Monthly Archives: September 2012

How the NFL is Truly Penny-Wise and Pound Foolish

When did the NFL begin to stand for the National Foolish League?

The fallout over the officiating fiasco has dominated the media and water cooler conversations for the past two days, and rightly so.  As more and more comes to the surface, the underlying issue has become very clear.  The NFL locked out their professional referees over three point two million dollars.  That’s right, $3.2 million.  This is a rounding error for the multi-billion dollar NFL.  How foolish is this?  Let’s break it down…

There are thirty-two teams in the league.  All, except for Green Bay, are owned and controlled by very, very wealthy individuals.  While many of the athletes playing in the league are rich, the people who sign their paychecks are wealthy.  So, to resolve this issue, we are looking at a cost per team of $100,000.  Let’s break it down a bit more.  Each team has ten home games per year (2 are pre-season and season ticket holders are required to purchase the entire package, even though pre-season games are really practice scrimmages).  So that’s $10,000 per home game.  Each stadium seats around 60,000 fans that are paying a reported average ticket price of $78.38, according to the Team Marketing Report published on ESPN.com.  The actually average prices range from $54.20 (Cleveland Browns) to $117.94 (NY Jets).  If we just take the average, we can estimate each team is taking in $4,702,800 per game through attendance.  That doesn’t include the $12 beers, parking, and other obnoxiously inflated concessions.  It also doesn’t include the vast revenue dollars that are shared by each team from the networks.  To resolve this issue, the owners would experience an increase in operating costs of 0.21% against gate revenues.  This equates to 17 cents per fan, per game.

Why would a business leader destroy the value of their product, place their employees at risk of injury, insult the intelligence of their customers, and erode the goodwill of their brand over pocket change?  Is this really about economics or is it motivated by some other less transparent objective?

I think it speaks for itself.

© 2012, Terry Murray.

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The Worst Leader in America

hubris [hyoo-bris], noun. excessive pride or self-confidence; arrogance.

Those of you that are kind enough to spend a few minutes of your day reading my blog know I’ve been writing about the leadership crisis that is eroding Corporate America and our country’s competitive advantage.  This is not simply my opinion; my stance and perspective is supported by numerous research studies, surveys and white papers published by distinctive institutions and prestigious global consultancies.  Not one or two studies, mind you, but more than a dozen point to the causality of the endemic employee disengagement crisis in our nation.  McKinsey & Co. reports that 90% of “C” level and one step down executives score below average in eight key leadership competencies.  A pitiful 1% actually score excellent in core leadership competencies.   Multiple studies have pointed out the fact that 70% of employees are not engaged cognitively or emotionally with their companies.  One doesn’t need a Ph.D. in Organizational Development to draw the correlation.

Oddly enough, these same leaders that demand more and more from their employees, while offering less and less in return, seem to walk on the proverbial compensation water.  Even when they fail miserably in the execution of their sacred trust to their customers, investors, associates, communities and stakeholders, their compensation committees pay them a king’s ransom to go away.

Roger Goodell, and the arrogance of the billionaire owners of the NFL that he represents, is a microcosm of the leadership disease that is eating away at the soul of America.  Embroiled in a petty labor dispute, a multi-billion dollar a year business is nickel and diming its professional officials, locking them out in a pure power play that the billionaire owners have become so accustomed to playing.  It’s the same behavior that built their fortunes and brought them entry into this obnoxious, exclusive boys’ club  known as the National Football League.

During ESPN’s post-game coverage of the debacle the NFL sold to America on Monday night, the honorable, Superbowl champion, and retired quarterback, Trent Dilfer commented, “You get so frustrated with incompetence that it turns to anger…I’m angry because the NFL has insulted my intelligence; it has insulted your intelligence…we have a multi-billion dollar machine and we’re letting this ruin it.  Its tearing the fabric of the game.”

Mr. Dilfer went on to say, “For ten years, this commissioner’s office has been coming into these NFL locker rooms saying ‘We’ll do anything to protect this shield. Anything to protect this brand.’  It is ironic that you, the NFL, is what’s screwing this brand up.”

