The Seahawks’ season was tough. During the first half, things did not go well for a variety of reasons. The team pulled it together and the second half of the season was very strong. During the NFC Conference Championship the rubber met the road. Although they won, it wasn’t pretty and serious injuries occurred. In the Super Bowl, despite nearly winning, they suffered a painful loss in the final minutes of the game. Although they lost, they are the first team in years with back-to-back Super Bowl appearances and overall they had an amazing season. They are also leading an utterly devoted legion of fans, the 12s, or “Seahawk Nation,” who did not turn on them because of their loss. Instead they have strongly embraced them. Clearly something special is going on here, particularly with the leadership of the Seahawks. Here are just some of the key lessons I see that you, and really all business leaders, could benefit from:
- Great Leaders Own Mistakes: The final Seahawks’ play call of the Super Bowl has been debated ad nauseam. The bottom line is, it didn’t work out. What did Coach Pete Carroll do? He OWNED it. This is what great leaders do. Regardless of what exactly happened, Pete Carroll stepped up and took responsibility. No blaming his team or his staff. No shaming or defensiveness. A simple and clearly stated, “it was me.”
- Play for Each Other: This was something that sparked among the players during the midseason after the Kansas City game. The team leaders came up with this and developed a culture of playing for each other. Of course they wanted to win. Of course they are competitive, but the driving force was to show up for each other. When a player had a bad night, e.g. the kicker, Steven Hauschka against the Arizona Cardinals, the other players had his back. There was no trash talking and no turning on him. Players on the sidelines gave him support and raised him up during a critical game where he played the worst of his career.
- Stay Humble and Be Consistent: This is a Pete Carroll and team mantra. Pete and the Seahawks organization take humility and consistency very seriously. If a player’s ego becomes problematic, they don’t get to stay on the team, (witness the Percy Harvin trade early in the season).
- Let People Be Who They Are: While Pete doesn’t tolerate divas, he certainly loves characters. One of the most important dimensions of the team is that they let their players be who they are, idiosyncrasies and all, as long as they show up, play hard, and play for the team, not just for themselves or their own glory.
- One Mission: There was a clear vision and mission to become repeat Super Bowl Champions. Just because they didn’t achieve it doesn’t mean that there wasn’t an incredible amount of alignment and focus that created a lot of unity and success.
- Compassion: According to Jeffri Chadiha in ESPN.com, Carroll fully believes that compassion is a vital factor in winning football games. His mantra is “Always Compete” and he applies that mindset to everybody who works in the building. In the end, Carroll comes off as a man who ultimately wants to see the best come out of everyone, mainly because of how much joy he takes in seeing somebody else attain that level of success.” It is this approach, this compassion for the individual, and the genuine connection and affection he shows for his players, that have caused many not to take Carroll seriously as an NFL coach, yet he is creating amazing, undeniable results.
- Include, Respect and Recognize Your Customer: In this case, that means the fans. The Seahawks are unique in truly embracing, connecting with, and understanding their fans. This is why they have perhaps the most ardent and respectful fan base in the NFL.
If you could apply these lessons to your team and organization, what might happen? What could improve? What might change that could create unexpected and perhaps extraordinary results?