Sporting Leadership: Mark Cuban vs Jerry Jones

Cuban and Jones HugWhen I think of professional sports and leadership, two Dallas owners come to mind: Mark Cuban and Jerry Jones.  Just like the state of Texas, both men have big, bold personalities.  Cuban and Jones are also known for winning and taking their teams to the next level of success.  These two leaders have taken different paths to make their teams great.  Here are just a few examples of what they have done; both good and bad.

Jerry Jones: The Micromanaging Visionary

When Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys back in 1989, he had a vision, that led to an unpopular decision.  He fired longtime head coach Tom Landry and replaced him with Jimmy Johnson.  Though fans didn’t understand it at the time, this decision allowed Jones to start fresh and put together a coaching and administrative staff that would follow his vision.  Jones was very hands on and the combination of him and Coach Johnson led to great draft picks and all-star players.  By having the team follow his vision and running on all cylinders, the Dallas Cowboys won two back to back Super Bowls (XXVII and XXVIII) and won Super Bowl XXX.

Micromanage Pitfall


“…any one of 500 coaches could have won those Super Bowls”

Jones created a winning dynasty in Dallas.  He had the right players with Troy Aikman and Emmett Smith.  He had the right coach with Johnson.  What happened that caused the dynasty to collapse in Dallas?


When things started going wrong with his coach, he started roaming around the sidelines questioning everything.  He eventually pushed out Coach Jimmy Johnson, the man who helped execute the vision of the team’s success.  Though the Cowboys won a Super Bowl without Coach Johnson, they slowly started running downhill and haven’t truly recovered since then.

Cuban: The Passionate Instigator

Casual CubanMark Cuban became the majority stakeholder of the Dallas Mavericks in 2000.  Before that time, the team had a losing record (40% games won) and was swimming in a sea of mediocrity.  With his drive for winning, Cuban has been able to turn this team around and they keep showing up in the NBA finals.  In 2011, the team won their first by NBA Championship by dethroning “King” James and the heralded Miami Heat.

Standing Out from the Crowd

“Wherever I see people doing something the way it’s always been done, the way it’s ‘supposed’ to be done, following the same old trends, well, that’s just a big red flag to me to go look somewhere else.”

Mark Cuban has never blended in with a group; which has led to his success.  For example, Cuban realized to get the right players  he had to recruit in a different way.  One of those ways had to do with the locker room.  The Dallas Mavericks have one of the most expensive elaborate locker rooms in all of professional sports.  While others questioned why would spend so much money on a locker room, he was busy using this as a recruitment and retention tool.

Not blending in has also caused Cuban to create unneeded controversy, including his most recent comments that led to him apologizing to the family of Trayvon Martin.

IMG_4005-419x314Both Jerry Jones and Mark Cuban are passionate about their businesses and their teams.  This passion has led to success in their respected fields.  There isn’t anyone who can say that Jerry Jones has not lived up to the vision he has had with the Cowboys.  The same can be said about Cuban when it comes to inspiring people to live up to their fullest potential.

Which owner would you categorize yourself as the most?


Lead Like Charlemagne

543088_Charlemagne-Crowned-By-Pope-Leo-III-Dec-25-800Over the weekend while watching a documentary of the Dark Ages, I was reminded about Emperor Charlemagne and the lasting impression he left in Europe.  Charlemagne was the first European Emperor after the fall of the Western Roman Empire and brought unity to Europe; though it came at a high price.

But what can business leaders learn from Charlemagne?  Here are a few concepts taken from Charlemagne that can help you and your business succeed.

Religious Conversions: Company Culture

To make sure everyone was on the same page, Charlemagne would convert conquered lands to Christianity.  By “convert” he would give people a choice, follow his God or die.

Though this is an extreme example, it does stand to point that this level of unity helped keep Charlemagne’s rule intact.  Everyone held the same beliefs, publicly had the same values and followed the same rules.

It’s similar to a strong company culture.  By establishing what your company stands for by creating standards, values and believes, you give your staff a general understanding of what you expect of them…just don’t execute them if they fall short.

County Leaders: Accountability

Charlemagne divided his land into several counties and put a person in charge of each county.  He would frequently visit each county leader to see how they were ruling the land and hold them accountable.

