Packer Way: Nine Stepping Stones to Building a Winning Organization

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This instructive and inspiring book, written by the man who built the Green Bay Packers into champions, tells businesspeople how to get to the top by implementing the nine core principles that he used as executive vice president and general manager of the team.
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1998 Hard cover 1st Ed New in new dust jacket. From non-smoking enviornment Glued binding. Paper over boards. With dust jacket. 260 p. Audience: General/trade. See our other ... Packer books on sale too. Read more Show Less

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Overview

This instructive and inspiring book, written by the man who built the Green Bay Packers into champions, tells businesspeople how to get to the top by implementing the nine core principles that he used as executive vice president and general manager of the team.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In only eight years, under the leadership of vice president/general manager Wolf, the National Football League's Green Bay Packers made five straight playoff appearances, won three Central Division titles, and captured the ultimate prize, the Super Bowl, which they had last won in 1967. Not a bad record. This book, written by Wolf and the Sporting News's Attner, outlines strategies for building a winning organization. Wolf describes nine core principles essential for any successful business: problem-solving, hiring the best, attitude, identifying strengths, measuring performance, implementation/maintenance, dealing with the unexpected, and staying on top. This interesting publication is a good resource for any business collection and most sports collections. Recommended.--Larry Little, Penticton P.L., BC
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312193126
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/1998
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 260
  • Product dimensions: 6.43 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

STEPPING STONE NO. 1

Identify What Needs to Be Fixed

Funny how life works. People tell me all the time how much they love the Packers. They tell me what a great job I have. They tell me how their children and wives and husbands and friends schedule their lives around Packer games. They tell me how they collect Packer souvenirs and memorabilia until entire closets are full. They talk as if this love affair with the franchise has always existed. They act as if the years between 1968 and 1991, when it wasn't very much fun being a Packer fan, never took place.

    They may not remember that nightmarish era. But I do. In those years, Packer-related items were not No. 1 in merchandise sales within the NFL, as they are now. In those years, the Packers were not perennial Super Bowl contenders, as they are now. In those years, the Packers didn't regularly fill Lambeau Field, as they do now. In those years, you could travel anywhere in the United States and never see anyone wearing a Packer item. Today, virtually everywhere I go, I run into someone sporting a Packer hat or jersey. In 1991, you couldn't even find Packer stuff in Green Bay. I know. I tried.

    I may have a great job now — and I do, the best in football — but in 1991, when I was hired by the Packers, I remember my football friends telling me I was headed for the Pro Football Graveyard. And that truly was what Green Bay had become. It was a dead end, both for players and administrators. I know what my friends were thinking — that I would be buried with the Packers, that I would become just another piece of frozen tundra. I might as well have taken a job in the Arctic.

    The negatives of failure were littered everywhere in Green Bay. No Packer from the 1991 team I inherited made the Pro Bowl. That club limped to 4-12 record, the nineteenth time in 24 years the Packers had finished below .500 since Vince Lombardi's last league title in 1967. The Packers wound up eight games behind the Lions, seven behind the Bears, and four behind the Vikings — and that was just in the National Football Conference (NFC) Central division race. The gap between the league's elite squads and us was enormous. Under coach Lindy Infante, we had lost 17 of our last 21 games.

    In 1991, the Packers ranked nineteenth in actual per-game attendance, and they had 25,000 no-shows their last two contests. I soon realized the situation had reached such a crisis point that both the city and the organization were convinced their team probably couldn't be much better. And they had accepted it.

    When I walked through the doors of the administrative offices in late November of 1991 as the new executive vice president and general manager, the Green Bay Packers were in as much trouble and turmoil as any franchise in the league. We were like a company with a quarter-century of lagging stock prices. Or a small business that had seen sales fall steadily, with no relief in sight. Or a person with constant debt problems who had watched his credit-card bill grow steadily larger, without a clue of how to stop the increases.

    I try not to live in the past. Indeed, I pride myself on my ability to deal quickly with both the good and the bad and move on, rarely looking back. But I'll never let myself forget what it was like in Green Bay during that winter of 1991-92. It makes me appreciate what has happened to us since. But it also serves as a sobering reminder of what can result when business matters, whether personal or corporate, are not managed properly and intelligently.

    We got the Packers started toward the top the same way you can and should begin fixing your business and financial challenges. By doing nothing.

    Nothing, that is, but watching and studying and talking and analyzing. In my first days with Green Bay, I took no dramatic steps, made no telling decisions, delivered no memorable announcements. I was determined to help turn the Packers into champions, but I wasn't about to undertake this challenge without a carefully conceived plan.

    That's why I had no "game plan" when I walked through those doors. I could have made a splash by telling the media I was determined to turn things around within four or five years, but I wasn't interested in creating headlines. If I formed preconceived notions about what had to be done, it would be unfair to both Packer employees and myself. "Something" obviously needed to be resolved — this much failure over so many years is symptomatic of major organizational difficulties that can't be fixed with Band-Aids — but I thought it would be counterproductive for me to already have a blueprint in mind before I thoroughly understood the current situation.

    I'm not an advocate of the Big Splash Theory. As you will see, I sometimes will do things that are designed to have a dramatic effect on the organization. But when you want to make things right for your business, and keep them right, the best and most logical step to take is ... backward. Back away, whether you've inherited the problem or already are in the midst of turmoil. Spend your time searching for understanding.

    The Packers wouldn't be where they are today if this pause to reflect, analyze, and understand had not been implemented. We're in a society anxious for quick solutions and immediate answers. But an effective manager has to fight those urges. No doubt, you'll feel a lot of pressure to speed up the process, whether it comes from the chairman of the board, a division president, angry speakers in a stockholders meeting, or a credit-card company threatening legal action. And it's only natural to want to quickly demonstrate your managerial skills where others have failed.

    Still, the philosophy behind the first Stepping Stone to Building a Winning Organization can't be ignored.

    Before offering solutions, you must identify what needs to be fixed. Or you'll risk never locking in the right structure that will enhance your enterprise over the long haul. As you'll see, I put together my action plan only after a methodical analysis of the entire Packer football operation. Once I felt comfortable with my study and had a well-grounded feel for the people and the atmosphere, I formulated my next steps.

    I may be in the business of football, but I can identify with many of the problems encountered in the private and public business sector. After all, as much as it saddens me, NFL teams no longer are low-key operations existing for the love of the game. We are multimillion-dollar enterprises with the same fiscal entanglements and employee problems that every business encounters daily. Because of the nature of our game, I may have more means available than you to speed up the process of obtaining success. But the fundamentals I applied to remolding the Packers are solid principles that can be used just as effectively even if you aren't overseeing an NFL franchise.

