After my first season with the Jets, I finally found time to go to my first New York Yankees game, and I knew immediately why that organization is so successful. You sit in the dugout and those players come by and you shake their hand and talk to them, and you say, 'OK, that's why these guys win.' When you talk to the coach, when you go into the locker room, when you go to see Mr. Steinbrenner, you know they care about winning. You can just sense that, whatever they do, they're going to try to win. They've instilled a lot of pride in that franchise, and you can tell that's why they are in the World Series just about every year, it seems.
Instilling pride really means creating an environment that your players or your employees feel good about being in. Sometimes that means doing something extra or different from what other companies or teams do, to set yourself apart.
It's something I am trying to do with my team-instill pride that we are New York City's team. We may play in New Jersey and practice in Hempstead, but last time I checked, we are still the New York Jets.
After the terrorist attacks on September 11, I realized that we needed to do something for the city and become the pride of the city. We won't get our own stadium until at least 2008, so all I could really do was change where we stay the night before the games. The Jets had always stayed in New Jersey, but I moved us to downtown New York City, to the Marriott, right across from where the Twin Towers used to stand. I felt it was a good gesture on our organization's part to stay down there. That was the place I felt we should stay as a tribute to what happened there and so that our players could understand how fortunate we really are. The players felt it immediately, saying that for the first time they felt like a separate entity from the Giants.
You can also instill pride by praising things someone does that, perhaps, that person hasn't considered special. A man walks his wife to her car or cooks dinner for her one night. He doesn't think those are big deals, but to his wife, they are. If she doesn't let him know that, though, they become routine and dull. It's so easy to for her to say how much she appreciates those gestures, and knowing that she notices the 'little things' he does as well as the big makes him proud of the way he approaches his relationship with her. Pride in a relationship is easy to obtain when you pay attention to actions and reactions. It's when you forget to pay that attention that a relationship becomes dull and stagnant.
In business, you need to praise the mail boy for bringing your mail promptly. Do that and you make him proud of something he might have taken for granted. Praise your boss for giving you a heads-up on an important company change, and he takes pride in knowing that he helped you prepare for something that affects your work. Praise your child's effort in getting a tough school project done early, and that becomes something he's proud of and most likely will continue to take pride in.
When I first got the job with the Jets, I searched and searched to find out what the NFL shield represented-you know, the crest that surrounds the letters NFL. I actually called the league, and I said, 'Do you know what the shield stands for? Do you guys have a definition of the shield?' They went, 'Well, no.' I said, 'Don't worry about it because I'm going to write what it stands for.'
I told them that the red, white, and blue stands for the United States flag. And that the NFL was part of the fabric of American society and it was their responsibility to respect that shield as they do the flag.
As a rookie, I used to walk up the hill every day after practice with Roman Gabriel. He'd tell me stories; he'd tell me about the history of the league, how he prepared himself, what it took to succeed in the NFL. I was a rookie free agent listening to Roman Gabriel and getting all this for free. I've tried to pass it on. We have an obligation. The players need to know what that shield stands for. It's not a right, but a privilege to play in the NFL.