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President's Weekly Brief: When S#!t Hits The Fan, Character > Talent


Hi Washington Football Family,

Wednesday is the "Day Off" for the guys on the squad this week, where they are focused on recovery, spending a little time with family, and pivoting their attention to the next game. A deep breath if you will. I thought that I would take advantage of that natural break in the week to give you a weekly update on the business side of the Washington Football House. I use a slightly longer format to answer some of the things I expect are on your minds, since 280 characters don't allow you to get details and often bring out the shittiest aspects in all of us 😊. So here we go…

Reflections From 49ers Week

There are several terms that come to mind when I think about Sunday’s win over the San Francisco 49ers that included an absolutely dominant defensive performance: gritty, determined, relentless and resilient. These are adjectives that are less about the technical or even physical aspects of football, but more about values, the bedrock upon which Coach Rivera is building our football team.

There are many who will argue that having character and championing values is overrated. They'll say if you give them the most talented people, they will happily deal with their character-related messes. Neither Coach nor myself ascribe to this philosophy, and I'm glad we are of one mind on this, because character and values are the only thing you can rely on when shit hits the fan.

This was a game where the guys were playing at a neutral site due to COVID-19 protocols, notified of it in a short week of preparation, with an abbreviated travel schedule, and playing on a field that had been used multiple times in the previous week. Alex Smith was on the sideline with an injury in the second half, and there were hardly any fans in the stands. There were a lot of eyes on this game with us winning the past three and the New York Giants getting beat by the Arizona Cardinals just minutes before kickoff ('preciate my old club for that one!). First place in the NFC East was on the line. Shit, meet fan.

In this intense environment, it was high character and strong values that came to the fore in a big way. The guys embraced the tough situation with the scrappiness and grittiness needed to win that game. When things didn't go according to plan, I didn't see excuses and complaints emerge at any point and I saw no sideline arguments or finger pointing. This is because Coach has made it a point to select and promote players, coaches and staff who exemplify strong values above all else. If they don't match his high standard, no matter how talented they are, they are not his people. Period.

On the business side, I would argue that we have been in a bit of a volatile situation ourselves (Ya think!), and in this time, it is vital for us to support, champion, and raise up colleagues who exemplify professionalism, conduct themselves with decorum, express kindness and make values-based decisions. These are the type of people we want to lead our organization going forward. For example, in our performance reviews that we will do at the end of the fiscal year, every individual will be evaluated on how effectively they lead people and how positively they contribute to a healthy organizational culture. We will ask about the way that employees make each other feel, the support they provide for one another, and the honesty and grace with which they communicate. We will do this because finding talented people who don't display strong professional character won't be enough.

Integrous, values-based people are the only type of leaders that can help us achieve the vision we have, which is to be an aspirational, mission-driven franchise that is known for innovative business ventures and a demonstrably positive impact on our business and civic community.

Business Question Of The Week

Why do you think it's important to have an organizational mission and purpose?

I have explained to you all that our organization needs a direction -- a mission and purpose -- to lead us into the bright future we are dedicated to creating. But why is that important? We need a guiding light, a way to articulate the impact we want our organization to have on the individuals and institutions we are connected to. This provides a framework for how an organization can be great as both a revenue-generating enterprise and a positive influence on society.

In its purest sense, a sense of mission can be boiled down to the core motivations for employees: why they come to work and what encourages them to be productive. What people look to in a mission comes down to five sources of meaning, which are outlined in a book called Better Performance, which ironically enough was written from research compiled by my former employer, McKinsey and Company. I swear I've been brainwashed, but oh well, here goes...

1. The impact on society. The employees are motivated by the organization's impact on the world around them.

2. The impact on the customer. The excitement that comes from the customer, or in our case, fans, is important to them and excites them.

3. The company itself. The organization's reputation is important to them, and employees are proud to work there.

4. The team. The people they work with on a day-to-day basis and their success is important to them.

5. Their family and financial needs. They work because they want to provide resources for themselves and their families for a better life.

All of those sources of meaning are valid and important; one is not superior to another. And people need an articulation of the company's mission and vision and values in which they can see their primary motivation. A meaningful mission, and accompanying set of values, that directly tap into those sources of meaning can stoke productivity, creativity and commitment.

We are seeing that within our own organization with Jonathan Allen being our nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award. Jon has shown a steadfast commitment to the community where he was raised. He has been a regular in our charitable events, and through his work with Sasha Bruce Youthwork, he has dedicated his time to helping improve the lives of homeless youth in the DMV area. I'm proud to have Jon in our organization, and we encourage him and others to pursue their passions that positively affect our community. (You can vote now by retweeting the tweet below).

The NFL at large also realized this a while back and launched the "My Cause, My Cleats" campaign to enable our players to express their desire to see impact on society. I'm so glad that our guys are able to highlight those individuals and organizations that are doing great things in society. I hope their involvement both motivates them as players and introduces our organization to new community partners that we can link arms with. These are the types of organizations we want to be associated with, and it's important that we reestablish ourselves as a positive contributor to the community in a way that excites them to partner with us as well.

Encounters Of The Week

There are several business priorities that have people excited, and that includes a new entertainment venue that will become the home of the team. No, a specific site has not been decided. No, we have not designed any structures yet and the old renderings are now moot (sorry to disappoint anyone who was combing through this for breaking news!). We are still in the beginning phases of that journey, but I have had some amazing discussions with the people supporting us -- our star-chitect project management firms and many others -- on how we want this venue to impact the community.

We have no doubt that a new venue can be constructed in a way that is beneficial to our football business so, instead, we are really focused on ensuring that this venue is a driver of major economic growth for the area. The construction and operation of the venue should create jobs and generate capital for businesses of all types, particularly those that are reflective of the DMV's diversity: Black, Brown, Woman and Veteran owned enterprises.

The venue should also satisfy community needs, depending on the location. For example, if it is in an area that has educational needs, how could we use the infrastructure to provide a state of the art learning space for kids to attend school? Our design architect, who will be our creative partner in the early stages, is fully on board with that vision and has done similar projects in the past.

One of the projects that has particularly inspired me was done in a redeveloping community in Denmark. It was a really beautiful melting pot of immigrant cultures from across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. This community was brought together by a park where the structures were representations of those various backgrounds. There was a fountain in the shape of the Jewish Star of David and a slide built like the crescent of Moroccan flag. An old, burned out warehouse was also turned into a school for newly arrived immigrants to receive an education in their native tongues as they acclimated to their new home.

I'm so excited to work with all our partners to create something so uniquely fit for a specific community that generates lasting social impact, all while being a place we gather to watch the team whoop ass between the hashes.

What's Next

The guys finally get to play at home again, and I'm excited to see them rise to the occasion for a fifth consecutive week. There will be a quality opponent, playoff hopes/position at stake for both teams, the heat of the national spotlight intensifying on Coach's young team. It'll be character that carries the day once again. I can't wait to watch and be inspired by the continuing evolution of this team into one that will be a perennial championship contender for years to come.

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