    Of course, what may be a sufficient period of time to study the Packers — I spent a month before making my first major move, the firing of Lindy Infante — may be far too much, or too little, to meet your needs. You'll have to determine what suits your situation best. But it's crucial that when you're ready to finish Stepping Stone No. 1, you don't feel you've rushed through the process. You never want to look back and say, "I was hasty, I could have used more time." Resist the temptation — and it is only human nature — to become an instant hero by arriving quickly at glittery solutions. I'd rather make this a marathon than a sprint.

    Let me use those first months with the Packers as an example of what I mean.

    I was fortunate. I benefited from the wisdom of Bob Harlan, the president of the Packers and my boss. Bob decided midway through the 1991 season that he no longer was comfortable with the way the club ran its football operations. At that time, Infante and Tom Braatz, the executive vice president of football operations, split the decision making. Neither had authority over the other. It was not a situation conducive to success. I understand, for example, that before the 1989 draft, they disagreed on the Packers' first-round pick. One wanted Barry Sanders, the other Tony Mandarich. The hierarchy above Braatz and Infante voted for Mandarich, a move that ultimately affected the future of both executives.

    Bob Harlan thought there was a better way to do things. So he dismissed Braatz in November of 1991. He figured if he could hire a replacement immediately, the new guy would have time to study the operation before the season ended. It was a brilliant concept.

    I was the Jets' director of player personnel when Bob called General Manager Dick Steinberg to request permission to talk to me. The Packers had interviewed me in 1987 to take over their football operations. That's when I met Bob, who was then an executive vice president. I took myself out of consideration because I didn't think the position gave me a chance to succeed. I wouldn't have had the power, authority, and freedom to truly run things.

    But this time, things were different. The job he outlined met my every expectation. I would be in charge, and there would be no interference from him or the Packers' Board of Directors, which represented the stockholders in the unique ownership of this franchise. I would have the authority to hire and fire everyone in the football operations, from the head coach to the trainer to the scouts. We would be first-class all the way, and if I agreed to come on board, I would have a good chunk of time to analyze the 1991 Packers before the regular schedule played out.

    I didn't waste much time saying yes. Bob had presented me an excellent opportunity, not only with the job description but also by hiring me when he did. I didn't have to rush to make decisions. I couldn't salvage the dismal 1991 season — it was too late for that — so I could funnel my energy into figuring out what needed to be fixed. And that's what I did.

    I discovered much of what I needed to know by asking questions. Sounds simple, but I don't think managers and business owners use this methodology enough. Too often, we believe we already know the answers, so why ask the questions? This is the "full-of-myself" attitude that leads to failure or, at the least, the incomplete fulfillment of a task. It's an attitude that comes from success. As we're promoted or as we gain power, we start thinking we're pretty darn smart; otherwise, why would my boss or my new employer like me so much? Once your ego takes over, your mind shuts down.

    Or, just as telling, we don't ask questions because we don't want to hear the answers, whether it's because others might disagree with our thinking or because they may be critical of something we've done. I see this approach far too often from businesspeople. Instead of listening, they're doing the talking, making sure you know how important they are. They set themselves above everyone else, proclaim their greatness, and ride a desk while others do their work for them.

    I'm not being modest when I say the following: I understand I'm not the smartest guy in the world. I have shortcomings and I'm certainly not an expert on many subjects. But I want to learn everything I can possibly absorb.

    If you don't ask, you can't learn. It's that simple. So I'm always probing for information. I'm not much for small talk, never have been. I love to joke around with my friends, but most of the time, I'd rather spend five minutes in a meaningful conversation, where I can discover something, than waste 15 minutes schmoozing.

    I also don't mind being told I'm wrong. By asking questions, you won't always hear good news, but at least you give yourself an opportunity to have your mind opened to new information, new approaches, new avenues. And that can only make you a better businessperson.

    I read all my mail. Somebody may have an idea that I haven't considered, and it makes no sense to cut off a chance to be exposed to it. Fans often see things far differently than we do. The same could be said for stockholders who speak up at stockholders' meetings or people who write letters to corporate offices, usually to complain about a service. As a boss, you should want to know what others are thinking. It prevents you from becoming too removed from the real world.

    This practice can be applied to something as simple as the family budget. If you keep track of the budget and never ask your spouse what he or she thinks of the allocations because you're afraid of his or her input, you're inefficient. Ask questions and make it clear you want an honest answer, not something designed to impress you. I realize that can be a difficult hurdle, because so many of us are afraid of offending people, especially the boss. But if you can establish this kind of open, honest rapport within your organization, you've increased your chances of succeeding.

    I conducted my study of the Packers on two levels. I had to evaluate the player and coaching talent. But I also had to examine and analyze the support staff and scouting operation. I was particularly interested in determining the leadership that existed under me; the work ethic of the players and staff, and everyone's spirit and attitude. Making roster changes without also cultivating the proper atmosphere with our staff would cut into our ability to improve.

    By the time I finished, I wanted to understand the training room, the equipment room, the video room, the scouting department, the coaching staff, and the players. I wanted to know how they functioned and why they did what they did. I just couldn't concentrate on the key members of my operation. To improve, you must make sure the entire organization, starting from the lowest-level position, is fulfilling its mission.

    It takes work and determination to obtain a complete picture, but it's worth the time. I don't care if you have two employees or twenty divisions; it's inexcusable if you don't understand how they all function. That doesn't mean you have to be an expert — we'll deal with that problem in a moment — but if you aren't familiar with all aspects of your business, how can you ever presume to have the knowledge to recognize what needs to be corrected?

    It was crucial to me to see how everyone performed under pressure. Being called into my office for talks supplied some of that pressure — after all, I was new and everyone had to be concerned about their job security — but I took it further. I purposely turned things up a notch by being demanding — by demanding answers by a certain time, by demanding something be done a certain way. Again, I asked questions, probing to see what people knew and how they functioned. I gave them a chance to have their say. But this wasn't about fear; I don't believe in running an organization using fear tactics. Instead, it's simply a matter of production — can you produce, especially under pressure? I don't care if it's sharpening a pencil or ordering a paper clip. Can you do it correctly, every time, no matter the circumstances?

    I call it "stirring the pot." It was an effective technique at this stage of my evaluation process, and as you'll see later, it remains an effective technique as you strive to maintain the quality of your product.

    People tell me I have an intimidating personality. I'm not sure I agree, but I know I can be forceful. I use this strength to help me discover how a person will react when I deliberately challenge him. I'll walk around the office and stir things up a bit. I'll move from person to person and ask a question or two. I want to see what people really know without the luxury of being prepared, and I want to see how my approach affects them.

