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President's Weekly Brief: We Could All Learn Something From Terry McLaurin

WFT_President'sWeeklyBrief

Hi Washington Football Family,

Tuesday is the classic "Day Off" for the guys on the squad, where they are focused on recovery, spending a little time with family, and pivoting their attention to the next game. A deep breath if you will. I thought that I would take advantage of that natural break in the week to give you a weekly update on the business side of the Washington Football House. I use a slightly longer format to answer some of the things I expect are on your minds, since 280 characters don't allow you to get details and often bring out the shittiest aspects in all of us 😊. So here we go…

Reflections From The Giants Week

Unfortunately, I'm not able to write to you after consecutive division victories; it was a tough loss. But, there were some truly great highlights from that afternoon, most notably our fans returning to the FedExField (Welcome back! We missed you!) and hearing them chant Terry McLaurin's name after his 68-yard touchdown.

That commendation resonated on multiple levels for me, not just because the sports world celebrated his designation as a team captain last week or because he made a great play (by now, we should come to expect that from him), but also because of who I have observed Terry to be as a leader off the field as well.

There's a Maya Angelou quote that I believe perfectly captures Terry: "People might not always remember what you did, but people will always remember how you made them feel." I occasionally end up in the same social circles as the guys on the team (there are only so many barbershops and tattoo artists in Loudoun County), and the things I hear about Terry are remarkable.

When people in the community meet Terry, they feel as if they're the center of his attention and are highly valued. They feel like the people around him are the real focus of his time. He puts out his energy towards others, and the people who have had the pleasure of meeting him describe him as someone who is responsible, capable, highly intellectual, means what he says and follows through on his commitments.

That is the kind of player Coach Rivera is trying to build this franchise around, but that's also the type of person we want on the business side as we reshape the perception of our organization. That is the type of role model that I want to hold up for our fans, our sponsors, and my own kids, especially as my little ones seek out role models of color who they resemble.

Business Question Of The Week

What is your thought process behind bringing leaders into the organization?

When I say leader, it doesn't mean someone in a position of seniority. Leaders are individuals, at any level in the organization, who inspire, galvanize and move the Washington Football Team in a positive direction. I've been asked this question many times, and there are at least three components of leadership that I personally tend to focus on:

1. Deep, incredible expertise in whatever area they're brought in to lead. It's important that people have a track record of excellent work products, whether it's a dope marketing campaign, an elegant financial model, or a successful engagement campaign with legislators and stakeholders.

2. Individuals who aren't caught up on rank, title and hierarchy. I want leaders who believe the best ideas can come from anywhere in the organization, irrespective of role or rank. I try to do that myself, and I think when we do that, we get the benefit of real innovation and diversity. It's often people who are closer to the entry level of our team that have the most direct interactions with fans, sponsors, and the public. And if those employees know our fans and others in a unique way, leaders need to take their ideas seriously and create ways for those ideas to be elevated and discussed.

3. They have to be empathetic. I'm sure most know the old phrase, "Walk a mile in their shoes." Empathy is the ability to flip your perspective around and to see a challenge or issue from another person's perspective. You don't have to be highly emotional to express empathy; it's not about tears and righteous anger. It's about actively striving to understand. We need people who empathize with the perspectives of their colleagues, the media and the public, and also importantly, you as the fans.

  • And closely tied to empathy… don't be a jerk. There are lots of jerks running around the business world, treating their colleagues like crap. Please don't apply.

Those are some of the qualities I value in leaders, and our newly hired Chief People Officer Andre Chambers will build on, expand, and modify these desired traits as he shapes our talent strategy. He is going to help us evolve into more than just another sports franchise, with great talent leading the way.

Encounters Of The Week

This week's encounter is different because I had the opportunity to spend time with not one, but three inspirational people as a panelist for a virtual Connecting Generations Discussion with GeNienne Samuels, Doug Williams and Tuskegee Airman Brigadier Gen. Charles McGee. Obviously GeNienne is a dynamic on-air personality and an example of the not publicized enough fact that women of color are the most prolific entrepreneurs on a per capita basis of any group in the United States (after a stint as a cheerleader she runs her own company, so damn cool). And, of course, Doug is an inspiration to a generation of leaders, especially a generation of black folks who were the "firsts" in their respective industries or vocational callings.

But I want to specifically highlight Brigadier Gen. McGee, who flew 409 missions and had one of the longest active-duty careers by any Air Force pilot in history. He is so anchored in his own morals and values that he was able to bear pressure, criticism and outright hostility for doing great things for our nation. None of those challenges dampened his fervor and desire to serve his country and he carried out his duties poised and with grace (read: somehow didn't go fully OFF on the people disrespecting him). I think about my ability to do the same thing in that situation, and…man, my character pales in comparison. But it does inspire me to self-reflect on how I can be a more steady, less easily triggered, and a bolder leader for our organization and for my family.

What's Next

As we head up to Detroit this week, I'm excited to see how our team responds on the field to a new set of challenges. I get the privilege of observing Coach Rivera and the other leaders of our team from a unique vantage point. I love seeing how they manage roster decisions, public narrative, and other pressures with a steady hand and belief in one another. I'm confident it will generate a W against the Lions.

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