This type of hands-on leadership allowed Charlemagne to stay connected to his people and stay ahead of any forseeable issues. Would Charlemagne’s rule have been as vast and long if he would have just stayed locked up in his castle?  Probably not.

Take a page from Charlemagne’s book and let your leaders lead.  True leaders lead those around them by giving them a level of responsibility, examines how that person handles situations, and reacts accordingly.

Education: Education

Charlemagne understood the importance of education.  When coming into power, he was one of only a very small group of leaders that actually learned how to read.  During his time, only monks and other religious leaders placed an importance of literacy; but Charlemagne understood that knowledge is power.

As a leader, it is important to understand that you must always quench your thirst for knowledge.  Reading, taking classes and having a good mentor are just a few ways to continue your educational path.  Learning shouldn’t just end with you, rather you should make sure those around you are seeking knowledge as well.

By creating an accountability system and establishing an educational foundation, you will start laying the foundation of a strong company culture.  You may not become the Emperor of Europe, but who wants that anyway?

Which historical leader do you look to for business and/or life lessons?  Is there a historical leader who’s traits you admire?  If so share your opinion in the comments section.

Sales Training = Knowledge + Courage

Courage and KnowledgeAround this time of year, I ask my peers, co-workers and bank executives (both inside and outside the organization) what they believe will make an impact in the new year.  This is a great way to get insight and to make sure I am not missing anything for the coming year.  When the section of either sales or educational development comes up, one item is always mentioned:

Sales Training

I can ask twenty people what sales training is and will likely receive twenty different answers.  Here are just a few items:

  • How to close a sale as fast as possible
  • Ways to improve the sales pipeline
  • Getting a customer to say yes
  • Best Cold Calling Tactics

These are good points and could possible be great training sessions, but all these points tend to leave out the two most important factors in sales: Knowledge and Courage.

When you think about it, sales is about how people communicate with one another.  You can have the best product or service in the world, but if you don’t know what it is, or are unsure of yourself, then how can you sale it?  In other words, sales training shouldn’t be about how to sale a widget, it is about giving your staff product knowledge and providing coaching to your staff in order to build courage.


How can you sale something if you don’t know anything about it?

Product knowledge isn’t a one time training session.  It isn’t an annual meeting.  Product knowledge is an ongoing process that every person at your bank needs.  Here are just a few reasons:

  • Consistency: Conducting a training session is one way to make sure you have educated your entire staff and that everyone is on the same page.  Everyone understands what the product or service is and can be ready to handle any questions customers or prospects may have.
  • Regulations: New federal regulations are constantly being pushed out and inspected.  It is always best to check with the compliance department before conducting any product training.  This way you can educate your bankers about any regulations that are tied to the product you are reviewing.
  • Enhancements: While reviewing a certain product in a group training session, you may find that the product may need to be updated or completely overhauled.  This will not only help improve the sales process, but overall customer service.


You’ve given your sales team the knowledge, now it’s up to them to go out and sale.  Sounds easy, right?

Consider this:

  • Have you ever purchased anything from somebody who came across extremely timid?
  • Have you ever enjoyed working with a pushy salesman?

Most likely these two salespeople suffer from a lack of confidence (aka courage).

For some people, sales can be like walking across a tight rope. If you are afraid to close the sale, people will walk away from you. Be too focused on closing the sale, and people run away from you.

That’s why successful sales training happens “outside the classroom” in the form of coaching.  Coaching is a great way to build confidence because it reinforces positive behavior while improving communication between a leader and their team.  Of course, there is a right way and a wrong way of coaching.

  • The Wrong Way: Looking for every fault and only pointing out what is wrong.  In other words, Wrong=Wrong
  • The Right Way: In short, examining the whole situation.  Praising what was done right while focusing on a mutual understand of how it will be handled better in the future.

Remember, while coaching, you are building courage and confidence in someone, not attacking every little problem they have.

If your sales training is centered around these two concepts, everything else will fall into place.  Customers and prospects will know they are dealing with a person who knows what they are talking about and can make it happen.  This creates an environment where the sales person and buyer are on the same team.  It’s a mindset that allows everyone to come out a winner!

Coaching Leadership

As a person who lives in Knoxville, you can’t help to hear about U.T. football coaching…especially these past few weeks.  For the past three years, The University of Tennessee’s football program has been steadily declining and piling on loosing games.  From someone on the outside looking in, it the team appeared to have a lack of leadership from when it came to performance on the field.  This led the University to fire their head coach and search for another coach who can inspire their team and coach them back up to the status U.T. once had in the SEC.

