What Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll Can Teach You About Building Positive Company Culture

This article was originally published on, which can be found here. 

It was about six weeks until our first super bowl…Coach Carroll and I were standing in the tunnel at the training facility and he looks at me and says, Do you feel it? Do you feel what’s happening here? Dr. Gervais nods and says “It’s Amazing….god it feels good around here.” People are deeply optimistic, looking forward to the future, handling adversity well… there was a great togetherness that was taking place.

What Dr. Gervais is describing is the incredible culture that Coach Carroll has created since taking over as head coach of the Seattle Seahawks in 2010. Dr. Michael Gervais is a high-performance sports psychologist who has done mental training for olympic champions, the Red Bull jumpman Felix Baumgartner, CEO’s and since 2012 the Seattle Seahawks. In podcast I recently co-hosted with Dr. Gervais, he describes in detail the inner workings of the Seahawks’ culture; here is the full interview.

This article will hopefully answer questions such as:

  • What’s unique about the Seahawks’ culture?
  • How did Coach Carroll build it?
  • How can you apply Coach Carroll’s methodology to your start-up, team or business?

But first, what is culture and why does it matter?

Culture is the shared beliefs and attitudes of the members of a team, or as Benjamin Hardy writes, “culture is a social construct”. Most companies think culture is about rewards v. punishment, titles or salary. While those things are important, culture must tap into a higher level of needs than those of base needs because once base needs are met, they are no longer useful cohesives to keep a team together. Instead, a successful culture taps into what Maslow described as ‘esteem needs.’ Esteem needs are met when one feels a sense of connection and meaning due in part to being a member of a team or group. It’s the step right before self-actualization.

While culture is intangible — you can’t see it, you can’t touch it, and you sure as hell can’t buy it — it can be a competitive differentiator in a big way. On average, organizations can expect 147% higher earnings per share vis-a-vis their peers when employees experience above-average levels of engagement (one measurement of culture).* Other factors, such as retention rate, absenteeism and product quality are all positively affected by a company’s culture.

So we know what culture is, and how freaking important it is. Let’s now dive into 3 tactics for upgrading your team’s culture.

#1 — Develop a Philosophy

There wouldn’t be one person in the [Seattle Seahawks] organization who wouldn’t know the philosophy, and know what it means.

If I asked you, who are you…what do you stand for…what do you believe in, or in short, what is your philosophy? Could you answer it? More importantly, could you answer the question in a sentence or less?

What about your company’s philosophy? Does every person know, word by word, your company’s philosophy and infuse it in everything they do? If not, getting clear and precious on your team’s philosophy is the first step in creating a culture, as it’s the guiding star for every member of the team. It also gives the team members something to fall back on when adversity strikes.

Dr. Gervais said that there wouldn’t be one person in the [Seattle Seahawks] organization who wouldn’t know the philosophy, and know what it means. For Seattle, the philosophy is “Always Compete.” Coach Carroll then goes into detail as to what the philosophy means and how it should be applied.


#2 — Invest in the Person

Coach Carroll puts a heavy emphasis on helping each member of the team be the best that they can possibly be, and from there let’s the rest fall in place.

The second tenet focuses on caring about the people on your team at a deep level — caring about their work and non-work self. Coach Carroll puts a heavy emphasis on helping each member of the team be the best that they can possibly be, and from there let’s the rest fall in place.

So how can we help our team, our employees thrive as individuals?

Dr. Gervais suggests focusing on the three areas within our control — body, mind, and craft — and providing resources to your team to improve each.

Body — this is all about the eating, sleeping, moving. For a professional football team, the focus on body is heightened compared to a company whose team members meet in an office as opposed to a football field. That said, if your team members aren’t healthy, their performance will suffer. Providing stipends for gym memberships is one way to do it, but a more effective way is to lead group workouts, such as a run in the morning three times a week. Doing so brings the team closer and improves fitness levels.

