Brian Austin

December 12, 2022

Life Will Humble You

Life is a long lesson in humility. – Sir James Matthew Barrie

Any attempt to impose your will on others, the world or the universe will often result in your own humiliation.  I've seen it in several ways over the past few months: at work, on the Internet, and in my own home.  The lesson I savor this morning is best summarized by the Riot Report.

After a convincing Carolina Panthers win against the Seahawks: 

While Tepper may have had his eyes on an offensive-minded coach, that is not the identity of the Carolina Panthers. It never has been. A winning Panthers team has a dominant running game, an intimidating defense and plays Carolina Football. The most successful teams in the franchise's history have followed that model and whether he likes it or not, the team that he bought already had an identity. It's time to lean into that identity instead of trying to create a new one. - The Riot Report

When hedge fund manager David Tepper bought the team, he talked about building a championship winning team. He proceeded to impose his vision of a winning team on the organization. All too predictably the result was a team that slid into a deep losing streak and lost its identity. The leadership that Tepper brought in doubled down on the vision and forced changes that befuddled long time Panther fans. 

Fans, players, and staff all turned on the organization. Tepper was forced to make a change, fired the head coach and brought in an interim coach who had been previously been with the organization. Not only did coach Steve Wilks have a history with the team, but he served under under coach Ron Rivera from 2012-2017.

I could bore you with sports stats but know that under coach Rivera the Panthers dominated on defense, ran the ball, intimidated other teams' offenses, and made a Super Bowl appearance.  In other words, the team embraced its' identity.  Wilks obviously rekindled that culture, and the results were obvious in short order.

The lesson is that while you might bring innovative ideas into an organization, you need to remain humble to the identity, culture, and values of the organization. If you try to redefine the culture or reinvent the identity too quickly you will often be humbled at your own expense. 

I am a firm believer that you cannot lead change if you do not have the support of the people that you lead, and that support is often a result of a shared culture and vision.

About Brian Austin

A software engineer building products and services for smaller companies. This newsletter syndicates all of my LinkedIn content.

For AI project updates check out Project Maestro on Substack.

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