This past week I was fortunate enough to be able to lead a group meeting inside the Oakland Raiders facility. I’ve been inside this building a number of times in the past and one of the first things I noticed and really appreciated was the attention to detail inside the location. From the carpets to the walls to the doors and to the frames that accompany every picture, there is a steady stream of white, silver and black and you can’t help but feel the connection to the Raiders franchise. It’s impossible not to recognize how much of a lasting impact Al Davis had on this organization.
On this particular day I had an opportunity to share the stage with Head Coach Dennis Allen. Dennis is heading into his third season and this is the first time since he’s been charged with leading the group that he has an actual team with some talent and some salary cap flexibility. To say he’s optimistic and excited about the club’s future and upcoming opportunities would be an understatement. During this meeting though I wasn’t interested in learning whether or not Matt Schaub would rebound from last season’s disaster in Houston or if Justin Tuck would re-discover his dominant pass rushing skills. What I was curious to find out was how building an organization in the football business compared to building a foundation in the radio business.
One of the great things about working inside of the sports radio format is that you can often come up with plenty of parallels between professional sports and what you do fairly regularly and when Coach Allen began talking many of the things he discussed struck a chord with me.
First Dennis was asked about creating a vision and getting people to buy in and what changes and what stays the same throughout all three years. His answer was right on the money. He said that while people’s abilities and attitudes may change and rosters will be adjusted the one thing that can never change are your beliefs in what you stand for. When Dennis talks about the Oakland Raiders he defines the player’s he wants on his team by four characteristics. To wear Silver & Black one must be Smart, Tough, Disciplined and Passionate. There is no compromising when it comes to these qualities if you want to play for Coach Allen and the Oakland Raiders.
Now Dennis will be the first to tell you that just because you check all four of those boxes doesn’t mean you’re going to stay on the field playing for the Oakland Raiders. You still have to have talent and fit inside of a financial structure and be open to coaching and getting better but just to get a look you must possess those traits.
The second thing that jumped out to me when Coach Allen spoke was his understanding of what his responsibilities are and how it impacts his future. In a business full of insecurity Dennis was very secure with himself because he knows that only one thing matters at the end of the day – winning. Dennis summed it up by saying “I’m in the winning business. We win and we all benefit from it. We lose and change is inevitable”. When he said that I couldn’t help but think about how it relates to the radio business. While I’d prefer to play a football game and know for sure that I couldn’t beat the other team, the Nielsen ratings game is the one we all play and fair or unfair we’re at the mercy of what the audience consumes most. It’s fun to work in sports radio and we are lucky to be able explore something we have a strong degree of passion for but we still are involved in business and it’s one that is measured by ratings performance. Like it or not, if you’re in radio today you too are in the winning business!
The final thing I’ll touch on was Coach Allen’s response when I asked him what he looks for out of an interviewer and what he’s hoping to accomplish during an interview. While Dennis wants to be treated with respect just like anyone else, his true interest in the conversation isn’t to please the fans listening or the host he’s talking to. The real purpose for his discussion is to send a message to his team. Coaching in the NFL is a tough job and everyone is always looking for an edge or a way to connect with players and when you have 53 men on a roster with very different backgrounds and personalities it’s tough to get through and spend enough time with everyone. However when the Coach speaks about his team every single guy in that locker room takes notice and whether Coach is pissed off, happy, disappointed, hurt or distant with his responses, the reality is that it’s well orchestrated in his head and every thing he utters has a purpose behind it.
That’s important for the interviewer to recognize too because sometimes we have expectations for what we want out of a guest and we do everything in our power to direct the discussion a certain way and generate responses that will satisfy our audience and ourselves but when someone is going to send you down a different path you have to understand that there may be additional reasons for it. Obviously we can’t compromise our questions and turn the floor over to the guest and let them steer us wherever they want us to go but at least when you head into a conversation and know the true meaning behind it, it allows you to create a game plan to help you be more effective.
To wrap this up I’ll highlight what I saw as the key takeaways. Some will apply to you and your business and some may not but in most cases you can see how radio and football intersect. While we both may enjoy that we get compensated for our labor of love, it still is a business and each is measured by one important word – winning!
- Stand For Something – Your Core Beliefs & Values Should Be With You Forever
- You’re In The Winning Business – It’s a Results Oriented Business; Win or Else
- Know How To Reach Your Team – Have a Message and A Purpose For Each Situation