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

jerry_jones_sideline

“…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?

Micromanagement.

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?

Drafting the Right Person

NFL_DraftThe 2014 NFL draft is now in the rear view mirror.  Did your team(s) select the right players?  As a Titan’s fan, I’m always left guessing but overall, I’m happy to see they picked a strong running back, and time will tell if Zach Mettenberger is a good pick.

When hiring for your organization, do you treat it like the NFL draft?

Though not as glamorous as the draft, there are some pointers from the draft that you can apply to your job searching process.

Do your research

Scouting_FootballNFL teams spend countless hours and a small fortune on scouting.  They research players, view their performances and decide if the player would be the right fit for their team.

Should you treat your job search any different?

When interviewing for a position, a candidate will submit a resume and fill out an application.  Since they have done their part, you need to do your part and conduct research.

  • Call former employers:  If you call the HR department, most likely you will receive a boilerplate statement, “Candidate worked from point a to point b.”  But if the candidate has the supervisors name listed, why not call them too?  If they left on good terms, then the direct supervisor may give a more accurate picture.
  • Call references: People often chuckle when I mention this one due to the fact that references are hand picked from the candidate.  I don’t disagree with their logic, but I challenge them to be creative when reviewing the references by seeking the answers to the following questions.
      1. How long have they known the person?
      2. How they know the person?
      3. Can they give an example of the person’s work?
      4. Can they explain the person’s character?

If you get those answers from different personal references, you can get a better understanding of who the person is.

  • View LinkedIn: Hiring based upon social media sites has recently been scrutinized; however checking a LinkedIn site can help you get a a better idea of who someone is.  Also be sure to review written recommendations; though I would be cautious of endorsements due to how easy it is to endorse someone on LinkedIn.

Draft Someone Who Fits In

Quarterbacks_DraftDuring the first night of the draft, Jon Gruden kept questioning why teams had not drafted Johnny Manziel.  Gruden’s question was finally answered by the Cleveland Browns when they picked Manziel in the 22nd spot.

But why didn’t the other teams pick Manziel first?

The Jacksonville Jaguars had the opportunity, but chose quarterback Blake Bortles instead.  But why Bortles over Johnny Football?

It is simple, Manziel wasn’t what they were looking for in their draft pick.  The Jags needed a quarterback who they could develop into their system and could prevail when faced with certain adversity issues.  Take a look at some of the performance examples of Blake Bortles.

  • No injuries: While at UCF, Blake was sacked over 50 times!  Despite this issue, he was never injured.  This may seem like a laughable point, but considering that Jacksonville has offensive line issues, this statistic bows well for Blake.
  • Performance under pressure: In addition to the 50+ sacks, Blake was able to complete over 50% of his passes while under pressure from the defense.  This puts him in the top five amongst Automatic Qualifying (AQ) conferences.
  • Comeback Kid: Continuing with the under pressure theme, Blake had six second-half come from behind wins last season.  This ties the record with the most in college football for the 2013 season.

Add these examples to the fact Blake played college football within a two hour drive to Jacksonville and you can see why the Jags chose Blake Bortles.

Similar to hiring, you have to find the person who fits your company’s culture; not just a person who can fill an open position.  Many times companies will hire a rising star in their industry and then be dissatisfied with their results.  Don’t be fooled by a rising star and instead look for someone who has the natural fit for your company culture.

Does your company handle hiring like this?  When hiring, what strategies have you used that proved to be successful?

Scab Referees: Training verses Perception

After a preseason of worrying and a handful of bad calls in the first three weeks of the regular season, the referee strike appears to be in the rear view mirror.  ESPN reports the refs will be back on the field starting tonight!

It was odd that during the beginning of the NFL season people talking more about replacement referees then they were their favorite player or team.

The scab refs created enough attention to cause the public to wonder if this season will earn the notorious asterisk (*) in the record books.  Even Republican and Democratic politicians agreed that enough was enough.  Well people can stop worrying about the asterisk and politicians can go back to bickering with one another.

Businesses can learn a few lessons from this P.R. debacle; with the first lesson being solve any employee strikes ASAP.  Other lessons revolve around training and perception.

  • Training: The bad calls these replacement referees were making can be traced back to education and training.  When you hear a ref call a false start on the defense instead of calling the penalty an encroachment, it boils down to training.  Businesses can avoid simple, yet embarrassing miscues like this by incorporating a strong 90-day on-boarding process for new hires.  In this type of situation, a more intense on-boarding process may have alleviated any unneeded stress on the replacement refs and the NFL.
  • Perception: Was this all an issue of public opinion?  After all, people have been complaining about referees since the creation of professional sports.  If the NFL would have gotten ahead of this story by humanizing these replacement refs and highlighting their experience/background, there may have been less emphasis on the “silly” calls (i.e. 11 yard penalty).  Building a strong Public Relations campaign focused on the new refs could have helped the NFL in the short-term and eased the tension fans already had about the scab refs.  With a P.R. Budget already in place, all the NFL would have had to do was shift some of the funds for another P.R. campaign to a “Ref P.R.” campaign and not overspent their budget.

Regardless if it was an issue of training or perception, one thing is for sure, the old refs are back!  Fans can now go back to rooting on their favorite teams knowing that the questionable penalties being called are now from the same old regular referees and not some unknown replacement referee.

Oh yeah…Go Titans!

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