Monday, February 9, 2009

Agency Lessions from the Arizona Cardinals

Growing up in NY I was a NY sports fan – NY baseball Giants (before they absconded to SF), then the Mets, also the Knicks and Jets. Now that I have lived in Scottsdale, AZ for the last 5-1/2 years, I’ve become attached to the Suns, Diamondbacks and, of course, the Arizona Cardinals.
After five years of watching frustrating futility, the Cardinals (who hadn’t won a championship in 60 years) reached and almost won the 2009 Super Bowl. So, what can we learn from this stunning turnaround?

1. It started with leadership. Ken Whisenhunt, the second year coach, and his group of coaches created a new culture in the Cardinals organization. It was a culture built on discipline and commitment. For Whiz, nothing but the best would do. He also knew he could not do it alone. So he recruited a group of outstanding coaches – leaders in their own right – to form his leadership team.

2. Their leader had a vision. The coach had a vision of the success he truly desired to achieve. It wasn’t so much the Super Bowl, as it was a vision of a truly outstanding football team with pride, teamwork and a focus on winning.

3. Their leader truly believed. When he took the job, Whisenhunt was able to persuade the team that no matter what had happened in the past, he believed in the team’s ability to become successful. His belief was unwavering.

4. Their leader lived in the present. While the media (national and local) delighted in pointing to all the Cardinals problems in the first year of Whisenhunt’s reign, the coach firmly refused to be drawn into the debate. He firmly focused on the next day, the next practice, the next game.

5. Their leader was positive when times were bad. This season, when they started well, then were routed by several teams (“the same old Cardinals!”), the coach maintained his belief that things would work out, the team was good, and the foundation he built was sound. The team would return to its winning ways. The rest, as they say is history.

Any lessons here, agency leaders?

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