    Will I hear what they think I should hear? Or will they be honest with their answer? In the process I'm determining who I can intimidate and who I can't. Because if I can intimidate you, I probably don't want you working with me. By stirring the pot, you give yourself an incredible opportunity to understand the people who help make your business work.

    This also is one of the best ways to convince people their opinion counts. If you give them a chance to take part in the decision-making process and either they don't participate or aren't forceful enough with their views, you can later use that as an example to them and everyone else about how the company suffered from their lack of assertiveness. It happens all the time in scouting. We look at a prospect and I ask for opinions about his ability. Someone will really like him but won't sell him well enough to convince the rest of us he's worth drafting. And then later, that player will turn out to be very good. My question then becomes, why didn't you take a stronger stand when you had a chance? The company could have benefited from your knowledge, but you chose a safer route to avoid having your opinion tested in the draft.

    Apply that to your situation when someone wants to develop a new product, a new client, a different method of production, a new advertising campaign or even a different sign on the door to your camera store. Encourage them to take a stand and make a statement by challenging their knowledge. Just as important, if they're convincing, adopt their recommendation. Show your faith in them; let them prove their worth. If they don't think you're listening, they'll stop airing their opinions — and that possibly could impede the growth of your enterprise.

    You also shouldn't give more weight to views based on whether they come from old or new employees — people you inherited or people you hired. I didn't join the Packers assuming I could improve the situation only if I dismissed most of the current employees and replaced them with "my" people. I committed that mistake in Tampa Bay. We were creating a team from scratch in Tampa, so I didn't inherit employees. But I knew, and felt comfortable with, many people I hired for key roles. Most of them disappointed me terribly. They didn't function as I thought they would, and I realized that I had placed my comfort level — I wanted to be surrounded by familiar faces who wouldn't have to be trained — above what was best for the company.

    I came to Green Bay determined not to create a comfort zone for myself. I believe these zones enhance laziness, not innovation and energy. You become far too reliant on others instead of taking the initiative yourself and doing what you've been hired to do, which is lead. It's human nature, I guess, to want to be around people you know and like. But it's not always best for business.

    It's far better to follow Dick Steinberg's advice. When I worked for the Jets, he told me that he saw no reason to eliminate inherited employees unless they showed they couldn't perform adequately. He also told me not to allow personality conflicts to become the reason for a dismissal. With the Packers, I wanted to make personnel decisions based on production alone, not whether the person had a wonderful smile or told funny stories.

    Yet you always have those inherited employees who believe they aren't "yours" because you didn't hire them. One Packer employee kept coming into my office and complaining that, because he wasn't "my guy," he wasn't faring as well as he had hoped. I patiently explained to him I didn't care if he came from Mars; if he showed he could do his job, that alone would make him "my guy." It got to a point where I told Bob Harlan if I heard his complaint one more time, I would be forced to replace him. The visits stopped, so I guess Bob passed along the message.

    Obviously, if you show preference to the people you hire, it won't matter how much you tell current employees they're not held in a lesser light. It's only human nature to like some employees more than others, but an effective manager can't demonstrate job-related favoritism.

    As Dick Steinberg told me, if I didn't judge everyone on a fair and equal basis, I could foolishly drive an inherited employee from the organization without cause. I wanted to give every Packer employee, old or new, a proper hearing and a reasonable chance to remain with us. You establish what you expect from each employee, and then see how they produce. Those who don't contribute to the improvement of our product won't last, whether they have 15 years of service or 15 weeks.

    If you're a new boss, you'll encounter resistance from present employees who will protest, "That's how we've always done it." That's only natural and doesn't bother me, as long as there's good reason for their hesitation. Sometimes, I could misread a situation in a new environment, and I should be told how I might have arrived at a wrong conclusion. I'm willing to listen to anyone's thoughts. But after hearing what you have to say, I'll make a decision, and then I want you to abide by that choice, even if you disagree.

    At the same time, a boss must never say, "I don't care how it's been, we're going to do it my way now." I go back to what I said earlier. You must keep an open mind in your analysis. In other words, you can't rule out how things have been accomplished previously in the company. As you'll see later, I have some strongly held operating principles that always govern how I manage. But I leave room for modification and expansion of how I want things done. My challenge is to examine the previous methodology, weeding out the bad and keeping the good.

    As much as possible, I want to avoid situations where people excel somewhere else after not receiving enough time with us to demonstrate their abilities. If you begin your staff analysis with an attitude that you might be surrounded by excellent employees who can make your organization better, you'll execute much more intelligent, less hasty personnel decisions. Maybe some current employees aren't in positions best suited to their talents, or maybe they have too many superficial duties that don't allow them to function properly. It's your job to determine their strengths and how they can best serve the business.

    That's what managing is all about — putting the right people in the right positions, where they can use their strengths and not be hindered by their weaknesses. I'm not asking anyone to be an Einstein. I just ask them, once they are in the correct spot, to strive to perform at their best. That's the least any business can and must require.

    If you have a good detail person who doesn't have an engaging personality, why would you want that person in a job that deals constantly with the public? Or if you have a mechanic who's very strong in one aspect of auto repair, why would you ask him to handle repairs in another area where he is not as proficient? If I'm more adept with numbers and my wife is better with concepts, why would I think she should balance the checkbook? Yet companies repeatedly reward overachievers with promotions to leadership positions even though they possess no leadership qualities. He's our best salesman? Make him sales manager, ignoring the fact he dislikes working with other employees. It's misguided thinking that leads to bad business.

    Likewise, I can't emphasize the following enough. In the process of making changes — and even after your operating principles are established — never, ever stand up in front of your employees and say, "This is my operation and this is how we're going to do it. Period." If you do, you'll shut down the lines of communication. You'll send a message that what they think and say really doesn't matter because you'll do it your way no matter what. Your business will only be as strong as its ability to tap into the strength of its employees — and if you eliminate communications, you can never fully utilize their abilities.

    Besides resistance, change also creates a sense of resentment. As the implementer of that change, I can't possibly be viewed in a loving light. I understand how terrible it can be to feel uncertain about the future, and a good manager tries to take this emotional roller coaster into consideration. To make it easier for everyone, be as decisive as possible with your decision-making. Figure out what you're going to do, and let everyone know as expeditiously as possible. Otherwise, you risk paralyzing progress.

    I also would never use study committees or consultants to help me in my analysis. Employing either would have been a major mistake for the Packers, and it would also be a major mistake for your operation.

