Saint Nick Delivers Christmas to Philly in February

Come on…. I’m from Philly. You had to know I would write about the life lessons taught by my beloved Eagles, AKA the SUPER BOWL LII WORLD CHAMPIONS!  The entire season up to and including the big game contained so many great story lines, accompanied by life and leadership lessons. Do not doubt the underdog; as a matter of fact use underdog status to drive energy and passion.  Everyone experiences setbacks, the difference is how you respond to them. Star quarterback Carson Wentz’s injury felt like the end, but we came to find out it was a new beginning. Life is about risk and reward; have the confidence to take chances, like with a Philly Special on 4th and goal. And patience.  A lot of patience. After all, we waited for 52 years!

All of these are important, but I’m particularly impressed by this team’s preparation, confidence and leadership.

Everyone has a chance to be next man up- how prepared are you?

It’s a relatively well-documented phenomenon that today’s parents tend to, well, over-parent. We don’t let our kids fend for themselves, while insisting that they be number one. Whether out of love or fear, or both, only teaching them to be on the starting team doesn’t help them much if they’re not. And truthfully, so many of us don’t begin as starters.

When there are others on the team who are better, how do you respond?  Leave the team in search of another team where you’re the star? Pout on the bench?  Engage in negative talk?  Nick Foles – or as we call him in Philly, St. Nick – did the opposite of all of that.

As the Eagles backup quarterback Nick was clearly paying attention and staying involved. Sure, practice is not a game and you could see Nick was rusty when he first got the call.  But as the weeks progressed the rust faded, and you could see Nick’s preparation lead to greater confidence. There is no doubt he has skills, but there are so many skilled players that do not respond when called upon. Why? 

They are not prepared. They are focused too much on the unfairness of not being a starter, instead of watching and learning from the starter. So when called upon they cannot respond.

True leaders have a chance to shine even when the chips are down for them personally

It’s not just about Nick, it’s also about the starter who had the setback.  After his injury, does Wentz sulk in a corner and spew negative thoughts? No he continues to demonstrate confidence in the team’s ability to move forward.  He does what every leader should do; he makes it about the team and their future; not him and his injury.

That is beautiful and unusual and a great example of selfless leadership.  He doesn’t worry about losing his job, instead he helps his replacement prepare for the job. He studies game film with Nick, he shows up at 6 a.m.  to work with Nick. His new leadership role is supporter and coach.  He is not the starter, but he was prepared to coach the new starter. Wentz was just as prepared and confident as Nick.

The best leaders know their players strengths and organize the team to play to them

Then there is the boss, the CEO of the team, head coach Doug Pederson.  How does he respond?  He just lost one of the best players in the NFL and a critical ingredient to the offense.

Many would panic, but not this guy. He adapts and improvises. He understood the strengths of each of these QBs and quickly reassessed, then rebuilt around Nick. He changes the environment to one where Nick can be successful.  Pederson prepares. He builds a game plan (a strategy) where his new leader can thrive.  Pederson is the ultimate leader by showing nothing but confidence in the team and by building a culture where everyone is prepared to be next man up.

Lead your team to a championship of its own

The Eagles organization and enviable leadership can teach us all quite a bit.  The lessons we learn from Nick, Wentz and Pederson can and should be applied to business. As leaders, are we building cultures for the next person up?  If you want to be champs, then you should be! Just remember, next man up is bigger than you, it is about the team.  Everyone needs to be prepared, confident and willing to lead.  And by the way – a not to be overlooked side effect of this type of leadership is that you create much more than a team – you create a family.  An oft-repeated cheer during this season of underdogs “we all we got, we all we need.” Those players are not competing against each other, they are supporting one another. They are all in it for the same goal.  Watch any interview that has gone viral in the last week.  Listen to every player speak – they are most proud of being part of THIS team and they all say they couldn’t play for a greater coach or with a greater group of teammates. Watch their banter and genuine love for each other on social media, and in the off season.  It’s a pretty extraordinary thing and their success is not a coincidence. It’s everything about that culture, that preparation, that mindset.

Thanks for the late Christmas present St. Nick and the Philadelphia Eagles – It was my favorite! GO BIRDS.  FLY EAGLES FLY.