Football and Your Company’s Depth Chart

WVU+Dingle+BerryWhat lessons can companies and department managers learn from college football this season?

If your company is suffering from a talent shortage, then you may find the following post rings true in your organization.

Backstory: College Football

College football season is wrapping up and fans are either excited about their team’s successes or questioning what went wrong this year.

As a WV Mountaineers fan living in Knoxville, Tennessee, it has been a season of ups and downs for the two teams I hear the most about: WVU and UT.  Both teams had very close games, but couldn’t close the deal.

Why?  My humble opinion: each team’s depth charts.

Not enough experienced people

If a college football team has to burn a redshirt and start a true freshman, then their chances of success are slim to none.

WVU: In the Mountaineers’ case, they don’t have enough depth in their defense.  An article written in The Charleston Daily Mail last month sheds some light on this subject.  In the article, writer Mike Casazza, points out:

WVU played nose guard Darrien Howard even though he was on track to redshirt. The defensive line was without the starting defensive end and a backup nose guard against Texas Tech.

UT: The University of Tennessee has done a great job recruiting young, strong athletes.  That said, they are still lacking depth and it has hindered their overall performance.  The Tennessean was able to point that out in an October 31st  article.  In this article,  Coach Butch Jones addresses the depth issue head on by stating:

We need much, much more depth.  A lot of that will be addressed in recruiting.

Both coaches are obviously aware of their depth issue, and both of them have stated in several interviews that they are committed to fix this issue with short-term and long-term tactics.

How does this relate to business?

Regardless if you have a huge corporate organization or a small business, do you have the right people to fill in when needed?  Since I’m in the banking industry, I’ll use banking as an example for the business industry.  When I speak to most HR directors and managers in banking, two issues typically pop up in the conversation.

  1. Succession Planning
  2. Reduction in Branch Staffing

These two issues are independent from each other but do have a connection when a bank is reviewing their business depth chart.

Succession Planning: Who’s going to be in charge next?

The GodfatherMore and more Bank HR conferences and webinars focus on bank succession planning.  In fact, this issue continues to be a sticking point with bank regulators.  Regulators not only want to make sure a bank has long-term vision, but they also want to see how a bank is acting upon the long-term vision.

A 2013 article from American Banker, states a few facts about the lack of succession planning:

The absence of a thorough succession could derail a bank’s strategy, opening it up to a takeover. Since 2008, the average bank CEO age is roughly 58, while CEOs of banks that have been sold have averaged about 61, according to a study from Morgan Stanley. For the 35 bank deals announced during the first nine months of last year (2012), the average seller’s CEO was approaching 65.

Now if you work for a bank and your CEO is approaching, or has already reached, 65, don’t start panicking yet.  Just because you don’t know if there is a succession plan doesn’t mean there isn’t one.  There could be a succession plan written and approved by senior management and the Board of Directors.

But as previously stated, is the bank acting upon the plan?

Ask yourself, is there appropriate training in place?  Are the future leaders of your bank learning about possible future roles?

  • If your CFO is in place to be the CEO, are they learning about how to lead people?
  • If the CCO is next in line, does that person understand what needs to be done to raise low-cost/non-interest deposits?

If you answer no, again, don’t panic.  There is still time to fast track training and different ways to approach it.

Reduction in Branch Staffing: Do you have the people, but not the talent?

Old Bank Teller LineBanks across the country are running into the following issue.

For decades banks have staffed their branches with tellers.  Now with a decline of in-branch transactions, some banks are loaded up with a staff that doesn’t have anything to do.  Will they have to lay off teller (a current trend) or have they started training these tellers for other positions within the bank?

There are two factors to consider when training tellers (or anybody): skill set and passion.  For example, if you plan on transitioning a teller to mortgage lender, think about…

  • Skill Set: Does the teller have some of the natural qualities needed for this type of position.  Do they enjoy working with people?  Do they understand that mortgage lending requires a level of knowledge regarding regulations?
  • Passion: Most of the skill sets needed can be done through time via training, but passion is an internal mechanism that a person must have.  Without it, all the training and skill sets in the world will amount to nothing.  Make sure they have passion and find ways to keep that passion alive.

