Head coach Jimmy Johnson led the Dallas Cowboys to two Super Bowl championships in the 1990s.

Lessons from a coaching legend

Feb. 25, 2019
Coaching legend Jimmy Johnson made a career out of finding the best talent to make up his best football teams. Can trucking learn a lesson to help with its talent crunch?

Often we turn to successful business leaders for their wisdom on proper leadership. But sometimes it’s good to go beyond the known experts to gather best practices from someone from a completely different industry.

While at the recent Corcentric Symposium, I got to hear a presentation from Jimmy Johnson. I am sure most of you recognize the name, but just in case let me give you a little background. Johnson was both a successful college and professional football head coach. In fact, he is only one of three coaches that has successfully lead teams to major college championships and to the Super Bowl. He is also a renowned sports broadcaster.

While most of his comments at the Symposium related to sports and the strategies he used to take the Dallas Cowboys from a losing team to Super Bowl champs, there also were some takeaways about leadership.

One thing he said that really struck me was, “You can talk about coaches all you want, but if you have great players you will win.” He of course was referring to football teams, but I would argue the same applies to business. While you certainly need good managers, it is the folks “down in the trenches” who ultimately determine if your company succeeds or fails.

Some say Johnson was a genius when it came to recruiting and when asked about finding talent, Johnson shared that he has a list of things he looked for in a potential player.

“Hire for intelligence, character, willingness to work and passion,” he said. “The person you hire can learn what to do.”

I’ve been thinking about what Johnson said and it makes a lot of sense to me. The people we manage are the ones that make us successful and I would take someone with a great attitude but limited knowledge over someone who can perform the job with their eyes closed but who is arrogant or lazy.

Given the shortage of people throughout the trucking industry, maybe it’s time we focus on attitude and intelligence when we are looking to hire and then spend more time and money training folks so we have the skills they need. I think this will open a whole new pool of candidates for us. Maybe it is time to take a second look at the person making your morning latte, or the cashier at the grocery store, or the valet who parks your car at the downtown restaurant, or lots of other folks we come in contact with as we go about your daily lives.

It’s at least worth thinking about.

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