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9-Year NFL Player & CEO Gary Brackett On Leadership & Finding The Right Employee

Chris McGrath / Staff

Originally published on Forbes.

It never ceases to amaze me how important the fundamentals are--for anything. When I transitioned out of the military in 2013, people began to ask me how the skills and experiences gained from special operations transfer over to leadership and team coaching. My response: while different companies define success differently, the means by which they go about succeeding are always the same. It takes leadership, teamwork, communication and decision making for oneself, one's team and one's company.

The NFL is no different. I was lucky enough to speak with Gary Brackett, a nine-year NFL veteran, former player for the Indianapolis Colts, Super Bowl champ and current day CEO of the the Stacked Pickle restaurant franchise on his thoughts regarding the fundamentals of success and what leaders can adopt. Here's what he said:

Put your aces in the right places.

It’s easy to write-off an employee as “lazy” or “bad” and say, “Well, Joe or Sally just doesn’t care. We need to fire him.” That’s not the approach Gary takes. Instead, Gary believes employee fit is essential to building chemistry. When there’s strong chemistry, there’s less absenteeism and people think as “we” rather than “me.”  In other words, they think in terms of collective (i.e. team) success. What does chemistry look like? Well, according to Gary, he looks for three things:

1. Honesty, since you can’t get ahead without it.

2. Energy, because “if you walk slow, if you talk slow, you probably are slow.”

If you walk slow, if you talk slow, you probably are slow

3. Bandwidth, because change is constant but progress isn’t. If a company is to grow then you need people who are willing and able to learn, execute and keep up with the pace of change.

Make decisions that enable greater decision-making.

The majority of decisions Gary makes circles around other people who need to make their own decisions. In other words, he sets the conditions for others to decide, which allows him to focus on what he and only he can effect as the CEO: people, and the brand. By having the right people, profits will follow. That means having employees whom you can trust to make the right decisions. “People build brands,” he says, “and I want to make sure I do right by my people before I do right by my pockets.”

Manage to the people, not just to the profit.

Most companies would fire an employee who makes an error in judgment. If, for instance, an employee were to serve alcohol to an underage customer, the corporate knee-jerk reaction is (typically) to fire that employee, Gary says. But that’s not his approach. Instead, he believes that if an employee makes a mistake then he or she will be more aware about repeating it in the future, but firing isn’t necessary. Instead, train them and have them train others to build the collective awareness about the problem. That’s how you build chemistry because when employees see you have their best interest in mind — that you’re willing to work with them and not against them — you build a team of A players. People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. And when they do, you build loyalty and you build your business.

Your best ability is your availability.

There are two things Gary looks for in his employees: first impression and availability. Let’s start with first impression. If however an employee shows up on a particular day is their best, then what will their “worst” look like? Choose to show up and show up to win. If you don’t — if you don’t show up as your best self — then you’re starting from a deficit because now you have to cover new ground; you have to "rebrand" what people initially thought of you, and that is an uphill climb.

Choose to show up and show up to win

Next is availability. Most restaurants are open seven days a week, which means if you, as an employee, aren't available to work, then it's time to rethink what's important to you.

gary brackett
Source: Stacked Pickle

Finding the right fit starts with having a clear vision and values — identifying what's important to you as a leader and as a company. From there, you can backfill the right people to help keep you on your path.