    Study committees area frivolous waste of time. They're a method used by managers who are afraid to make tough decisions. They convey a weak message: I don't want to shoulder the blame that will result when I sell off that division of our company or reduce the staff or close a store, so I'll lay it on the recommendation of my study committee. By relying on study committees, you're unnecessarily extending the decision-making period and you're cutting into your own credibility by letting others do your job for you. Besides, committees frequently present compromise proposals instead of what's exactly right for the company. Don't use them.

    Same with consultants. All they ultimately do is substantiate what they're trying to sell you, which can be anything from a future service to a point of view. How do I know what they're recommending will work for me? It's somebody's opinion, based on what? This isn't their business. They really don't understand a doggone thing about it. Why should someone ask my employees questions and study my operations when I should be doing all that myself?

    Let's say I wanted to strengthen the way we go about drafting. The last thing I would do is hire one of these so-called draft experts as a consultant. They write about these players and appear on television and talk about them, but how have they formed their opinion? Have they been there with NFL scouts during the year, using a stopwatch, measuring the players, studying tapes of eight or nine games on each athlete? Or did they more likely look at a few highlight tapes and become an expert? I don't want any part of that.

    We ought to be able to improve our situation without the need to lean on a crutch, which is what study committees and consultants become. If we have a problem in an area of my expertise, I have confidence that I can solve it. If the problem involves something I'm not familiar with, I would educate myself quickly. My phone becomes my consultant. I ask someone I trust, someone who doesn't have an agenda. These are professional contacts I've established over the years. In my case, I know trainers and personnel guys and video guys and equipment guys who I can call for advice. If I don't, I know someone who can recommend a source for me. I would talk to people that I really respect and who've been in the business for a long time, and let them guide me.

    Take the man who runs my equipment room, Red Batty. I needed someone for that position and Mike Holovak, who has been in pro football since the 1940s as a coach, scout, and front-office executive, told me Red was the best I could find. He also said Red wanted to work for me. I didn't need any more candidates. If anyone knows this business and what makes it work, it is Mike Holovak. And Mike was right. Red is a gem.

    Funny, when I first came here, I didn't like what I saw in the equipment room. Things were messy, and that was unacceptable. Our players spend hours around that area, and it should be neat, well organized, and pleasant-looking. I let it be known I was unhappy. Now, the equipment room is as spotless as any place in our complex — because I hired a guy who keeps it that way.

    In my evaluation of the Packers, I met frequently with Lindy Infante. I came away impressed with his sincerity and dedication. But his on-field results weren't as eye-catching. Other than one winning season in 1989, his four years with the Packers had produced mediocrity. The 1991 team was even worse than the poor 1990 squad. In talking to him and watching him work, it reminded me of what I learned when I headed operations for the Tampa Bay Bucs from 1975 to 1978. Because he put in so many long hours and gave so much of himself to his job, he thought that meant he was succeeding — that he was owed something because of his conscientiousness.

    But long hours and caring about your job don't always result in success. It's far better to make sure you use your time wisely. Mike Holmgren purposely doesn't require from himself or his staff the 20-hour workdays that seem so prevalent these days around the NFL. This coaching staff has produced admirable results, yet they work sane hours. That's because Mike and his coaches utilize their time correctly. They manage their schedule well, they have a consistent routine, and they have a good grasp of knowing when they're thoroughly prepared. Then they go home. Infante worked longer hours, but accomplished a lot less on the field. He thought his devotion would produce victories; it didn't.

    I turned up the pressure on him a bit. When I was hired, we had four games left on the 1991 schedule. I brought in some free agents for tryouts. They were good enough to help the team, but Lindy resisted. Despite the losing, he was comfortable with his current roster. I knew immediately we would have trouble working together, since he didn't embrace my style of aggressive management.

    I'm not saying my way has to be right, but it's a style I believe in. And it's the style I would use to improve the Packers. So my key leaders had to buy into it or we could never straighten things out. To be a top-notch manager, you must have a style that's both effective and consistent, not one that changes on whim. And you'd better surround yourself with employees who can understand and flourish under your management philosophies. Lindy and I were not a good fit and I knew I had to replace him.

    That was one of the first major conclusions I had reached about the Packer organization. A few weeks into my study, I also realized we didn't function in an atmosphere conducive to realize our potential. In fact, we were bogged down by an atmosphere that almost guaranteed a continuation of failure.

    To say I was astounded by what I saw is an understatement. My entire previous work experience had taught me that winning was the only thing that mattered, yet the Packers were finishing off a horrible 4-12 season and the prevailing atmosphere was, inconceivably, as pleasant as could be. No one really seemed concerned, no one reflected a sense of urgency. Having spent most of my career with the Raiders, I had learned that anything less than winning was failure. But not with the Packers. Losing had become acceptable.

    I wanted to see angry people. I wanted to see people upset with the situation. I wanted to see people appalled that the Packers weren't more competitive.

    Instead, I saw people who were content to be working for an NFL team, and a city content that it had a franchise, even if it wasn't among the league's elite.

    This was an organization encased in the Malaise of Excuses. Nothing should anger a manager more than having a business where excuses, not performance, become dominant. You've heard the alibis. We can't grow because others have more advantages than we have. We can't produce the best widgets because other companies have more money or more employees. We can't be the best because we're located in the wrong part of the country. We can never overcome our No. 1 competitor because they have more power and influence than we have. We can't make proper investments because we can't afford a financial adviser. We can't start our own business because no one will loan us the money.

    Talk about these reasons enough and they become a company's mantra. They guarantee failure because they convince an entire organization that, no matter how hard we try, we're going to flop anyway.

    It's the business version of a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's a malaise that infects every element of the operation, affects every employee, and casts a spell over the present and the future of the enterprise.

    To accommodate the Malaise of Excuses, companies become comfortable with where they've evolved instead of being angry with their failures. Otherwise, they couldn't function amid all the alibis. I'm not saying you have to be No. 1 to consider yourself a success, but the moment a business and a boss stop trying to improve and stop striving to reach the top, the organization is destined to wallow short of its potential.

    The Packers certainly didn't lack for excuses. Even before I arrived, I had heard some big ones. The rotten climate was to blame. The out-of-the-way location was to blame. I soon uncovered others. The inability to compete financially with the big-city franchises. The lack of media exposure. The uninviting racial makeup of Green Bay and its suburbs, which was predominantly white. The handicap of being a second-tier franchise in a small town that was unattractive to the league's stars. So it doesn't matter how hard we work and how much we care, the result usually will be the same. Maybe an occasional winning season, but to come close to duplicating what Lombardi pulled off in the 1960s, well, it isn't worth dreaming such foolishness.