ESPN analyst Rick Riley added, “You can’t take a $1,000 pair of Italian loafers and step in poop, over and over again, and that’s what we’re doing here.  This league was a Mona Lisa and Goodell is painting a mustache on it.”

Mr. Goodell has a five year, $100,000,000 contract.  Yeah, $20 million a year.  That’s a lot of zeros, isn’t it?  Especially for someone that is destroying the integrity of an entire league.  Someone that has locked out their officials and brought in Division Three officials from college football to officiate the games.  For those of you that are not familiar with the tiers of college football, Division Three is actually four tiers down from the games most of us see on television on Saturday afternoons.  High Schools in Florida play a faster, more competitive game than Division Three colleges.  It’s not the officials’ fault.  Their lack the training and experience which is necessary to competently officiate this level of competition simply isn’t there.  The echoes of corporate leaders, complaining that they can’t find qualified employees, while at the same time slashing training budgets, rings in my head when I contemplate this situation.

Don’t blame the officials.  Don’t blame corporate employees for our failing  competitive stance.  The incompetence lies in leaderships’ hands; fore they are the ones that are failing the American Dream.  And laughing all the way to their bank in the Caymen Islands.

© Terry Murray, 2012.

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The Correlations Between Leadership, Competitiveness and Associate Engagement

Several interesting studies were released this week that, once again, draw attention to the impact leadership effectiveness has not only on companies, but our nation as well.  The Global Competitiveness Report, issued by the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, has identified the fact that the United States has dropped two places in comparative, national competitiveness.  The U.S. now ranks 7th in this listing.

Another report, released this week by the Society for Human Resource Management, identified the fact that only 29% of employees are “very satisfied” with their jobs.  The remaining 71% of employees surveyed stated they were either “somewhat satisfied” or “dissatisfied” with their work.  This provides the third point of triangulation in what is an eerily consistent picture.  These figures are nearly identical to studies previously issued by The Gallup Company and the Chartered Management Institute in the U.K. on employee disengagement levels.

Now, let’s correlate these consistent trends with the current state of leadership.  Just a little over a year ago, The McKinsey Quarterly conducted a massive study on leadership competencies of “C” level and one-step down executives and discovered that only 1% were ranked excellent in five of eight key leadership competencies.  Ten percent scored average and the remaining majority of 89% scored below average.  Coincidental or causal?  From my 24 years of business experience, much of it as an executive surrounded by that 89%, I’m going with causal.

Just as the Olympics were coming to a close, the USA Today had two front page stories, side-by-side.  One was entitled, “Sweet Victory”, and it gave the medal count that showed we’d just outpaced China’s medal count my a nose. Right next to this story was one entitled, “Companies’ Training Cuts Add To Job Woes”.  The reported identified 38% of companies provide cross-training for their employees today, down from 43% in 2011 and 55% in 2008.  These figures are also from the Society for Human Resource Management.  The consulting firm Accenture was also quoted in the article, stating that their research reveals only one out of five workers have cultivated new skills through employer provided training over the past five years.  This is in contrast to an average of two and a half weeks per year of employer provided training for their associates in the 1970s.

Why were our Olympic athletes successful?  I’d have to guess they were engaged in a rather rigorous training schedule!  So as sweet as this year’s victories may have been, we best brace ourselves for some bitter losses in the future as we continue to compete with China in the global economy.  China is churning out engineers, mathematicians and scientists at unprecedented levels.  They’ve set up Special Economic Zones and have created a litany of support, in terms of financing and infrastructure, for entrepreneurial companies.  In the past ten years, China has built 170 new airports and invested in high-speed rail.  In the same time frame, the U.S. has upgraded 7 airports and initiatives for light rail, never mind high-speed rail, have been dismissed in community after community, even when the Federal government offered to foot the bill under the stimulus package.

As leaders, we have a decision to make.  To authentically lead or continue what can only be described as a slash and burn approach to business-as-usual.  One thing’s for sure, this approach is unsustainable and we are slipping rapidly on the global stage.  History has identified our grandparents as The Greatest Generation.  If we don’t embrace a shift in perspective soon, I dread to think how history will remember our generation.

© 2012, Terry Murray.

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