Super Bowl CIOs: 7 Lessons From Winning NFL Coaches - InformationWeek

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2/1/2015
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Super Bowl CIOs: 7 Lessons From Winning NFL Coaches

The two Super Bowl XLIX coaches are controversial but interesting leaders with many lessons to teach CIOs.
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(Image: ZIPNON via Pixabay)

(Image: ZIPNON via Pixabay)

In case you aren't a sports fan, it might help to know that this Sunday two of the most interesting coaching characters in the history of football, Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll, will be battling for the championship in Super Bowl XLIX.

You may not care who wins, but you should want to get to know these coaches. They are two of the best leaders the game has ever produced and they are heretics in their own field. They provide some very interesting leadership lessons for CIOs willing to pay attention.

But before we get into these lessons, just who are these people and why should we listen? If they were movie characters Belichick would probably best be described as Darth Vader. Carroll is Danny Ocean, the George Clooney version.

Belichick leads a team, the New England Patriots, that many refer to as the Evil Empire. He has been caught in a cheating scandal referred to as Spygate, where he illegally taped practices of other teams, including possibly the Super Bowl. For some reason, perhaps because of a Jedi mind trick, the league destroyed the evidence so we'll never know what he did. He's now embroiled in another scandal called defaltegate (or ballghazi) where it is possible his team broke into a room to deflate footballs in order to gain an advantage playing in cold weather.

But there is no doubting his power. He is fifth all-time among coaches in regular season wins, first all-time in playoff wins, and has taken his team to six Super Bowls, winning three, with one still pending. He is dark and mysterious, and he seldom says much of anything.

Carroll, on the other hand, is friendly and gregarious. He clearly leads his team one relationship at a time. He creates a loyalty that makes players want to rob banks for him -- almost literally. During his tenure as a college coach at USC, his team was forced to vacate wins, including a national championship because one his star players took money from an agent. No one knows how much Carroll knew about it, but the perception is that he left the school for the NFL because he didn’t want to face the sanctions, including lost scholarships, the team was receiving.

Since coming to the NFL, he's already won a Super Bowl and has a chance to win a second. He’s only the third coach in history to win a National Championship at the college level and a Super Bowl. Despite all of the controversy and potential scandal (or because of it), he is immensely popular with his players. He's like Ocean when he is called a thief and a liar and he says, "I only lied about being a thief."

Here are two men, entirely different in personal styles, but with similar controversies following them and similar success. With that in mind, see what lessons you can learn from these controversial but high successful leaders.

David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio

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SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
2/4/2015 | 7:59:39 AM
Re: Acceptable heretics
I didn't have a horse in the race so it didn't matter what the outcome of the game was, I just wanted to see a good game and both teams delivered on that.  Even if you don't like Pete Carrol or his play selection at the end of the game if you're a football fan you can look at the situation and appreciate how he got there and that win or lose his team is a solid group of performers.  While watching the game I was actually surprised that Belichick didn't allow the TD on the first running play to give Brady enough time to get into field goal range and send the game to OT.  There were a lot of things to consider and I wouldn't be surprised if Carrol wasn't trying to out fox the fox.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
2/3/2015 | 7:10:43 PM
Re: Acceptable heretics

They are not afraid to fail due to their own decisions, they don't play it safe to preserve their jobs, they love what they do and they own it win or lose. 

 

@SaneIT    Well said and for all my criticisms of Pete, what you mention is really what it all boils down to if you ask me. 

So while I playfully chide him - I do certainly respect the essence of his actions.

 

I am not worried about Pete - he can take it.

Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
2/3/2015 | 5:51:08 PM
Re: Pete Carroll: The Karma King

@Dave    Yeah You're right.  So focused on Pete I forgot about Bill.   Well, at least it was a good game.  : ) 

David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
2/3/2015 | 5:15:30 PM
Re: Pete Carroll: The Karma King
@technocrati- Yes, actually i don't like either of them for being unethical. And I would have enjoyed Carroll's pain if it didn't mean giving joy to Belichick.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
2/3/2015 | 1:20:10 PM
Pete Carroll: The Karma King

Sorry David that  Pete Carroll picked a fine time to show his true colors.  I have always been lukewarm about Pete.  He is the ultimate opportunist, and once something goes awry ( USC) he is on to the next port.

There is something to be said about enduring the consequences of what you are involved in - so I see this Super Bowl fiasco as poetic justice for Carrol  who will live in Super Bowl infamy.

 

He is well deserving.

SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
2/3/2015 | 8:13:18 AM
Acceptable heretics
Yes the two coaches have their own ways for running a team and the two methods differ greatly but they share a very common trait.  They are not afraid to fail due to their own decisions, they don't play it safe to preserve their jobs, they love what they do and they own it win or lose. The part about Pete Carroll changing the way his team tackles is a bit of news to me but what is funny is that is exactly how I was taught to tackle 20+ years ago.  Sometimes you have to look at the old ways of doing things to verify the new way but you can't get so stuck in tradition that it holds you back.  He took something that has worked for a very long time at other levels and in other sports and repackaged it into a system that would work in the NFL.  This is smart leadership in its truest form.
zerox203
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zerox203,
User Rank: Ninja
2/2/2015 | 2:15:08 PM
Re: Super Bowl CIOs: 7 Lessons From Winning NFL Coaches
Maybe some of these are lessons that we've heard before, but having such a high-profile example of them, from people who are so succesful with them in a multibillion dollar industry, goes a long way towards really driving them home. Identifying important factors for success as in slide 6, for example, is certainly a universal concept - but combining it with the context and the other lessons, we can glean a little bit more. Carroll went outside the box to come up with his core competency, trusted his own judgement (after all, it had taken him all the way to the NFL already), and saw it through to it's conclusion (which turned out to be wild success). You can see this again in his 'deputy' selection. Whether you're at an NFL-sized business or a tiny one, you can let this way of thinking inform decisions big and small throughout your day to reap the benefits.

I suppose I've spoiled this a bit by reading it the morning after the game, but we all know by now that Belichick came out on top. Yet he did so by such a small margin and there are so many outside factors in a game of football, one wonders how much we can attribute that to his coaching style - or if there's a different kind of lesson there altogether. Most of the media will no doubt dub the Seahawks the 'losers' from last night's game, even though they're second in the best league in the world by a tiny amount. In business terms, being second in your industry can be great or not-so-great, depending on the context. The important thing is to bear in mind the long-term health of your organization. Considering both these coaches came from humble beginnings and are renowned for building up their organizations into powerhouses over the long term gives insight into focusing on the big picture.
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Ninja
2/1/2015 | 1:55:22 PM
Leadership
I think it is always interesting to follow winning NFL coaches' leadership styles.

These men must lead very competitive athletes into games, and the result is either win or lose. This is not an easy job, and I think these coaches have leadership qualities that everyone should be following. 
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