While the University was searching for a new coach, everyone kept jumping on and off different bandwagons.

Jon Gruden

  • Before he denied the rumors of taking the job: Everyone praised Jon Gruden and declared him a “Tennessee Boy” coming home.
  • After he shot down the rumors of being U.T.s next coach: People were very quick to point out the fact he has NEVER been a head coach of any college.

Mike Gundy

  • Before he decided to stay at Oklahoma State: U.T. fans praised Coach Gundy for coaching his team to the Big 12 Title last year.
  • After he decided to stay at Oklahoma State: U.T. fans remembered the following clip.

Charlie Strong

  • Before he decided to stay at Louisville: People where quick to point out how he got his start in the SEC.
  • After he turned down Tennessee: People where quick to point out how he wasn’t a top tier coach.

Before U.T. was desperate enough to reach out to Bobby Petrino, the University approached Butch Jones and he graciously accepted the head coaching position at U.T.  During his press conference on Friday, Coach Jones focused on leadership and team building both on and off the field.

Tennessee fans are worried, but here’s an example of what Jim Mora was able to do this year with UCLA.  For those who aren’t familiar with Coach Mora, just keep in mind Coach Jim Mora didn’t have a great winning record coming into his coaching job at UCLA.

  • Last season, the UCLA Bruins were 6-8
  • This season, under Coach Mora, this team is 9-3 and the Bruins are competing in bowl game later this year.

What’s the difference between this year’s team and last year’s team?  Did he recruit a whole new class of football players?  No, in fact most of the starters this season where on the team last season.

Coach Mora and his staff of coaches actually coached up the team to a winning record.  Mora is even a finalist for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award.

It’s amazing what good coaching can do for a team, even when it comes to business.  While learning about Coach Mora’s success at UCLA, I thought about companies that were at a low point but turned things around by receiving new leadership.  When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1996, he was able to turn Apple into a household name.  As Domino’s CEO, J. Patrick Doyle has led the company to high profits while repositioning the restaurant chain as the top pizza makers in the U.S.

Even on at my place of employment, I have seen a department at our Bank improve this year largely due to new leadership from an individual who is an excellent coach.  This particular leader is able to work well with our CEO and is able to grow her staff by providing open communication and giving them opportunities to learn.  Instead of finding fault, she is able find the potential in her team; which has improved profitability throughout her department.

Do you have a leader in your life that helps you excel by coaching you through the good times and the tough times?  Maybe it was a high school coach, a teacher in you had in school or maybe its your boss at work.

For all the Vol fans out there, I hope Coach Jones is able to lead your team to success this year.  That is unless they play the Mountaineers of West Virginia.

Motivation vs. Manipulation

When it comes to coaching and mentoring, there are times when people unfortunately make the mistake of confusing motivation with manipulation.

Most of the time the difference between the two are simple, but there are a few situations where there may be a grey area.  Wether you are the one coaching or the one being coached, consider the following points:

  • Selfishness vs Selflessness.  This is the best metric to use when determining if the advice you are either giving or receiving is a tool of motivation or manipulation.  Just ask yourself if what you are doing will only help you or if it will help and benefit others around you.
  • Short-term and Long-term.  When coaching, the advice and leadership given should be pointing someone in the direction that will help them in the short-term and long-term.
  • Ethical and Moral Alignment.  Coaching and mentoring in the workplace is a great win-win situation.  When a company can pair a seasoned, experienced worker with an up-and-comer, it can produce great, long-term results.  It’s important to remember that any coaching or mentoring should not only be good for the company, but good for the person.  If a coach/mentor is leading someone to grow up the company ladder by using back-door deals and agreeing to do questionable projects, then not only the future of the company is in jeopardy, but so is the future of the one being mentored.

If you follow these three points, it will be clear to see if the advice you are giving (or receiving) falls under the angel or devil side of your shoulder.

If you are the one receiving coaching from a mentor and you see a pattern of manipulative leadership, run away…FAST.  Most likely the person is not confusing manipulation and positive motivation; they are purposely using manipulation for selfish, personal gain.

In other words, don’t become Evil Homer!

%d bloggers like this: