Winning In Business As a Family


Back in early August, I watched the NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement ceremony.  I find it inspiring to hear these men who have achieved the pinnacle of their profession speak about how they got there and who helped them along the way.

One of the things that struck me was how many times these men, players in a hugely aggressive sport full of testosterone, spoke of how the various teams they played on were like a family.  Such touchy-feely stuff in the harsh environment of pro football is not what you might expect. Of particular note were the words of Eddie DeBartolo, former owner of the San Francisco 49ers, who spoke about everyone in the entire organization as part of an extended family.

“I understand that our success wasn’t just on the owner and the players, but on everybody. I stand here today for the equipment managers and the groundskeepers, and the laundry crew who worked hard every day. I stand here for the executive assistants, the PR team and the interns who worked through the weekends. I stand here for the scouts and the bus drivers, and the cooks and the schedulers and (hot) dog venders, and the community reps who might never ever see their name in lights, but who are every bit as important to building a winning football franchise, as the players we root for on Sunday.”

He went on to talk about how he did not see his players as worker bees, but as people who had lives outside of their profession, and the importance of recognizing that reality and supporting it.

“We did not see players as simply players. We saw them as men. We saw them as sons, husbands, fathers (and) brothers, with families and responsibilities,” DeBartolo said. “We knew that if we helped make it possible to bring their whole selves to work, they would give us their all. That’s why we welcomed mothers, wives, girlfriends and children to the team. We sent gifts to them on special occasions and celebrated with them on holidays.

“We weren’t just a family on Sundays; we were a family every single day.”

Why do I share this?  Well, I am often struck by people who say business is business and it has to stay impersonal and somehow removed from “real” life.  If you’ve ever seen the movie You’ve Got Mail, you probably remember the scene where Meg Ryan’s character talks about how people say, “It’s just business, it’s not personal,” to which she responds, “What is that supposed to mean? I am so sick of that. All that means is that it wasn’t personal to you. But it was personal to me. It’s personal to a lot of people. And what’s so wrong with being personal, anyway?”  No matter what you believe, business is for and about people.  As anyone who has read much of this blog knows, I believe the business of business, all business, is to help people and that my friends is the definition of personal.

So, is your organization personal or impersonal, is it a family or a group of replaceable workers?  Do you recognize the extended family that makes your organization run?  Do you actually see that person who sweeps the shop floor or cleans the bathrooms or does some menial job and do you show gratitude for what they do and the contribution they make?

Do you see your employees as more than workers?  Do you do things to support their “life” so that they can be more effective at work?

Is your organization a family or just a place to work?  During DeBartolo’s tenure the 49ers won 5 Super Bowl championships.  Not bad for a guy who brought a touchy-feely family vibe to the rough and tumble world of professional football.  What can you bring to your organization to make it more like family and how can it help you win more?

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