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Sunday at the Post

This time, Pete Carroll will have a chance to succeed. Michael Lombardi

Print This January 10, 2010, 09:05 AM EST

QUOTE/STORY OF THE WEEK...

“If you want to coach you have three rules to follow to win. One, surround yourself with people who can't live without football. I've had a lot of them. Two, be able to recognize winners. They come in all forms. And three, have a plan for everything. A plan for practice, a plan for the game. A plan for being ahead and a plan for being behind 20-0 at half, with your quarterback hurt and the phones dead, with it raining cats and dogs and no rain gear because the equipment man left it at home.” -- Paul Bear Bryant

Congratulations to Nick Saban and the entire Alabama family for winning their first national championship since 1992 under then-coach Gene Stallings. Alabama went undefeated this year, and it seems like the direction of the program is headed for many more national championships.

Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens general manager, deserves credit for being instrumental in convincing the powers that be at Alabama that Saban was the man for the job. Newsome knew Saban was a great coach and the perfect fit to restore the Crimson Tide to their glory days. Congratulations to all involved.

“People who are in it for their own good are individualists. They don't share the same heartbeat that makes a team so great. A great unit, whether it be football or any organization, shares the same heartbeat.” -- Paul Bear Bryant

Today’s Sunday Post was written before the playoffs started. I’ll have a full report on all games Monday.

AROUND THE NFL…

“A slip of the foot you may soon recover, but a slip of the tongue you may never get over.” -- Benjamin Franklin

1. The news that USC coach Pete Carroll is heading to Seattle came as a surprise but not a shock. Carroll has taken USC to incredible levels and has always had a slight interest in getting back into the NFL, but with conditions. In Seattle, he inherits two first-round picks this year, will be working for a wealthy owner and will have the essential elements conducive to winning. Seattle is a beautiful city, partially surrounded by water, and will be very appealing to Carroll. It’s kind of ironic that Carroll will take over for a coach who was only granted one year on the job because he was fired from the Jets after only one year. Leon Hess, then owner of the Jets, didn’t want to lose the chance to hire Rich Kotite and fired Carroll after one season. Carroll is taking over a rebuilding project and is probably leaving more talent than he’ll inherit when he arrives in Seattle. He’ll need to rebuild both lines and find his quarterback of the future. The good thing for Carroll this time is that, as a head coach in the NFL, he’ll be afforded time to be successful based on the contract given to him by the owner.

2. Does Steve Sarkisian, the Washington Huskies head coach, make too much sense for the Trojans? I strongly doubt USC will be interested in Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio. Word on the street is that ESPN analyst and former Chiefs coach Herman Edwards would love to be the coach at USC.

3. As I reported last week, Del Rio is in danger of losing his job based on his personality, his relationship with his co-workers and his involvement in the community. Jags owner Wayne Weaver is not happy with Del Rio on many levels, and their meeting this week might prove to be the final one they have.

4. Raiders coach Tom Cable also might be heading into his final meeting this week, but besides being terminated, I wonder if we might get another overhead projector press conference from the Raiders announcing they’ve fired Cable for cause? If he does get fired, which I hear is likely, expect him to file a grievance to continue getting the rest of his money.

5. Tom Heckert, the Eagles general manager in name only, will move along to Cleveland this week to accept a similar role, which will not give him ultimate authority but will allow him to be free to run the program. Also, I’m hearing that Seattle personnel man Will Lewis, who interview for the GM job in Cleveland, may also be heading to the Browns in a role yet to be determined. With all the changes coming in Seattle, moving to Cleveland might be a good move for Lewis.

6. Why are the St. Louis Rams not coaching in the Senior Bowl? They had the option to be one of the staffs, and since they have their entire staff in place, the only reason for turning it down has to be financial. It costs roughly $65,000 for NFL teams to coach in the Senior Bowl, hardly expensive considering the guaranteed money that’s required to be given to rookies. It appears very short sighted on the Rams’ part. Now, they may say they don’t want to involve their coaching staff in the process, but that’s just bull. Even if they’re not a part of the entire process, getting up close to some of the top prospects can only serve as a benefit to the drafting process.

7. Word is circulating that Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier is the front-runner in Buffalo after his interview last week. I’m not sure Frazier is the man, but I did hear last week that the Bills found their man and it wasn’t Bill Cowher.

ARTICLES YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED THAT AREN’T WORTH MISSING...

“I write feelings, not thoughts. Feelings are much stronger than thoughts.” -- Bono

Great article from Newsweek on the Washington Redskins and why they are so profitable despite not winning.

LEADERSHIP IMPROVEMENT IDEA….

“So vast, so limitless in capacity is man's imagination to disperse and burn away the rubble-dross of fact and probability, leaving only truth and dream.” -- William Faulkner

Corner Office Remember to Share the Stage From the New York Times Corner Office

Remember to Share the Stage

This interview with Gordon M. Bethune, the former chief executive of Continental Airlines, was conducted and condensed by Adam Bryant.

Q. What are the most important leadership lessons you’ve learned?

A. I was a mechanic in the Navy. And mechanics in the Navy are like mechanics in airlines. You may have more stripes than I do, but you don’t know how to fix the airplane. You want me to fix it? You know how much faster I could fix the airplane when I wanted to, than when I didn’t want to? So I’ve always felt that if you treat me with respect, I’ll do more for you.