    The result was a lack of urgency. The fact they were the Packers was enough for both the community and the organization. This was a team headed for a 4-12 record, but it didn't seem to matter. Mediocrity had become acceptable. In 1987, when I was preparing to talk to the organization about running its football operation, I evaluated the players. The best one was tackle Ken Ruettgers. When I was flying into Green Bay in 1991, I took a yellow pad and drew columns. I had one for all-pro, another for star, another for starter, another for backup, another for can't-do-it, and so forth. I wanted to find out how much I knew about the current team. I put too many players in both the can't-do-it and need-information columns. They had too many athletes whom I hadn't considered seriously as draft possibilities for either the Raiders or the Jets. My evaluation of the current roster produced another startling result. The best players were Sterling Sharpe and Ruettgers. In four years, they had added only one more star.

    Yet the coaching staff thought it had a good team that was just a few bad breaks from excelling. There was no fear of failure haunting anyone. Instead, when you visited the practice field, you felt you had entered a country club. Mistakes were tolerated. No one demanded a high level of performance. Wherever I looked, the mediocrity had become as routine as eating macaroni and cheese once a week for dinner. Everyone was polite and nice. The staff did their jobs — and then they went home every night promptly at five-thirty.

    Oh, we lost? Well, too bad. We'll try to do better next week.

    I found that to be revolting. This wasn't about macaroni and cheese and happiness, this was about success. The Packers didn't really have any long-range goals requiring excellence. I remember a game early into my tenure in Green Bay. We were ahead something like 35-0 when our tight end, Jackie Harris, dropped a touchdown pass. I really got upset. The people sitting around me didn't know how to react to my anger. They obviously thought I was crazy to become agitated with a 35-point lead. But I'd been involved in games before where teams have rallied from similar deficits, so I'm convinced no advantage can ever be large enough. You can't let down your standards and accept mistakes, no matter the circumstances.

    The people within the organization were terrific individuals. They were genuinely good people and they cared about the team and the community. You liked being around them. But so much of what I'm talking about is how you perceive your job and profession. What they wanted from the Packers and what I wanted — and was determined to have — were different.

    In the first game after I took over, the Packers were leading Atlanta by 14 points. But we made two huge mistakes in the fourth quarter and handed the game to the Falcons. That loss followed a pattern similar to most of the other defeats that season. I arrived early in my office the next day, anxious to see the reaction. I didn't observe any great sadness, either from employees or in the newspapers. The stories reflected a common theme: the team would be okay if it weren't for those darn errors. No one wanted to deal with the harsh reality that unless losing became repulsive to everyone, the winning would never start. Someone had to stand up and say, "Mistakes no longer will be tolerated. No exceptions. And if you keep making them, you're gone."

    Look around your situation. Examine your operation for complacency, for a sense of satisfaction, for a lack of determination. The mind-set should be one of ambition, of striving to be better, of desiring to excel. The elements of failure can be everywhere — employees flaunting rules, reporting late for work, leaving early, spending too much time complaining and gossiping. I'm not advocating an emotionless, unfriendly atmosphere. Just the opposite. I cultivate a relaxed operation with a minimum of rules. But we don't tolerate country-club situations. We don't find errors acceptable. There has to be a purpose in what you do, and that purpose has to be understood and embraced by everyone in the organization.

    I wasn't in a mood to fail when I came to Green Bay. And you should never accept failure either, not in any form. I won't let people or the culture or the atmosphere or history or lack of expectations bring me down. This is the essential attitude you must establish first before you can improve anything, whether it involves your company, your financial life, or your job status.

    It also wouldn't matter if I was overseeing the Packers or managing a corner store. If you want to develop the edge you need to ultimately produce excellence, you have to introduce specific operating principles.

    You need to strive for a smooth operating situation in which decision making seems natural and seamless instead of halting and inconsistent. If your philosophies of management are communicated correctly, no one should ever be surprised by your actions or the way the company evolves.

    You need to develop a feeling of harmony in which everyone believes they've helped produce success.

    You need to develop a business without deadwood — whether that means eliminating unnecessary employees, unnecessary layers of management, or unnecessary divisions and products. One of the worst mistakes a company can make is to undertake too much, and do none of it well, rather than focusing on a few areas and make those the best they possibly can be.

    You need to put the company first over anything else. If priorities are different in your situation, you'll never be as good as you want. This means instilling an obsession within your business that dominates the landscape. In the process, you must eliminate the "I have a job and I'm happy" mentality that eats away at productivity.

    By the final game of the 1991 season, I was convinced I had a good handle on the team itself. I had spent hundreds of hours sitting before a big screen in a room next to my office, watching tape of each player. The franchise had a great videotape collection, one of the best I'd ever seen, and I was able to review virtually every play and every practice over a six-month period, starting with training camp. It was an enormous undertaking, but I felt I owed it to the players and the franchise.

    I broke down the team just as you would any company — section by section, department by department. I was pleasantly surprised by some of what I discovered, but I also soon realized the huge task that lay ahead. We were more competitive than out record indicated, but we were far from being very good. We had a core of talented players who could carry us and make us presentable while we went about improving the overall quality.

    Instead of wreaking wholesale havoc on the roster, I concluded we could make selective changes. My intention was clear. Keep the players I respected the most, give them as much help as possible during the ensuing off-season and, at the same time, begin adding younger players who eventually could step in as their replacements and dramatically raise the quality of the product. It was a two-tiered approach — a Stepping Stone approach — that would allow us to be competitive soon while also setting the stage to get much, much stronger in the future.

    I still had to decide how we should handle free agency. A modified free-agency system called Plan B was still in effect, but it was evident we soon would be dealing with a new world of free agency in the NFL, where a decent number of quality players would become available on the market — players good enough to improve out situation immediately. I wasn't sure if the Packers would become high rollers once free agency was instituted, but it seemed likely. It certainly would give us an opportunity to upgrade our ability level more quickly than if we had to rely strictly on trades and the draft.

    Of course, businesses outside of professional sports always have functioned in a free-agency environment, and it probably seems funny to many executives that free agency eventually would create an enormous fuss and furor within our world. If nothing else, the introduction of unfettered free agency gave me a clearer understanding of what businesses encounter daily in their efforts to improve their personnel.

    Now that my month-long study was completed, I could begin putting together an action plan that I would follow to improve specific positions on the roster. I had to prioritize the needs of our team, so I could avoid a helter-skelter approach where you blindly attack a bunch of weaknesses without ever deciding which is the most important. This shotgun method might help stem the lack of progress over the short term. But without a well-conceived, prioritized plan, you aren't ensuring the long-term stability and growth of the enterprise.

