When you are in a leadership position, you're generally not trying to lead just one person. It's easy to lead one person. But how do I get 53 people to understand my vision? Not everybody's going to agree. Not everybody is going to think that what I want him to do is good for him.
So I find my guys-the guys I invite up to the house, who sit with my wife and me and their wife-and I tell them what I want this team to be about. We do it one at a time. It's January, our season's over, but I've got the quarterback and his wife over for dinner. The Super Bowl hasn't even been played yet, but I'm getting ready for what we're going to try to do next season. And that means the quarterback needs to come up to the house, and we need to talk. And then I'll do it with the next guy. I'll probably do it with about 10 guys, and I do this so that when we walk into mini-camp in March, they, in turn, tell their guys, 'I know what the coach wants. This is what we're doing; let's go.'
By taking a player out of the workplace, I'm giving him a platform so that he can lead, too. Sitting around the dinner table, we don't talk so much about work as about philosophies. In business and in football, there are cliques. You pick the leaders of those groups and make them understand why you're doing something, because a lot of times, when you're the leader and you do certain things, people say, 'Why is he doing that?' And when I've got 10 guys who know the answer, they can say to those people, 'Here's why we're doing that; coach told me.' They're explaining what my philosophy is in a more detailed fashion. You can't go out and do that with every single player on your team, so you pick your guys and you get them to spread the message.
Larry Bird was perhaps one of the best I've seen at delegating to find success. He got his first coaching job as the head guy with the Indiana Pacers. Larry's smart, but Larry hadn't coached before. But he knew what to do. He hired Dick Harter to run the defense and Rick Carlisle to run the offense, and then he sat back and watched. He was around the team, and he talked to the players about motivation and hard work, and that team was the best-conditioned team in the league. But when it came to running the offense and defense, he let his guys take charge. He hired experts to handle the details and oversaw the big picture.
To some extent, that's what we've done in New York. I hired good people, and I let them do what they do best. I can't be involved in every single position on this team. I can't do it all myself. It's impossible. I've seen guys who tried to do it all, and all they did was wear themselves out, because you can't be in all those places. It won't work. That's why, when I hear a guy saying that he wants to be the general manager and the head coach, it says to me that he has no family life because he never wants to go home. My hours just being the head coach are crazy enough. I'm at the office at 4:30 a.m. thinking, 'How could anyone be a good GM and a good head coach? How do you do all that?'
What you do is hire people that you trust. People that when you ask them to do something, they'll do it. I've seen situations where all of a sudden a guy becomes a coordinator, and when the head coach tries to implement something, the coordinator's arguing, 'No, but . . .' He's arguing with the head coach, and I'm saying, 'Hey, that's the head coach. If he says we're running that play, you need to run that play. There's no discussion.'
I made sure I hired the kind of guys who think like me. I told them, 'Don't worry about what happens. If what I tell you to do doesn't work, I'll take the hit. You just keep coaching.'
Day to day, I pop in and listen in on meetings, or during drills on the field, but I let my guys coach and teach, and I contribute when I can in the best way I can. I keep the pace moving; I keep the focus sharp and the players always guessing about what I'm going to do next. Don't hire good people and then micromanage them. Nothing sends an organization into chaos faster and with a fouler scent. Don't hire a secretary and then do the typing for him. Don't commission a tailor and then sew it for her. You've got to trust the people you hire and trust their abilities.
You've also got to make absolutely sure that the people you delegate understand exactly what you're trying to do and why. The tailor can't make the suit you want unless she knows what you want it for and why you want her to make it. The secretary can't type the report unless he knows what it is you want him to type.
My coaches can't coach unless they understand my plan. Every spring, the first thing we do is meet, and I hand them sheets of paper with my philosophy and expectations for the season:
My definition of a coach: An expert in his field, he coaches with confidence and passion for the game of football. He develops his players and makes them meet the highest possible standards. He coaches his players to win.
Be committed to excellence. Every play, every practice, every meeting, every situation, every time.
Be positive. Adopt a positive attitude. Players will respond better to a positive environment than to a negative one. Have energy.
Be prepared. You cannot control which team wins a game, but you can determine how your players prepare to win.
Pay attention to details. All aspects of a player's effort to prepare mentally, physically, and fundamentally are a coach's responsibility.
Be organized. Make the best possible use of the available time and resources.
Be flexible. You must have the ability to respond and adapt to change.
Be ethical. You must exhibit integrity in all of your dealings with players and staff members. The first thing you must do is have all the facts, and then you can be constructive. If you are constructive, you will be reflecting your sincerity and dedication as well as your personal and team integrity. If the facts indicate that you made a poor decision or that you took an improper action, then you must admit that you were wrong. On the other hand, if the evidence, based on those facts, shows that you were correct, you must stand firmly and fairly for what you believe is right.
Emphasize sportsmanship. The game of professional football must be coached and played in ways that sportsmanship and a team's ability to win a championship are never compromised.
Once my coaches know my philosophy and what I expect, they can apply their knowledge to their specific assignment. The wide receivers' coach can now teach the wide receivers. The linebackers' coach can now teach the linebackers. I trust their expertise as long as they follow my plan.
And it's great because when I walk into the room, or when I'm sitting in the back, I can hear them echoing what I've told them. Everyone now knows what the program is, and it's a good feeling. I feel good about my message, and they feel good because they have a voice and they are allowed to do their jobs.
The media got on Paul Hackett, our offensive coordinator, a little in the beginning of the 2002 season because the offense wasn't as productive as we would have liked. Half of it was because of me. I was telling Paul that we didn't need to pass the ball right now because we weren't good enough on defense to stop the run. I believed that we had no chance to win the game because we'd be on the field so long that the offense would never get the ball back. I told him that we had to control the clock, which means running the ball. Later, when our defense got better, we opened it up a little, and we ended up winning 10 games. So I guess we were doing something right. I delegated, but I oversaw, too.
This is an application that works in business just as easily as it does in football. Take out the words player and coach and insert employee and employer. It's a simple plan that's designed for success. But you don't have to take my word for it; how about that of Southwest Airlines? Here is what Southwest Airlines insists on:
'We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth. Creativity and innovation are encouraged for improving the effectiveness of Southwest Airlines. Above all, Employees will be provided the same concern, respect, and caring attitude within the organization that they are expected to share externally with every Southwest Customer.'
Southwest Airlines has proven that it can 'win' by empowering its employees.