It would be irresponsible of me not to write about the Eagles. I mean, it’s just too big a deal here in Philadelphia for me not to comment.
In late October I called a friend who works with the Eagles. We had a good conversation and then he told me, “This is a special team.” Everyone knew that. It’s been obvious the whole season. There is something special about these guys and it’s not just what they do on the field.
Peter Drucker said many years ago, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast every day,” and in Super Bowl LII the culture won. This is the main lesson every leader should be taking from the Eagles. The culture won. The culture that took them to the Super Bowl is the culture that won the Super Bowl.
When Carson Wentz was lost for the season, back-up quarterback, Nick Foles, took over. Carson was beyond gracious, Nick was humble and the culture kept winning.
When the Eagles picked up problem child and bad boy Jay Ajayi from Miami he gave them the additional look they needed and arguably made the difference in the season. In Philadelphia, Ajayi wasn’t the problem he was in Miami. The culture won.
Culture starts at the top, and head coach Doug Pederson is the chief proprietor of the culture. Part of that is a culture of confidence. Every time Pederson went for it on fourth down I cringed. I hated the call. I was thinking, “What is he doing?” But he was right. He didn’t just talk about confidence in his players; he lived it when it mattered. On fourth down! In the Super Bowl!
Culture is knowing who you are and being it – all the time, when it most matters; in the Super Bowl. Pederson didn’t change who he was when he got to the big stage. He went for it on fourth down twice, made it each time, including one for a touchdown – the trick play pass to his quarterback – just like he had done all season. He was the same guy there that he had been all season. He didn’t change when he got to the big game. Under all the pressure he stayed the same. All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson said after the game, “Coach told us he was going to be aggressive, that he wasn’t going to change for anybody.” He didn’t.
Culture is knowing who you are and being it – and having the confidence to keep being it. Defense wins championships, but the defense on both teams was not great. Except the Eagles defense didn’t give up. The Patriots offensive line thwarted them for most of the game and Tom Brady’s ability to get rid of the ball quickly all game was frustrating to the defense. But they didn’t give up. They continued to apply the pressure all game and when it mattered, in the fourth quarter, they got the turnover that was probably the difference in the game. They knew who they were and continued to be it all the way to the end of the game.
Culture is knowing who you are and being it – to the least of these. The Eagles traded their veteran long snapper Jon Dorenbos before the beginning of the season. He had a routine physical before he could go to the Saints, found out he had a heart condition, and was out of football for the rest of his life. The Eagles owner, Jeffrey Lurie invited him to the Super Bowl, as an honorary teammate and is giving him a ring. Culture begins at the top.
Culture is knowing who you are and being it – one person at a time. You don’t change culture with slogans, posters or edicts. You don’t change culture because “I said so…” Culture is changed by changing people; and people change one person at a time. You can put up a sign in the locker room that says, “Confidence!,” but if you don’t believe enough to go for it on fourth down then the sign is just a piece of paper and ink. People – your people – must be treated with the respect they deserve, and engaged personally, individually and consistently if you want to impact your culture.
But let’s not forget one last, most important thing about culture. Culture is knowing who you are and being it, by living out of your core; out of what is most important to you. The first words out of Doug Pederson’s mouth after they won were to thank, “My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Same with Wentz. Same with Foles. Same with Ertz. Same with Jenkins. Same with…. There were many. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying God wanted them to win, or that they won because they are Christians. The historical evidence of Super Bowl Champions as well as a cursory understanding of Christian theology would clearly argue against that. But in this locker room, on this team, at this time, it was that culture that brought it all together. Every great culture has a unifying core it is built around, and every leader must understand that core and stay faithful to it.
How’s your culture? Do you and your team, “know who they are and be it?” Are you impacting your culture one person at a time, to the least of these, with confidence all the time – when it matters the most? Is your culture built around a unifying core that is strong enough to withstand the ups and downs – when your franchise quarterback is lost for the season?
Last year I was with a group of people from the seminary I graduated from and someone asked me what year I graduated. I told them and they said, “Oh, you were there during a special time.” Yes I was. It was special because of the culture at the time and a great leader who understood the value of culture led that Seminary at the time. He rebuilt the faculty and created a place where the culture was more important than the theology. At a seminary!
I look back on my years in Bethlehem, St Louis and Ontario and it’s the people – the culture – that we all remember. It was those teams that were incredible, and those people that I cherish to this day. In each case it was a great culture.
Tom Brady threw for over five hundred yards. The Patriots never punted the entire game. He is the best quarterback to ever play the game. But this year the impressive numbers didn’t matter. He couldn’t beat culture.
This year, this time, the Patriots got beat by superior culture.
What’s your culture? What are you doing to create a superior culture?
Know Who You Are And Be It!