    Our most glaring problem concerned quarterback, where we were woefully inadequate. Don Majkowski, the established starter, had never fully recovered from a shoulder injury, which took away the zing in his arm. Nor could he take the pounding anymore. I thought we had backup quarterbacks, not big-time starters who could win a title.

    Tight end was in better shape with Ed West and Jackie Harris. A definite plus. Other than Ruettgers, the offensive line didn't have any big names. But guards Rich Moran and Ron Hallstrom and center James Campen were decent veterans who could buy us time as we rebuilt. Tony Mandarich, the right tackle, was the second player picked in the 1989 draft. Because of how high he was selected, I hoped he could become a good player.

    We needed a big-time running back. This was a major area of concern. Receiver Sterling Sharpe was a Pro Bowl-caliber player, but he was all we had at that position. Chris Jacke was a quality kicker, a real strength.

    The Packers had been running an offense that revolved more around the pass than the rush, and I didn't think we could be successful either in our climate or in our division employing that approach. We had to get tougher and more physical, and we had to run the ball better. In three of Infante's four years with Green Bay, the Packers averaged less than 100 yards a game rushing. Only two other times in the franchise's history had the team been below 100 yards. In the last 33 games under Infante, no individual back had rushed for 100 yards. I thought guard Billy Ard got it exactly right when he said after one game, "There is zero atmosphere of domination there."

    I also kept returning to the attitude problem that over-shadowed the whole team. Players thought they were doing well. Yet many didn't exhibit the work habits they needed to make them successful, or for that matter, they really didn't make the sacrifices necessary to improve their skills.

    There's a huge difference between playing well enough to stay in the league and playing well enough to win. Just showing up is not enough, not at this level. I didn't see the dedication or the commitment I wanted. For both traits to emerge, we had to develop more effective team leadership, both on the coach and player level.

    In your situation, eliminate those employees who are trying to survive instead of trying to improve. You don't want an office full of people doing only what it takes to preserve a paycheck. They work against everything you hope to accomplish. You must educate your stall so members understand the proper work ethic and ambition you expect.

    Much like our offense, the defensive unit presented a mixed picture. The linebacking corps was impressive. Johnny Holland, Tony Bennett, Brian Noble, and Bryce Paup were quality players who gave us a foundation on which we could build. But, except for cornerback LeRoy Butler, the secondary was a disaster. I was impressed with the toughness of the two safeties, Chuck Cecil and Mark Murphy. They were both heroes in Green Bay, but they didn't have the speed to play at a high level.

    That was a team-wide problem. The Packers lacked speed almost everywhere and without it, we had no chance of challenging for a title. I knew I eventually had to deal with the situation at safety. If we had to replace Cecil and Murphy, it would create a lot of local controversy. But a good manager must make difficult decisions and absorb the resulting criticisms. So often, we don't want to offend anyone or risk unfavorable publicity. However, as long as you always put the company's welfare first, you'll be motivated to do what's right, regardless of the reaction.

    The defensive line had a bunch of hardworking, highly competitive guys. But they were overachievers, not exceptional athletes. We had to obtain bigger, more dominant linemen. The roster also lacked depth, and we needed more reserves who had the potential to become starters and stars.

    Every rebuilding situation is faced with a list of problems as lengthy as the one I was contemplating. You can react one of two ways. You can stare at all the needs and wonder how you'll ever get them fixed. Or, more intelligently, you can accept the fact everything won't be solved overnight. Then you can methodically prioritize your solutions, knowing all the while that patience becomes paramount in these circumstances.

    I came away from my study convinced that, at best, we were a .500 team. I needed to upgrade our quarterback and our secondary; those were the two glaring concerns. I refused to set a goal for the Packers in 1992. It didn't serve a purpose to announce, "We'll be .500," either privately or publicly. I truly never gave our short-term future a thought. I just believed strongly that if we followed our Stepping Stone approach, we would keep improving everywhere until we moved to the level we sought. We would bring in Player B and see if he was better than A. If so, B would stay. Then we'd bring in C and see if he could shove aside B, and so forth. We also would mix in draft choices. Player acquisition was my strength, and I knew I had to uphold my end before the Packers could realize all of our dreams.

    Still, before anything substantial could be accomplished, I first had to resolve the Infante situation. It's never pleasant to fire anyone — if it doesn't trouble you, you've lost touch with your emotions — but I knew that Lindy wasn't the man I wanted to help reshape this franchise. On the way home after we won our final game of the 1991 season, beating the Vikings in Minneapolis, 27-7, I decided to let him go.

    The next day, I went to Lindy's office. It wasn't a lengthy discussion. There's no reason to prolong such occasions. I told him I appreciated his dedication and loyalty to the organization, but I wanted to move in another direction. I'm sure he didn't agree with my assessment, but he was gracious and, as always, a gentleman.

    I later addressed the team. If looks could kill, I would have been a dead man. The players knew things would never be the same. The free ride was over, the country-club atmosphere was gone, and now, performance would determine their future. The standards of the organization had changed. If that bothered them, good. Things needed to be shaken up. Mediocrity no longer could be acceptable. They no longer could feel secure within the Malaise of Excuses. It had to be different in Green Bay, and this was the day the new approach would begin.

    I gave a brief speech, ended by saying "Go Packers," and left.

    The analysis period was over. It was time to move to the second Stepping Stone: Hire the Best — Before Anyone Else Does. We needed new team leadership, and we needed it badly. During the months following the 1991 season, that would become my quest.

    But first, here are the prominent points you should remember from Stepping Stone No. 1 — Identify What Needs To Be Fixed:

    * Carve out an extensive block of time to analyze all aspects of your enterprise before taking any steps to improve the situation. Never rush so much that later, you regret decisions made in haste or without complete knowledge of your problems.

    * Don't depend on consultants or study committees to make decisions for you. Instead, rely on your own analysis and the input of trusted friends who have expertise in the areas within your organization that need fixing.

    * Avoid preconceived notions about the organization or its employees. Don't automatically assume that employees of a business that's struggled are incapable and should be terminated. Establish a consistent standard that allows everyone — inherited employees and new hires — to be judged the same way.

    * Avoid establishing comfort zones in which you depend too heavily on people you bring into the organization instead of making sure you force initiative and progress.

    * Constantly ask questions and don't be afraid of the answers. The only way to obtain the information you need to allow you to make proper decisions is to keep an open mind and maintain a relentless curiosity. Never adopt the attitude that because you have reached a certain professional status, you now have all the answers.

    * If something needs to be fixed and you aren't an expert in that particular area, call someone who is and tap their knowledge for advice before proceeding. It's not a sign of weakness to seek help in areas outside your expertise.

