This week marks the end of the regular NFL season and the coaching carousel begins. This month long window sees losing coaches getting fired and then being hired on with other teams.
If you’re not a football fan, don’t worry I can see your eye rolls from here. We’re talking leadership, so hang in there. We’re using this conversation to get at the source of what it takes to move your team.
Chip Kelly, head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles was fired 15 games into his third season. Kelly was lauded for being a brilliant X’s and O’s coach. By all accounts he was innovative and creative. He took a team that was 4-12 before his arrival to 20 wins in his first two seasons.
So why was he fired?
One player, Lane Johnson, termed him a “dictator” who wasn’t “human about things”. Several others complained about his poor communication style. In explaining his decision to fire Kelly, Eagles owner Jeffery Lurie indicated strained relationships inside the organization played a role.
“You’ve got to open your heart to players if you want to achieve peak performance. You’ve got to get along with everyone you work with and come in contact with”.
Apparently even in a results driven business like the NFL, being a tyrannical leader who doesn’t have the buy in of your people means you won’t be around for long.
Contrast Kelly’s style to that of Tom Coughlin, who just left the New York Giants.
Coughlin’s results. Twelve years as head coach. 102 wins. Two Super Bowls.
Coughlin was revered by his players. In a wonderful piece in THE PLAYERS TRIBUNE eight of his former players tell stories about the man they played for and the level of love and respect they had for him. They talked about his impact on them professionally and personally. About how they grew as fathers and men and not just football players.
Apparently Coughlin wasn’t always that way. Which if you recognize any gaps in your own leadership ability is a good sign. The flavor of the stories are about a coach who began as a stubborn, authoritative communicator that did way too much yelling.
They were winning, but they were miserable.
Being a leader is about growing and developing. It’s being willing to let go of your old ways of thinking and acting to be in service of the team you lead.
So Coughlin risked.
He began asking players about their families and their lives, helping them with things that didn’t necessarily involve winning football games. Even telling his players at the end of a fiery speech before they played the Super Bowl he loved them. What NFL coach does that?
The most effective leaders know how to communicate that love. It’s about engaging the hearts and minds of the people you lead.
Clearly Coughlin demanded excellence from them, challenged them, held them accountable. The NFL is after all a results driven business. But they knew he loved them. They knew he wanted them to reach their full potential.
It’s been my own experience as a CEO that people will walk through walls for you when they know you genuinely care for them.
Showing authentic love and care for the people who choose to work for you doesn’t take away from performance, it adds to performance.
Chip Kelly, will undoubtedly get another chance at coaching in the NFL, I wonder if he’ll make any adjustments in his next gig?
Take a look for yourself.
What’s one thing you could do this week that would show your team you cared? And get beyond bringing donuts and patting people on the back.
What will you risk in your relationships with your people this week? How will you bring the love?