In order to successfully make this transition, branch managers, human resources and senior management all have to be on the same page.  All three must work together to identify what areas need more depth and then find the person who can fill in the depth gap.  This opportunity itself is another blog post for another day.

Wrapping Up

Whether it is football or business, being the best means always improving and looking for opportunities.  In order to do that, you have to make sure your team is loaded with not only play makers, but with rising stars.  Make sure to prepare your rising stars so that they can move into the play makers position as seamlessly as possible.



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?

Tactics vs. Strategy

Chess and PeopleI recently finished my last year of the American Bankers Association’s School of Bank Marketing and Management and had the honor of graduating with a great group of bankers from all walks of life.  There are several topics and schools of thought that are still running through my mind, but one concept has been lingering in the forefront: Tactics vs. Strategy.

When I talk about marketing with someone, usually tactics often get confused for strategy.  The biggest example I hear is:

What email strategies are you using?

Using email to get your message out and sell a certain product or services is a great tool, but it should not be considered a strategy.

Two other tactics that often get confused with strategy are social media and online advertising.  These three tactics are the latest communication tools business are using to market their companies to existing customers and prospects, but it is a shame that they are being confused with strategy.

Tactics Before Strategy

Years ago, I worked with someone who believed our bank needed to be on Facebook.  I didn’t fully disagree with him, but when I asked him why, his answer was,

Everyone is on it.

Now I don’t know what kind of childhood you had, but when I heard this, I wanted to answer with what my mother use to say:

If everyone decided to jump off a bridge, would you?

But instead of being snarky, I started a conversation with him by asking, what would we post on Facebook.  After the conversation, he realized our bank wasn’t positioned to be on Facebook and he never asked the question again.  Don’t get me wrong, his heart was in the right place, but he wanted to start a tactic without even thinking about an objective or strategy.

What is Strategy?

In its simplest form, a strategy is a plan to bring about a result.  For example, if your bank needs to raise deposits and decides the best way to do this is by increasing the number of checking accounts, you create a strategy to bring in more checking account customers.  That is the beginning level of the strategy.  You then start breaking down the steps of the strategy

  • Dollar Amount Goal
  • What type of Checking Accounts
  • Target Market
  • Budget
  • Tactics to Attract Target Market

The list can go on and on, but eventually leads to what type of tactics you will use to obtain your goal.

What’s More Important: Strategy or Tactic?

Tactics need strategy and strategy needs tactics.  Tactics are the actions you take to put your strategy to life and reach your goal.

Ever work with someone who says they are an “ideas man”?  Drives me crazy when I hear that.  Ideas are great, but without action, they’re nothing.  Sun Tzu put it best when he said:

Sun QuoteThink of it this way, as much effort that you put in thinking out your strategy, you need to put that much effort into your tactics.  Phoning in a tactic will not produce the same results in the amount of time as a fully thought out tactic.

Have you ever had to explain the difference between strategy and tactics to someone?  What examples did you use when communicating the differences?



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.

Company Culture: Use the Force

What’s your company’s culture?

The word culture is a hot term in business and for good reason.  Creating a company culture allows everyone to be on the same page and establishes a strong sense of community within your organization.

But a culture of a company isn’t a bunch of words placed in a strategic plan and laid to the side to review once every 12 – 18 months.  Think of it like “The Force” in Star Wars.

Obi_WanIn the words of Obi Wan:

The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us…it binds the galaxy together.”

Lay the Groundwork: Learn About the Force

In Star Wars, The Jedi answered to the Jedi Council.  The Council laid out the purpose of the Jedi and reinforced the values of using the Force for good, not evil.  As mentioned before, everyone has to be on the same page.  Similar to the Jedi Council, this starts with the top of your organization and must work its way throughout the company.  Three keys to laying a strong foundation are:

  • Vision Statement:  This must be a quick statement that visualizes what your company is and, more importantly, what your company wants to achieve long-term.
  • Values: Establish a set of values that complement and lead to your vision statement.
  • Standards: Create a list of standards that people follow and abide to on a day to day basis.