    * Test performances by applying deliberate pressure. Use the "stir-the-pot" technique to determine whether people will give you honest opinions or replies deliberately crafted so they won't offend you.

    * Expect resistance and resentment to any changes, and deal with both attitudes by making decisive decisions concerning organizational direction as soon as possible, then move on.

    * Eliminate the Malaise of Excuses that undermines any underachieving situation, no matter the size. Make it clear you no longer will tolerate the use of excuses as a rationalization for lack of production and progress.

    * Exhibit a style of management that is both consistent and effective, not one that changes on whim.

    * Once you finish your analysis, institute general operating principles that will guide the organization and implement a specific action plan that will govern the initial steps you must take to make improvements.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Prologue 1
Introduction 7
1 STEPPING STONE NO. 1: Identify What Needs to Be Fixed 15
2 STEPPING STONE NO. 2: Hire the Best--Before Anyone Else Does 41
3 STEPPING STONE NO. 3: Develop an Obsession with Winning
Today 69
4 STEPPING STONE NO. 4: Play to Your Strengths 95
5 STEPPING STONE NO. 5: Use the Four C's to Measure
Performance 119
6 STEPPING STONE NO. 6: Making It Work 147
7 STEPPING STONE NO. 7: Keeping It Going 177
8 STEPPING STONE NO. 8: Handling the Unexpected 211
9 STEPPING STONE NO. 9: Staying on Top 235
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Introduction

Introduction

I like to win. No, I have to win. You know the cliche that when you play a game, someone has to win and someone has to lose? I agree, but only if the other guy always loses.

Away from football, I'm not obsessed with finishing first. That isn't important to me. But when it comes to my job, there's nothing that drives me more than the thirst I have for reaching No. 1. There's no satisfaction being second-best. None at all.

I know. I've learned what it means to fail. It was a tough lesson to absorb, but I think it's made me a better manager and I know it's made me a stronger person.

See, I'm the guy who put together the original Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We lost our first 26 games, which is still a record for the most futile opening by any expansion club in NFL history. Every one of those losses cut deeply into my gut.

But I'm the same guy who helped resurrect the greatness of the Green Bay Packers. When I became the Packers' executive vice president and general manager in November of 1991, the word was out: no one could win in Green Bay. Certainly the Packers, a relic from NFL Past, couldn't begin to think they could thrive against the league's mega-metropolises like New York, Chicago, Dallas, and Los Angeles.

That couldn't have been more incorrect. Together with team president Bob Harlan, coach Mike Holmgren, and an extraordinary group of players and staff members, we've proved the Packers not only can compete in today's sports arena, but they also can win. And win big. In five years, we went from league doormat to Super Bowl champions. In year six, we again played in the NFL championship game. What an incredible journey it has been.

We didn't do it overnight, but we never thought we would. The resurrection of the Packers came about through a methodical, focused approach that measured progress not by touchdowns but by first downs. Or, if I can borrow from baseball, by singles, not home runs. I joined the Packers knowing we wouldn't win a championship my first year, but I darn well expected to win one sooner rather than later. Still, common sense has to prevail over hollow promises. Before you can realize your dreams, you have to deal with the reality of your situation and change it. Step by step.

That is the Packer Way. To prosper in business or in private life, to ultimately see your dreams of winning turn into success, you need to follow a simple but effective blueprint. The Packer Way is based on Nine Stepping Stones to Building a Winning Organization. These steps are your guides to the top. Follow them, and I'm convinced you too can realize your goals, professionally and personally. And once you're on top, these steps can help keep you there.

Through experience — through the horrible days in Tampa and the euphoric times in Green Bay — I have fine-tuned the principles of realistic management. Believe me, I know what works — and what doesn't. You can profit from my mistakes and learn from my successes. This is about management under fire. These are concepts that have evolved from the day-to-day world of business, not from the pages of a textbook.

I'm sure of one thing. Too often, whether at home or at our job, we aren't patient. We want to be greedy and take giant leaps, instead of settling for shorter, more well-conceived steps. We want to be Babe Ruth, we want to be Joe Namath; we don't want to be Ty Cobb or Pete Rose. We want to triple our sales in a year, when doubling them makes more sense. We want to alter the image of our business, make significant personnel moves, and increase our production dramatically — and we want to do it now. Those goals are terrific — but the target date isn't. I'm impatient and demanding too, maybe the most impatient and demanding person you'll ever meet. Yet, I'm also realistic enough to know I must temper my impatience to allow the Stepping Stones to function. You can accomplish change quickly. But the improvements will hold up over the long term only if they're based on a solid foundation, not some wild dream. Too often, we want the glory without putting in the hard work needed to secure lasting success, whether it's building personal financial security or obtaining a top position in an organization.

It's only human. The big hit creates the big thrill.

But what about all the strikeouts in between? I'm not always right, and I'll never say otherwise, but I'm convinced of one thing: if you want to strike it rich quick, you'll fail. If you follow the Nine Stepping Stones — if you mix patience with methodical progress — you've given yourself a great opportunity to win your own Super Bowl.

I know. Like I said, I've learned through both the bitterness of failure and the extraordinary excitement of winning. The losing taught me some difficult lessons, but I'm sure that if I hadn't endured the turmoil of Tampa Bay, I would never have felt the thrill associated with the success of the Packers.

I came to Tampa in 1975 after working my entire football life for Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders, a span that covered 12 years. It was time for me to be on my own, to show the whole football world that I had the right stuff to construct a winner. You know that feeling. You've been an assistant manager for years and now you have the opportunity to run your own division of the company. Or you're on your own, starting a home business. You can't wait to implement all your innovative ideas. You can't wait to dazzle your peers. You've never considered failing. I didn't. I was prepared for some rocky moments, but I never expected it to be as bad as it became in Tampa Bay.

By the time I was fired by owner Hugh Culverhouse in 1978, I was ready to leave. The team was losing, and the front office wasn't running effectively. I always thought if you put in long hours, worked extraordinarily hard, and maintained an unchallenged loyalty to your organization, you absolutely had to succeed. After all, isn't that the American way?

I was wrong.

I gave everything I had to my job in Tampa Bay, and it still wasn't enough. I hadn't been smart enough going in. I was placed in a position of responsibility without the necessary authority. As soon as Hugh Culverhouse decided on my title, I probably should have known I could be headed for trouble. Instead of naming me general manager with total control over football decisions, I was called vice president of operations.

"You can work your way into being a general manager," he told me.

I had to prove myself to him. I have no problem with that — every day, you're really proving your value by your performance — but when he hired me, he should have felt more confident about my abilities. I was so happy about the opportunity that I didn't recognize Culverhouse's concerns. I soon found out that was a mistake.

