Leading The Field: Belichick, Carroll, And Championship Coaching

by Dora Wang on Jan 27, 2015 11:00:00 AM

The Leadership Qualities Of Super Bowl Coaches Pete Carroll & Bill BelichickAnd then there were two.

Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots and Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks are the only head coaches left the playoffs. Both men have led their teams through the season to a spot in next week’s Super Bowl.

But their methods for getting here couldn’t be more different—at least, according to the popular image of each coach. Carroll: the 63-year-old who’s a kid at heart. Belichick: the serious and taciturn mastermind. Carroll bounced from the NFL to college football and back again. Belichick has spent all of his 40-year career in the NFL (and took the helm of the Patriots after Carroll was fired from that job).

Different Recipe, Same Success

But do the details matter if the results are the same? Belichick has led the Patriots to the Super Bowl six times in his 15-year tenure. This is Carroll’s second Super Bowl in five years with the Seahawks. Goofball or Grumpy Cat? They’re both championship-worthy coaches.

Take a look at some of the leadership qualities these two share. They’d work for any NFL team—and any company too.

  • Focus on the present: Both coaches (and their players) are like a broken record: “One game at a time.” “1-0 every week.” That sort of tunnel vision prevents distractions. The ultimate goal is in mind, of course, but their eyes are on the individual steps they’re taking to get there.

Whether it’s a quarterly sales goal or a radical restructuring of the organization, you can’t hope to lead your company to the finish line without a plan for each part of the process.

Top to bottom, everyone in your company should work for one another, not individual glory. Get them invested in your organization’s mission, and show them that each person shares in the successes as well as the burdens.

  • Practice to win: “If we only improve on the days we play,” says Belichick, “we’re not going to get very far. We have to improve on those other six days that we’re not playing.” Similarly, Carroll’s philosophy is to treat every practice as important. His mantra of “always compete” doesn’t apply just on game day.

While you may not be prepping your employees for a nationally televised game, you can share this dedication to the daily process of improvement. Give your employees the same level of enthusiasm and expectation for their regular work as you do for high-profile projects. Don’t save it all for “showtime.”

Accounting For Taste

Let’s go back to the contrasting characters of the two coaches: Belichick in his iconic short-sleeved hoodie, Carroll chewing his gum within an inch of its life. The surface details may not affect the championship quality of their leadership ... but it does matter to the people they lead. For some players, it’s all about the serious, businesslike approach that executes the mission. Others prefer the coach who plays pranks and mandates yoga sessions. It’s important to keep compatibility in mind when building a team.

Belichick shares the wisdom of his experience: “I can say through almost 40 years of NFL experience that leadership comes in a lot of shapes and sizes.” The right qualities come in different packages. The key is knowing your own style and finding someone you can play ball with.



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This post was written by Dora Wang

Dora is an employee engagement researcher for TINYpulse and managing editor of TINYinstitute. Having grown up in Texas, she is now firmly settled in Seattle, where she spends her free time reading comic books, wrangling her three cats, and (of course) rooting for the Seahawks.

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