As I went up the ladder in the Navy, I never forgot what it’s like to be down the ladder, and that being good at your job is predicated pretty much on how the people working for you feel.

Here’s my theory: Let’s say we’re all midlevel managers, and one VP slot is going to open up. I’ve got 10 guys working for me, and for the last five years, every time I got any recognition, I said, “Bring them on the stage with me.” Who do you think is going to get the job? I’m going to get the job.

Q. How did you put together the team back in the early 1990s to turn around Continental Airlines?

A. I hired the best people. The sickest patients need the best doctors, so you can’t skimp on this stuff. I took the 20 top guys and I said: “I’ll create a bonus plan so that if we hit these numbers, I get paid and you get paid. And either all of us are going to get paid, or nobody’s getting paid.” And I never missed.

Q. How do you hire people?

A. The really good people want autonomy — you let me do it, and I’ll do it. So I told the people I recruited: “You come in here and you’ve got to keep me informed, but you’re the guy, and you’ll make these decisions. It won’t be me second-guessing you. But everybody’s going to win together. We’re part of a team, but you’re going to run your part.” That’s all they want. They want a chance to do it.

Q. How did you decide whom to keep and whom to let go?

A. What I’m going to do is take a look at your performance. Then I’ll ask, how are we keeping you from doing your job? But you know, if it’s not the old equipment that’s to blame, and it’s you, I’ll find that out pretty quickly.

You have to hire people with good judgment. That’s No. 1. If they have it, whatever they’re put in, they’ll get good at it. Whatever comes up, you’ll take care of it based on the information, because you’d have the judgment to say, “Now, this is probably the right thing to do.” You don’t have to be an expert. So, pick good guys, give them the training they need and let them use their own judgment.

Q. That’s pretty subjective.

A. You know it when you see it. And so you’ve got to click. Somebody who knows what they’re doing, who has a good track record, they come across as very articulate, bright and looking for a challenge — that’s absolutely my kind of hire.

Q. Talk about how you communicated with employees.

A. I did a weekly voice mail — every week for 10 years, a three- to five-minute message. Every week I’d tell them what was going on. And we had a daily update with our stock price, our on-time performance, who did what to whom in our industry. So the employees always kind of knew what was going on. They had direct access to me, and direct access to the information.

And we never lied. You don’t lie to your own doctor. You don’t lie to your own attorney, and you don’t lie to your employees. And if you never lie, then when it hits the fan, and somebody says you’re wrong — you can say, “No, I’m not,” and they’ll believe you.

Q. When you were CEO, did you develop certain tricks for managing your time?

A. If I had a flight at 2, I’d probably never get to the airport later than 12:30. I’d spend an hour just going down to the crew room. That’s how I met a lot of people. That’s how I was very visible.

When you actually take the time to go over to somebody’s office and personally thank them — whether their office is in a cockpit of an airplane, or in a break room — that’s an actual manifestation of interest in them. You need to take the time to show the people around you who work for you that you’re interested in them. So I would schedule my time like that.

The best compliment I ever heard happened one Christmas. I always went out to the airport on holidays, and always made sure that I was there and I’d thank people for giving up their holiday to work. We’d go down to the break room. I’d always eat down in the break room where the food was being passed out.

I went to sit down at this big long table with these two guys, and I said, “Anybody sitting here?”

And one of them said to the other: “I told you he’d be here. Give me my $10.”

He had bet that guy $10 that I’d show up.

STORIES TO SHARE...

The Fire, Author Unknown, Source Unknown

A couple, whom we shall call John and Mary, had a nice home and two lovely children, a boy and a girl. John had a good job and had just been asked to go on a business trip to another city and would be gone for several days. It was decided that Mary needed an outing and would go along too. They hired a reliable woman to care for the children and made the trip, returning home a little earlier than they had planned.

As they drove into their hometown feeling glad to be back, they noticed smoke, and they went off their usual route to see what it was. They found a home in flames. Mary said, "Oh well it isn't our fire, let's go home."

But John drove closer and exclaimed, "That home belongs to Fred Jones, who works at the plant. He wouldn't be off work yet, maybe there is something we could do."

"It has nothing to do with us," protested Mary. "You have your good clothes on. Let’s not get any closer."

But John drove up and stopped and they were both horrorstricken to see the whole house in flames. A woman on the lawn was in hysterics screaming, "The children! Get the children!"

John grabbed her by the shoulder, saying, "Get a hold of yourself and tell us where the children are!"

"In the basement," sobbed the woman, "down the hall and to the left."

In spite of Mary's protests, John grabbed the water hose and soaked his clothes, put his wet handkerchief on his head and bolted for the basement, which was full of smoke and scorching hot. He found the door and grabbed two children, holding one under each arm like the football player he was. As he left, he could hear some more whimpering. He delivered the two badly frightened and nearly suffocated children into waiting arms and filled his lungs with fresh air and started back, asking how many more children were down there. They told him two more and Mary grabbed his arm and screamed, "John! Don't go back! It's suicide! That house will cave in any second!"

But he shook her off and went back by feeling his way down the smoke-filled hallway and into the room. It seemed an eternity before he found both children and started back. They were all three coughing, and he stooped low to get what available air he could. As he stumbled up the endless steps, the thought went through his mind that there was something strangely familiar about the little bodies clinging to him, and at last when they came out into the sunlight and fresh air, he found that he had just rescued his own children.

The baby-sitter had left them at this home while she did some shopping.

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