A friend of Culverhouse had recommended that we hire John McKay as our first coach. McKay was the incredibly successful coach for the University of Southern California, and I couldn't quarrel with the choice. He had a great reputation and obvious skills. If we could lure him to Florida, it would be a significant step for the organization. I thought we could win with McKay; I saw no reason to oppose the decision.

But it eventually became the catalyst that drove me from Tampa Bay. And it was the start of a valuable management lesson for me. Even if you work 20 hours a day, your success is not guaranteed — not when your performance is being judged by the success of someone you didn't hire.

With the Raiders, we were all geared to one thing: winning. It was our first and foremost thought, the goal that drove all of us. And because of that, we all worked together to make sure we never discovered what it felt like to lose. We simply all had the same agenda.

I thought every organization worked this way. I soon learned how wrong I was. John McKay and Hugh Culverhouse were contemporaries. They both had served in World War II. They both liked golf and each other's company. They socialized together. I wasn't comfortable doing any of that. I don't play golf. I work. Either I'm on the road scouting, or when I'm in the office, I'm studying tapes and doing whatever else I can to make my team a winner.

Soon, it became clear what was happening. I might have had a title, but I had no control. And that became a huge problem. My work ethic suddenly didn't matter. As the months went by, John McKay's power within the organization grew and my authority diminished. He had Hugh Culverhouse's ear, and I didn't. Forget what the organizational chart said; John McKay slowly gained control over football operations. There clearly was a separation of church and state and I was on the wrong side of the power structure.

It got to the point where Culverhouse felt McKay knew more than I did about player personnel, my area of expertise. So the Bucs no longer needed me. And I was gone. Later, I was replaced by a guy named Dick Beam, who began with the Bucs as John McKay's driver. That really hurt.

As a manager, you simply must have the final call over your area of responsibility. If you can't eliminate interference, you'll be undercut constantly. You'll never be allowed to function properly or with great confidence. You just can't be the boss in name only. You need authority to hire those working for you and the power to fire those who mess up. We've all seen it in our job: someone has a title, but all the major decisions affecting his area are made by someone else. He has no real influence in the decision-making process. Soon, everyone else in the organization recognizes his weakness, and his credibility is shot.

I learned something else from my experiences in Tampa Bay. As a manager, you must recognize your strengths and concentrate on them. Then hire others to shore up your shortcomings. Culverhouse wanted me to run the business side of the operation as well as the personnel area, and it was just too much. I found myself giving too many speeches and worrying more than I wanted to about the ticket office. Micromanaging doesn't work. Surround yourself with competent people who complement your strengths, then concentrate on what you do best.

If the Packers' trainer comes into my office to talk about an order for athletic supporters, I ask him if he's happy with the supporters we currently use. Then I tell him to order what he thinks will work best. I'm not an expert in that area, he is. I rely on his judgment. Something else: if he makes bad decisions or misuses my trust, he's gone. Immediately. Still, you need to delegate and then allow your people to show they can execute their jobs properly. You can't be afraid to let others succeed — or fail. If I was in charge of a private business, I would never insist that every piece of paper pass by my desk for my approval. If you lack that much confidence in your organizational leaders, I'm willing to bet your business will never achieve its full potential. One of the worst mistakes you can make as a manager is to believe you're so vital to the company's success that nothing can function without your input.

When I left the Bucs in 1978, I figured I had botched my final shot at running a team. The next season, the Bucs made the NFC championship game. The franchise was only four years old; no team had ever reached the title contest faster. And they did it mostly with players I had obtained. So I knew my tenure in Tampa hadn't been a failure, even though it was perceived that way. I wondered if anyone would give me a chance to prove I could do better.

I felt I was a failure at 40. I had wanted this opportunity for so many years, and now I was washed up, looking at finishing out my career as a road scout.

But I still could dream. I told myself that if I ever got another opportunity, I would do things differently. I would handle all personnel decisions with unquestioned authority. I would hire and fire the coach. I would hire and train my own scouts. I would form my own scouting system. I would involve all coaches in the evaluation of players.

I returned to the Raiders' personnel department in 1978, then moved to the Jets in 1990 when General Manager Dick Steinberg offered me a great opportunity to run their personnel department. After working so long for the Raiders, I needed a change. I needed to see how another organization operated. I went to New York believing it would be my final NFL move. If it didn't work out, we would stay in New York until our children finished high school — even if I had to find a job outside of football.

Then, in late fall of 1991, Bob Harlan called. Four years earlier, I had talked to the Packers about taking over their football operations, but the job didn't seem a good fit. They weren't ready to give someone full control. Bob, who became president of the club in 1989 after 18 years in the organization, eventually decided the Packers needed a major overhaul. Instead of having authority shared, as it was then, by the coach and general manager, he wanted one man to direct the football operations. He wanted me.

He offered me what I sought: absolute control over football-related matters. I have the authority to hire and fire coaches, trainers, equipment men, scouts, videotape people, you name it. I run the draft and I pick and sign free agents. I don't sell tickets. I don't have my own television show. Bob has shown incredible faith in me by allowing me to function without interference. He's my boss, but he's also my counselor and my friend.

Al Davis understood what Harlan and the Packers had done. He told me, "With the power you have, you're like an owner." In Green Bay, I focus on winning. None of my duties distract me from that purpose.

This is where our journey toward success begins. Before you can tackle the first Stepping Stone, you must be given the appropriate tools for success. I have them with the Packers; you've got to insist on having them too.

To utilize these Stepping Stones, you certainly don't have to be a sports expert or a sports fan. You don't have to know the difference between Brett Favre and George Brett. Whether we like it or not, professional sports now is a big-time business, and if we don't operate our teams like you would your own business, we won't make it.

Employing the Nine Stepping Stones to Building a Winning Organization will prove fascinating and, I'm convinced, will make you a success. Like I said, I don't have all the answers, but I do have confidence in my ability to teach you how to be a better manager.

The Nine Stepping Stones should serve as a guide in your trek to the top. Obviously, you have to remain flexible and be willing to adapt to individual situations. But if you don't have a formula for success, you'll never make it. You'll wind up floundering. You'll wind up questioning your own ability.

If you embrace a plan like the one I'm about to outline, you'll have both structure and direction. I can't guarantee you a Super Bowl ring when you finish, but these Nine Stepping Stones will give you a chance to realize your ultimate dream. To be No. 1.

The Packer Way. Copyright (c) 1998 by Ron Wolf and Paul Attner. All rights reserved. Published by St. Martin's Press, Inc. New York, NY.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2008

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