It’s well documented that exercising increases serotonin, which in turn impacts brain function, mood, and impulse control.

Mind — this is where Dr. Gervais helps the Seahawk players with mental training and mindfulness. In short, their sole focus here is increasing the frequency at which each player is able to focus on the present moment. Or, to develop a deep awareness for what’s happening NOW because that is where flow state/ peak state begins, and in turn is where we do our best work. There are a number of ways you can provide resources for your team, such as meditation, imagery (imagining the optimal experience for a given call or meeting), or consider contacting Compete to Create (a firm started by Dr. Gervais and Coach Carroll).

Craft — this is the actual skill-work or technique required to perform one’s job. Each role in the company can be performed at various levels of excellence. To improve an individual’s ability to serve a certain role, we should distill that role into the various micro-skills that comprise the overall skill. For example, in sales the micro-skills could be prospecting, discovery, and negotiation The key here is to keep the micro-skills simple and easy enough for the individual to focus on.

Helping your team improve each of the above three areas — body, mind, craft — tie back to the overall point, which is to care about the development of the person on a deep level, inside and outside of the company. If you put an emphasis on helping each person improve their body, mind and craft, within work and outside or work, you’ll notice a strange occurrence start to take place. The person will be pulled (as opposed to pushed) into doing their role to the best of their ability. They will give it their all because doing so helps the overall group, the overall team, and the connection to the group — due in part to the culture — is everything.


#3 — Creativity

If you don’t spend time each day creating ideas, your idea muscle will atrophy.

Creativity boils down to setting aside time for each person to produce ideas to help improve the performance of their role, which in turn helps the broader team. Doing so reinforces the connectedness one has to the culture. It also reinforces the meaning one feels towards the culture.

James Altucher is known for his thoughts on flexing our idea muscle. In short, your idea muscle is just like any other muscle. If you don’t spend time each day creating ideas, your idea muscle will atrophy.

How can we put this to use in the business world? It depends on the role, but one idea is to have each person set aside time each day or week to create 10 ideas that will move X forward. What is X? If you are in sales, it could mean creating 10 ideas to move a given deal forward, or 10 ideas to penetrate a new account. If you are in product, it could be 10 ideas for new features. Tailor the idea session to the role, and lead from the front by sharing your 10 ideas with the team.

Here is a podcast with James where he describes in detail his ritual for creating ideas.

To connect the dots, Coach Carroll created a culture in Seattle that enables the players on the team to feel deeply connected to the group and derive meaning from being in the group. He does this by having a clear philosophy that guides everything the team does, cares about the person inside and outside of football, and creates an environment where the players can be themselves.

I’d love to hear any suggestions or feedback for how you’ve created a winning culture at your organization.

* The State of the American Workplace, 2017, Gallup.

About the author:

Ryan Warner (@Ryan_N_Warner) is the co-host of TR Talk Podcast, which interviews leaders in their fields to learn how millennials can fastrack their personal development. Guests have included former NFL players, NBA champions, Olympic gold medalists, CEO’s, and New York Times best sellers. Ryan is also an account executive on Salesforce’s financial services team. You can subscribe to the podcast here and connect with Ryan through the following channels.

RyanWarner.Net | LinkedIn | Medium | Instagram

5 Building Blocks to Develop a Compelling Story

[This article was originally published on Tech.Co, which can be found here.]

At the core of it’s effectiveness, storytelling is how people learn about the world. Author of the Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt, PhD and NY Times bestseller, explains that the “human mind is a story processor, not a logic processor.”

Features and functions relate more to the rational mind and never make the jump to the long-term memory because our minds aren’t designed to process logic. Stories on the other hand, often times do make the pass-through to the long-term memory because they tap into human emotion.

Billionaire and entrepreneur Richard Branson places so much value on storytelling that Virgin has a storytelling month (March), and says that “We would be nothing without our story.”

