Emotional intelligence, leadership, and football.

It was week 17 last week in the NFL, and the College football national championship is right around the corner.  Which usually means it’s evaluation time for many coaches.  By evaluation I mean the chopping block.  In the NFL it’s even called “Black Monday” because of the inevitable firings that come from missing the playoffs.   This year the 2 teams I pull for couldn’t be in more different circumstances.  My beloved Philadelphia Eagles just fired their head coach Chip Kelly after just 3 years while my beloved Clemson Tigers are on their way to the National Championship game, and Dabo Swinney was named this years College Football Coach of the Year.  Now I’m no expert on what it takes to coach a football team, but we are experts in Leadership here at The Leone Resource Group.  I can’t help but think of the similarities I have seen between successful coaches who lead their teams to greatness on the field, and successful mangers, directors, and CEO’s who lead their organizations to great success.  I’m a fanatic, so I have paid close attention to both men’s style and ability, what has been said by their players and coaches, and I couldn’t help but think of the organizations we have worked with that similarly have fallen on either side of the equation.  So here are 4 leadership takeaways from my observations as a football fan, and leadership consultant.  Note well, when I say players, I mean YOUR players in your organization too.

1)  Your players want to play for you.  5 time pro-bowler Jason Peterson, on week 16, took himself out of the game and did not return.  Essentially saying ‘I’m not going to go out on a limb for this coach’.  He exceeds his goals, is respected by players, and when someone like that quits on you, the domino effect can be scary.  It’s no wonder Kelly was gone the next week.  In your organization you may have people who “do it their own way” while you’re trying to move forward with more comprehensive plan for success.  That’s dangerous.  You need your team, especially top performers, to be on board with what you’re doing, or risk them sabotaging what you’re trying to achieve.  Our most successful client fired his top salesperson because he wouldn’t get on board with the process he was trying to implement.  He knew that in the short term it was a tough decision, but since then the organization has been #1 in their industry.

2)  They are able to articulate the big picture.  Dabo Swinney said in a press conference last week that he told his players “We have to change the way we think.  We can control first what’s between our ears.  If we can do that, the rest will follow.”  He has also laid out 5 goals every year since ‘09.  1) win the first game 2) beat South Carolina 3) win the ACC Atlantic 4) win the ACC Championship 5) Win The Bowl game.  Pretty clear.  Get right mentally, establish goals, and execute plans to achieve goals, stay the course.  It’s imperative to get you’re team to believe they have the ability to make more money, change the world, exceed forecasts, or achieve whatever your goal is.  The trick is your goals as an organization need to align with helping people achieve THEIR goals.  If people don’t see a direct correlation with the organizations success, and their own personal success, moving forward can be difficult.

3)  They WIN!  There’s a funny saying among sports analyst:  winning cures everything.  It’s when you aren’t performing well all these things come to the surface.  So that means you better be winning!  Are you exceeding sales goals, increasing employee engagement index, customer satisfaction scores increasing, increasing market share, hiring winners, and is all of this moving you towards growth.  It sounds simple but progress must be on full display.  When we introduce our sales strategy to a new client it’s imperative they follow process precisely, review wins and losses, and record the stories and scenarios for the future.  We do this because we KNOW if the process is followed correctly, people sell a lot more.  And if they are not closing, it’s because they missed steps in our process.  Both are valuable because we can reference the relevance of the scenarios and prove that when you trust the process, you win.  But it’s all for naught if you can’t prove your strategy wins!  So go WIN!

4)  They have high EQ, or emotional intelligence.  Look at what Eagles owner Jeff Lurie said about what he was looking for in his next head coach.

“I would call it a style of leadership that values information, all the resources that are provided, and at the same time values emotional intelligence. I think in today’s world of the way businesses are run and sports teams are run that a combination, and it’s not easy to have, a combination of all those factors creates the best chance to succeed.”

He knows it’s not just X’s and O’s anymore.  You need emotional intelligence.  It is becoming more widely known that EQ is a greater predictor of personal success than IQ ever was.  This means your players need to believe that you CARE about them as a person, not just as a player.  Look at how Dabo Swinnney’s players talk about him.  The message is always the same: he wills them to be good student athletes, and better men on and off the field.  Want more proof?  Here’s a quote from Super Bowl champ Justin Tuck about his Super Bowl coach Tom Coughlin following his retirement this week.    Everyone knows you for your dedication to your team and how intense you are on the football field. But I will remember you for helping me become a man and challenging all of us to be better husbands and fathers and men. You did it the right way Coach.”  – Justin Tuck on Tom Coughlin

Now that’s emotional intelligence.  You could argue the Giants didn’t have near the talent of either one of their opponents in the 2 Super Bowl wins under Coughlin, I wonder if this had anything to do with it.

In your business this all comes full circle.  Your employee engagement index (the ratio between engaged and disengaged employees at an organization) is one of the greatest predictors of organizational success.  The way you get there is you hire/become high EQ (emotionally intelligent) leaders.

Check out the Coughlin speech at around the 9:20 mark:  http://www.sbnation.com/lookit/2016/1/5/10716822/nfl-video-new-york-giants-tom-coughlin-eli-manning

For any information on EQ assessments, employee engagement assessments, or sales team assessments call me at 843-343-7656 or email us at [email protected]

Happy Selling!

Tony Leone

PS:  This also refers to any of you in a recruiting role.  Clemson University hired us to teach these same principles to their coaches to increase their  recruiting effectiveness. 

Posted in Ray's Rules by Tony Leone on January 11, 2016.