Building a Championship Organization or a “Thundering Herd”
The popularity of the hit movie “American Snyper” has baffled some that don’t understand, nor even begin to comprehend the concept of putting the needs of others before those of yourself. The definition of TEAM was never more fully taught and developed within me than over the course of my years as a cadet/football player at the United States Air Force Academy, and later as an officer/flight commander/coach serving almost nine years active duty.
I’m drawn to stories of character, leadership, and teambuilding with a service centered message that radiates from those that have personally experienced the notion of supreme self-sacrifice from a military perspective. I’ve also mentioned a number of times the paralleled principles that I see in teambuilding between sports and military units. Leadership Lessons Of The Navy Seals (by Jeff Cannon & Lt. Cmdr. Jon Cannon – McGraw-Hill Publishers) is an excellent source of time-tested strategies used by some of our most elite combat forces in helping to create and build successful organizations.
I often turn to the pages in this book to assist with the development of my own thoughts on leadership and management practices in response to various situations/scenarios in professional football. So much so that I thought it would be an interesting exercise to begin to breakdown some of the problems I see facing NFL clubs and confronting them head on with the lessons taught in this book, along with those I learned in my own military & professional football careers.
With Super Bowl XLIX in the books and all 32 organizations looking ahead to the 2015 regular season, this is a great place to start on how to go about building a “Championship Organization” or as the Cannon’s put it a “Thundering Herd”.
You have to ask yourself, “Do you really want to build a quality team?” Does the ownership of your favorite club TRULY understand what this takes?
In Leadership Lessons the casual attitude of foreign military organizations in joint operations is exacerbated by an over reliance on the professionalism and work ethic of U.S. forces. Why do the hard work when others will do it for them? Many foreign militaries aren’t interested in building “high quality” teams, but they do want to look the part. Which reminds me of a number of NFL clubs that appear to just want to “look the part.” They want a shiny new stadium, redesigned logo, more media coverage, and high profile free agents. They want to be featured on HARD KNOCKS, or stand along the sideline in their team jacket or ball cap accessorizing a tailored suit for a possible photo op.
They’ve signed on with Microsoft Surface, they’ve got their own indoor football fields & state of the art training facility, private jets fly in top free agent recruits, and they can be sure to have their own suite set aside at the NFL Combine. Their press conferences proudly display team colors; flags, helmets, & jerseys.
But what good is all of that if within the walls of the organization “they’re perfectly content with mediocrity?” Believe me, there are those out there that have proven this mantra season after season with their continued action/inaction on and off the field of play.
Too often the media and opponent fan bases attack the good fortune of the most successful organizations with “Well, they’ve got the best quarterback, or the best coach, or the best whatever.” Being GREAT is tough. As the Cannon’s describe, “It means performing at a higher level than your competitors.” Championship teams provide for and implement into their culture the development of players, moral building opportunities, bonding within the locker room, and overall TEAM discipline. They’re professional, organized, and understand what it takes to prepare day to day, week to week, season to season to be successful in the National Football League
Throwing money at your team won’t buy championships. The very best NFL organizations know who they are when they look in the mirror; Green Bay, Pittsburgh, New England, and the New York Giants. I’m sure you can name a couple more as well.
Clubs with quality ownership that understand team building principles attune to those of the Navy Seals enforce a high work ethic, increase hardships that build a “circle the wagons” morale, and they get rid of people that don’t fit in. Too many organizations (top to bottom) have learned to “survive” by picking sides and riding out regime changes. From the front desk to the loading dock, club personnel pick who they think will be the winner over the loser; this GM, that head coach, snuggle up to the owner. They look to survive to maintain the status quot, not to perform.
Club leaders (NFL General Managers, Head Coaches, Owners) must demand more of their people from the very beginning, and then build upon that standard level over time. It’s too easy in the NFL to say, “We don’t have the talent to compete.” You may have to fire hose the entire building and start from the ground up, but so be it. Find the ones willing to put others and the TEAM over self.
Does your owner REALLY want to win, or just enjoy being part of the Boys Club? Pay particular attention at the start of this offseason and analyze how they go about doing their business in preparation for 2015.