premier executive search firms, did research on the pitfalls and tips for success in leading through the first 100 days.  They based their questions on the views from corporate leaders in Asia, Europe and America.  Here are the statistics from two questions they asked.

What is the most common mistake senior executives make during their first 100 days?

  • Failing to establish strategic priorities – 23.5%
  • Committing cultural gaffes and /or political suicide – 16.4%
  • Waiting too long to implement change – 15.8%
  • Not spending enough face time with subordinates – 14.2%
  • Getting sidetracked by “fire drills” – having a short term focus – 10.9%
  • Hesitating to make tough personnel decisions – 9.8%

What one thing – above all else – must a senior executive accomplish in their first 100 days to succeed?

  • Assemble and solidify a team – 25.1%
  • Articulate a statement of vision and goals – 24.6%
  • Identify and address what’s most important to the CEO, board of directors & other key execs – 15.8%
  • Understand and adapt to the new culture – 13.7%
  • Identify the leverage points and the metrics for success – 9.8%
  • Achieve several quick successes – 4.9%
  • Fix obvious, nagging problems quickly – 3.8%

Kanazawa went on to lay out an Action Plan with a checklist for days 1-30.  It was interesting from the perspective of an NFL Front Office Manager (President, GM, Head Coach) to see how these action items would be executed when professional football front office executives took over a new organization.

1.  Individually meet each direct report team member & call them into a commitment to lay the foundation for the next 2-3 years with you.

A new GM might meet with the entire organization to lay out his/her vision and the steps you’ll take.  Call upon everyone to become part of the process, but you’ll want to meet with your key players in all areas of football operations; Head Coach, Football Administration (CAP), Personnel Department, Trainers, Video, Equipment, Operations, etc… to ensure they’re committed over the long haul.

 2.  Architect your entire 100 day plan steps & share with everyone.

In the Air Force & other military services the Regulations, or Reg Books, lay out the detailed actions to meet requirements necessary for the completion of the mission.  The New GM’s 100 day plan should specifically lay out the steps essential to kick start your vision into action.  Put it on paper and make sure everyone has a copy.

 3.  Establish a fact base by engaging the organization in a due diligence process on itself, looking at the business from an internal as well as external perspective.  This includes listening to customers and “non-customers”.

Some NFL organizations need a good long look in the mirror.  A new GM should require every department to review procedures and empower personnel to come up with more productive solutions of executing their role in football operations.

 4.  Set up 2 working sessions with your team (at least 4-8 hours each) to confront reality and question the direction.  This work will help you leverage the best thinking of the team and also get a good read on your people.

A good leader, and therefore a good GM, is a GREAT listener.  You’ll need to devote time to allow personnel to talk through some of the issues that may have been stifling productivity in and between departments in the past.  Give them the conduit to express their concerns and offer up potential answers that fall under “F.U.D.E.S. for thought”.

 5.  Identify “Quick Start” initiatives that can be treated immediately and will show a bias for speed and action as well as puts change in motion early.

Provide the resources and support to allow Department heads to take quick action on areas easily fixed.  It might be logistics on a scouting report issue or communication flow between trainers and football admin.

 6.  Conclude with a working session with your team in the first 30 days with developing a refined direction of vision and goals that is now shared by your direct team as they helped create it.

The MISSION of the club should be set and now your various departments understand their particular responsibility in achieving that mission through the process of self-evaluation and internal reconstruction to achieve success.

Execute these 6 simple tasks & the new NFL General Managers are well on their way to building long term WINNERS!

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