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What Charlie Weis Can Teach Us About Job Failure

More football, you exclaim? Yes, its another football-related post. Sorry friends…when it’s Fall and the weather starts to cool, my mind gets a bit preoccupied with all things pigskin. If you have no interest in the NFL, just bear with me for a few more weeks and I’ll try to make this as painless as possible.

Now, to the issue at hand and it involves the gentleman over to the left. He might be recognizable or he might not. His name is Charlie Weis and earlier this week he officially became the former Head Coach for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team. Did he deserve to be fired? Probably, based on the key metric used to assess all sports coaches: wins. However, it was an ignominious end to what was once a very promising career with the Irish. Weis was known as an offensive guru with the New England Patriots and highly sought-after coach in the NFL. But his alma mater of Notre Dame came calling and it looked like a golden relationship for a once-proud college football program battling mediocrity. After the first couple of years of success (and some have argued undeserved), the roof caved in and Weis’s Notre Dame teams returned to previous levels of unremarkable football.

To paraphrase Marc Antony (Roman not singer), I come neither to bury Weis nor to praise him. Instead, I think there are a couple of career lessons we can extract from Charlie Weis’s fate.

Success at one level or different position is no guarantee of universal success. Weis is the owner of four Super Bowl Champion rings as a result of his 15 year career as an assistant coach in the NFL. In hindsight, we might be able to say that this prior success offered no indication as to whether he’d be a good head coach in the pro or collegiate levels. Both career transitions offered their own unique set of challenges that would be new for him. And don’t we face these same challenges any time we receive a promotion to manager or change industries? Here’s the key: recognize that what got us to where we are isn’t necessarily going to take us higher. We have to be prepared to set aside our ego and learn with a child’s curious mind.

Sometimes the view from below is better than the one from above. While the above is about what we need to do when in the gig, let’s take a look at the view of where Charlie is right now. It’s one that many of us have experienced before. Maybe we got laid off or even canned. Maybe we got demoted after a promising rise through the organizational ranks. Here’s the good news, though…these are the experiences in which we grow the most. It’s like the old proverb says, “There’s always more growth in the valley than there is on the mountaintop.” See Vince Young and my earlier post as an example of someone who took the time while in the valley of their life and profession to refocus their efforts toward success. Trust me, I’ve been in the valley quite a few times and it sucks. But I also cherish these times as moments in my life when I was more truthful with myself, more humble toward others and more accepting of the gifts that come in life. They were crucial waystations in my journey and I recognize that I’ll likely visit the valley again at some point in my life.

What are your experiences? Any wisdom you gained while trying to climb a new mountain or trekking through a valley in your work or life? Love to have you share your story with the community here.

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