As your organization lays out this foundation, get input from you entire staff.  This establishes a strong foundation by allowing everyone to be a part of the culture.

Communication is Key: Remember Your Training

When Yoda was training Luke Skywalker, Yoda would always communicate why something was important.  He would push Luke’s limits while constantly dropping knowledge about The Force.

I once worked for a bank chairman who said it took 27 different ways to say something before someone understood it.  He would communicate the same message over and over until everyone in the company not only knew what he was talking about, but would also communicate the same message.

By no means was this chairman a Jedi master, but he did prove a valuable point: When it comes to creating and building a culture, the more communication, the better.


  • Company Group Meetings
  • Department Meetings/Huddles
  • Sales Training
  • One-on-One Coaching Sessions


  • Strategic Plan
  • Emails
  • Intranet Articles/Internal Company Blogs
  • Job Descriptions

It takes a combination of verbal and written options in order to effectively communicate your message.  Be creative and consistent with how you communicate the importance of your company’s culture.

Expect Friction: Beware of The Dark Side

Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they.  – Yoda

darth-vaderWhatever your culture, it must be positive and encourage your staff to grow professionally.  This is not an easy job and a times people within the company will question and even fight the company culture.

As frustrating as it may be, you have to find out why people are against your company’s culture.  There are certain factors that can lead to anger, fear and aggression.  Here are a three comments you may hear and experience.

  • Change isn’t easy (Fear): The majority of people don’t like change.  That’s why it’s important to have constant communication and keep communication open by listening and responding.
  • Don’t like the direction the company is heading (Anger): If someone states this, then make sure they understand why the company’s focus on culture is necessary.  If they understand great.  If they still don’t like it, then you may want to suggest they work for another company that aligns with what they want.
  • I don’t care and I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing (Aggression): This is a combination of point 1 and 2 but can come across more aggressive.  Start by communicating, as mentioned in point 1 and if that doesn’t work, follow up with a more serious conversation, as mentioned in point 2.

Let’s face it, your company already has a corporate culture. The real question is: are you leading your company’s culture or is your company’s culture untamed and hurting your company?

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.

Are You a Dictator?

Do you have a dictator in your life?  Unfortunately, many of us have someone in our life who is a dictator and, typically, people tend to experience a dictator at work.

Sadly, managers can mistake a dictatorship mentality as a way of leadership.  If a manager does choose the path of a dictator, they may see results in their production numbers, and produce short-term success, but is it worth it?

  • Dictators are demanding:  Though this is also true of great leaders, dictators continuously demand and do not take the time to give true praise and coaching to their team members.  Over time, this causes great people to leave a workplace and will only demoralize those who choose to stay in the toxic environment.
  • Dictators are deaf: Because dictators are selfish instead of selfless, they are deaf to anything they are against.  They choose not to listen to coaching and do not listen to their staff when they come with true concerns.  It is only under extreme circumstances, like a divorce or being fired from a job, that dictators MIGHT listen to someone.
  • Dictators bully people:  It can be as simple as yelling at people and as mean as telling offensive jokes about the people around them, but dictators are definitely bullies.  Dictators see yelling as communicating and find their jokes extremely funny.  The truth is dictators bully others because they are insecure and suffer from low self-confidence.

Sometimes we are forced to work with a dictator.  You may have someone at work that is not your manager, but you are assigned to work with them on a project.  You cannot effectively complete the project by being a dictator back to a dictator.  Just remember the two old clichés: two wrongs don’t make a right and you cannot fight fire with fire.  The best you can do is stay positive and keep the lines of communication open.  This is easier said than done, but it does pay off in the long run.

Fortunately, I can say that I do not report to a dictator in my current position.  Both the CEO and President may not always agree with me, but they do listen to my ideas and push me to be a better person.  The same goes with my life at home.  My wife is by no means a dictator and she is very supportive.  I am truly blessed and hope those that read this are as well.

Have you experienced a dictator in your life?  How have you handled it?

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