Episode #284: Michael Lombardi – A Masterclass In Building Teams And Winning Championships

Since the mid-1980s, Michael Lombardi has been an executive in the front offices of the 49ers, Browns, Eagles and Raiders. From 2014-16 he was an assistant to the coaching staff of the Patriots. He’s also worked for numerous media outlets, including Sports Illustrated and The Ringer.  He’s a three time Super Bowl winner and has gained 30 years worth of knowledge working with three of the greatest minds in football — Bill Walsh, Bill Belichick, and Al Davis.
“Look, Mike’s one of the smartest people I know,” said Bill Belichick. “He’s one of the smartest people I’ve worked with. He was huge asset to me for the two years he was here.”

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“To be excellent, you need to make a deliberate decision to train. A complete dedication to the craft.”

Show Notes:

  • Commonalities of sustaining excellence:
    • A set foundation
    • A standard of excellence in everything they do.  Not rooted in sports, but in everything
    • Understand how to build a culture
  • Why mission statements were useless to Mike and his colleagues
  • The focus on getting 1% better every day… If you do so, the score takes care of itself
  • Demonstrate how to lead… The leader must model that behavior
  • “Managers do things right, leaders do the right thing.”
  • Operating framework
    • Have a plan
    • Explain to self
    • Build trust
    • Command of self
  • “Culture is a plant. You must nurture it everyday.”
  • Personal accountability is the ultimate sign of strength.  “All men make mistakes, but a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong.” – Sophocles
  • Bill Walsh – The value of being his personal driver and learning from him directly during all of those car rides.  That’s where Mike learned about leadership… And about Tom Peters
  • Coach Walsh was always reading something that made him think and passed that along to Mike…
  • “If you don’t like change, you’ll like irrelevancy less.”
  • Hiring process:
    • Want people who are coach-able and able to learn the Bill Walsh system
    • “Training is hard. Most managers don’t do it.”
  • A “5 tool leader”
    • Strategy
    • Tactics
    • Preparation
    • Execution
    • Situational instincts to know which among the first 4 is required and when
  • The myth of coaches working long hours and sleeping in the office
  • Sustainable values vs situational values — command of the process
  • When Al Davis interviewed people, he would do a deep dive on their background prior to the interview and use their high school mascot as his personal nickname for the candidate. This was Al’s subtle way of letting the candidate know that he “knew everything about them so they better be honest.”
  • Creative vs divergent — Take an existing idea and make it better
  • The 7 QB qualifiers and how this relates to a leader in business:
    • A winning way
    • A thick skin
    • Work ethic
    • Football smarts
    • Innate ability
    • Carriage
    • Leadership
  • You must be able to process things at a high rate
  • Learning from mistakes — The Doug Pederson mistake Mike made…
    • “How often is it the structure, the landscape, vs the player?
  • Jackson Browne – “Never forget the ones you mess up.”
  • Life advice — Jack Nicholson – “Read everything. It’s the elixir of life. Understand something from all sides and all points of view. Read it all from the opposition side to get complete understanding on the topic.”
  • The most effective leaders have a willingness to receive feedback and implement it.
  • Why joining The Learning Leader Circle is a good idea
  • Use the “Get To Know You Document

“The elixir of life is to have an understanding of a topic from all viewpoints. Read what your opposition says to learn.”

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