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With the Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl win this year, much has been written about the successful coaching style of Pete Carroll. Indeed, from a leadership perspective, there are few, if any, better examples of effective leadership than successfully coaching a team to a Super Bowl victory. I even heard one on-air comment that Coach Carroll was “the boss everyone wishes they had.” Is it any wonder that working individually with an employee to improve their performance is commonly called “coaching”?

A few of the comments from and about Coach Carroll provide a mini-management seminar you can pull out of your pocket for a “half-time speech” to yourself when you need some encouragement as a leader.

Pete Carroll says,
“Of course we want to win every game, but winning forever is more about realizing your potential and making yourself as good as you can be. Realizing that is a tremendous accomplishment, whether it’s in football or in life.”

Just prior to the Super Bowl Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times wrote,
“Carroll’s greatest gift: the ability and willingness to get the best out of people who others would dismiss as too much trouble. Why does Carroll work so well with these flawed individuals? It’s simple, the players say. He treats them with respect. He doesn’t handle them differently. Carroll appeals to players’ strengths, opens their eyes to the possibilities and challenges them to reach their potential.”

In an article in Sports Illustrated that appeared following the Seahawks win, Doug Farrar said,  “[h]e believes in finding the best in the people around him and challenging them to find it at all times.”

Quoting Coach Carroll,
“I think that what we’re talking about is the truth. Helping people be the best they can be — it doesn’t matter what you’re talking about. Football, or whether you‘re talking about business, or talking about families — the language and the intent and doing everything you can to help them. I can understand why that does resonate, and I’m very excited about that, because I know that the message goes beyond football.”

The frequent reference to respect in leadership as a key ingredient in bringing out the best in others reminds me of an experience from my college days when I had the opportunity to spend an evening with the late Coach John Wooden from UCLA. Coach Wooden’s unequaled success in college basketball is undeniable. Success came with teams made up of future NBA stars as well as future actors, teachers, and city managers. His “Pyramid of Success” is built of statements of his coaching and leadership philosophy and “respect” is part of the foundation. Not surprisingly “respect” is also found in Coach Carroll’s “Win Forever” pyramid.

If you’d like to build a strong team in your organization, there is no better way to begin than with a foundation of respect.

 Richard Sherman and Pete Carroll at Super Bowl XVLIII. Courtesy of Anthony Quintano.

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Photo of Lynn Nordby

About Lynn Nordby

Lynn’s public sector career included over 30 years in local government management and experience in virtually all municipal services including the operations of a wide variety of municipal utilities. He is now retired.