But simply having a product-focused company and slapping a story on top won’t work, according to Ben Horowitz, who says that “the company story is the company strategy,” and the product direction should feed off of the story.

If you have personal access to these folks stop reading now and pick their brain on how to tell a compelling story.

If not, it may be worthwhile to learn from Andy Raskin who helps leadership teams at growth-stage companies (Flux, Mashery) and former growth-stage companies (Yelp, Uber) transform their product pitch into a compelling story. Andy has also worked with numerous portfolio firms of Andreessen Horowitz and Google Ventures.

I recently had a chance to talk with Andy in his office on the tactics he shares with his clients and how we can all improve our storytelling abilities. Below are a few takeaways:

  1. Most successful company stories have the following themes: citing of an important change, implications for how the change will impact the customer, the “Promised Land” or destination that your company can take the customer too, roadblocks that prevent the customer from getting to the ideal destination without your company, and finally, positioning of functions / features  that help address the obstacles.
  2. The strategic story should be owned by the CEO and in turn impacts every aspect of the business, from product to marketing, HR, sales, and engineering.
  3. Stories can guide product monetization. Look no further than the obstacles that prevent your audience from realizing the promised land as sources of innovation for new products or features.
  4. Use questions throughout the story to keep the audience engaged. The questions should be asked and answered as you move through each theme, and especially when presenting your company as the solution.  A common phrase used to introduce the solution as a question is, “so we thought about [the problem], and asked [what would happen if we, why isn’t it done this way, or how can we make a better].”
  5. Look for inspiration everywhere. If you are a CEO of a growth-stage tech firm, read a book on a famous playwright, or comedian to get your neural networks firing outside of their normal patterns.

Stories are the patterns through which we understand life, and if businesses can start to change their brand or perception from one of features / functions to that of emotional engagement they could be on their way to much success.

Here is the full 30 minute interview (episode #7).


Are You the Source of Emotional Waste?

What the Hell is a Drama Researcher?

Cy Wakeman (2x New York Times bestseller) is a drama researcher. What the hell is a drama researcher, I asked during a podcast we recently recorded with Cy?

Essentially, Cy researches energy (time & money) wasted in the workplace due to drama (emotional waste). Turns out, it’s a big problem as the average person spends 2.5 hours per day in drama.

Time is the most valuable commodity we have so stop wasting your time!

Humans love being around positive people.

Are you the source of drama? Here is a quick sniff test. Are you:

· Complaining

· Gossiping

· Venting

· Score keeping

· Resisting change

· Focusing on things outside of your control?

If so, you could be a source of emotional waste.

But, what’s great about Cy is that she’s focused on helping folks identify the two main sources of drama, and course-correct.

Source 1: Ego Behavior

The ego acts as a pair of glasses that distorts how we see the world. The ego — if left unchecked — can narrate your life and creates a negative story.

After the podcast with Cy, I noticed my ego was coming out to play every time I walked by a person on the way to work. Every time I walked by this person they didn’t say hi, and in turn I made up a story that they were rude. One day I decided to stop and get to know the person and turns out that they weren’t rude at all, and that my ego was making the story up.

[Listen to the full 30-minute podcast here — you know you want to]

Source 2: Lack of Accountability

The second source of emotional waste is lack of accountability. This is the antithesis of accountability and taking full responsibility for absolutely everything that happens in your life.

Podcast Time

Listen to the full 30 minute interview to learn:

· How can we increase accountability?

· When does your ego come out to play?

· How does is skew your thinking and judgment?

· How can we eliminate mental waste and start living in the present?

· How can we remove negative feelings and take control of our future?

About the author:

Ryan Warner (@Ryan_N_Warner) is an account executive on Salesforce’s Financial Services team. Ryan also co-hosts the TR Talk Podcast, where co-host Tom Alaimo and Ryan interview leaders in their fields to learn how millennials can make an impact in today’s workforce.
 Website | Email | LinkedIn |Medium