QUOTE: “There is no stigma attached to recognizing a bad decision in time to install a better one.” — Laurence J. Peter (1919-1988)
It was great to see the Sports Guy Bill Simmons and his legion of fans turn out for his book signing Tuesday night in Philadelphia. And what a book he’s written — “The Book of Basketball,” with an incredible forward by Malcolm Gladwell. The city turned out in full force to see Bill, and I’m guessing his right arm has to be sore today from signing so many books. When I left, the line was still very long. This book contains 736 pages of basketball insights, evaluations and stories that show his love and passion for the game. I’m not sure any of the general managers in basketball today could write a book with this much detail. It’s amazing for the depth and insight it provides and I’m only 100 pages in. Gladwell is right, he should be considered for a GM job — he really should.
Now, on to football….
Let’s pretend today that you are Brad Childress as you prepare the Vikings for their trip to Green Bay. The football part of the game is easy — both staffs know each other well, having already played one game, and both will make the needed adjustments. The key component of the game will be handling the return of Brett Favre to Lambeau Field. The easy thing to say — which I’m sure we’ll hear from the coaches’ press conferences – is that it will be treated like any other game. Wrong. This is not like any other game. Favre will be on the other sideline, and that will be awkward for the coaches, awkward for the fans and awkward for each team.
So what would you do to ease the tension if you were Childress? My first thought would be to introduce my offense to the crowd to start the game. Let the Packers fans have their moment to decide whether to boo Favre for wearing different colors or cheer him for all that he accomplished on that very field. Introducing Favre to the crowd will show the Packer faithful that he’s not afraid of the reaction, because he would have loved to have kept playing in Green Bay. Events and circumstances in and out of his control, however, didn’t allow it. Coming out in the pregame introduction would let the fans know he’s not afraid of the confrontation, or the reaction, that he still is and always will be a Packer at heart. But on this day, he’s a Viking.
Introducing the defense implies that the Vikings are worried about the reaction. What do they have to hide from? In reality, the Packer faithful have too much class to create a hostile environment. There might be a smattering of boos, but there’s too much respect, too much admiration, for Favre to create a stir. The best way to ease the tension is to deal with it from the start — then play the game.
My vote is to introduce Favre and the offense. What’s your vote?
Larry Johnson and the Chiefs
The root of the problem involving Larry Johnson tweeting about Chiefs coach Todd Haley is that most of the players in the locker room feel the anger coming from the staff toward them, especially those who were drafted by the previous regime. Now, I’m not condoning what Larry Johnson did. Even his father was a wonderful voice of reason, saying, “That’s just not who we are and not what we believe. It’s not how he was raised.” He said his son was taught that hateful or inappropriate words are “just not tolerated.”
Everyone knows that Larry Johnson can be a tad moody, but if you spend five minutes with any new member of the Chiefs front office, all they talk about is the mess they inherited. Hello. Of course it was a mess — why else would you all have been hired? I mean, there aren’t many times in the NFL when you can take over a proven playoff team — Barry Switzer did from Jimmy Johnson in Dallas and Norv Turner did from Marty Schottenheimer in San Diego. But for the most part, great jobs are hard to find. There’s a leadership lesson in the Larry Johnson mess: Move forward and stop blaming things on someone else. In fact, here’s a sample of some rules I’ve developed that I call “First Things First”:
1) Meet with the entire organization and show the scene from “Apollo 13” – the one where a group of scientists is sitting at a large table and someone walks in and dumps a large container of items and says, “We have to make this into that.” No one complains; they just get up and do their jobs. Let the members of the organization know from that video that we are all about finding “a way.” Set the tone from the first meeting, using visual effects to get the big point across.
2) Meet with everyone in the organization to explain what you’re all about — set up a meeting time with each department. Need to express the philosophy of what you expect, give them a path to see where this new team is headed.
3) Give people some time to write down what THEY think is their job, how they grade themselves. Give them a forum to express themselves about what they’ve been doing.
4) Make them write down what they think are the positives and the negatives of the organization; force them to be honest and open. Communication is the only way we can improve from this point.
5) Each employee must write down a synopsis of his or her career. In as much detail as you’d like, describe your beliefs, what your interests are, what makes you feel good about yourself, what motivates you, what influences you. When stepping in the middle of a company, it’s important to learn as much as you can about the people you have inherited on this new team.
6) Interview each person in the organization. Take the time to listen to what has happened. How can we go forward if we haven’t learn what has happened? Five ideas on how to improve the department they work in. What would THEY do? Five ideas on how they would improve the organization. We need honesty, we need openness and we need a willingness to speak your mind.
7) From this day forward we will not talk about problems, but solve problems. We all get paid for results. The true champion is the person who takes the action to solve, not talk.
8) Make the people in the organization understand that we’re going to build a team on and off the field. When you walk through the doors of the building each day, you’re a part of the team — not management, not coach, not staff, but team. When we look like a team off the field, it will be much easier to build a team on the field. Important to understand the essential elements of team building.
Besides being way too emotional on the sideline, the Chiefs have created a negative culture in their own building with their constant complaining about things in the past. Move forward. Todd Haley would not be a head coach if there were not a mess in K.C., and Scott Pioli would not be the GM for the same reason.
Understand the reasons Larry Johnson went off — and fix it. Not playing Johnson any more this season (which I’m sure will be the reaction from a very angry Chiefs staff) will not solve the problems. Those run much deeper.
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