Former Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith dropped by CBS Sports Radio to discuss his new book, “You Win in the Locker Room First: The 7 C’s to Build a Winning Team in Business, Sports, and Life.”
Smith, a former NFL Coach of the Year, co-wrote the book with best-selling author Jon Gordon. For Smith, the opportunity to work with Gordon was a no-brainer.
“I think it’s important to have an outside voice and a number of outside voices when you’re a head coach in the NFL,” Smith said on Ferrall on the Bench. “You don’t want to be the only voice. You’ve got to have other voices because guys will tune you out if you’re the only voice. I really believe that. Jon has been very successful in not only writing books, but as a consultant to professional and college teams and business people as well. This was something we had talked about for years – about trying to get together and collaborate and doing a book. I had some free time this offseason, so it’s something we really jumped into. It was a fun project.”
Smith, 56, was on staff in Baltimore when the Ravens won Super Bowl XXXV, served as defensive coordinator for the Jaguars from 2003 to 2007 and was the Falcons’ head coach from 2008 to 2014. He helped Atlanta to four playoff appearances, including an NFC Championship appearance in 2012.
Smith believes that successful organizations delegate and empower employees from the bottom up.
“It’s very important to have a collaborative organization,” Smith said. “I think the leaders at the top of the organization set the culture, but it really grows from the bottom up, and that’s when you have a successful organization. You want to have collaboration. We tried to do it every year with not only the assistant coaches but our players. We wanted Matt Ryan, Tony Gonzalez, John Abraham to have some input because they’re the ones that are going out there and having to perform in the trenches, so to speak, and you want them to feel like they’re part of the process of the decision making you’re doing as a staff and an organization.”
After five winning seasons in Atlanta, Smith faltered in his final two, as the Falcons went a combined 10-22 in 2013-14. Smith, who is “still very close” to Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff – the man who fired him – said the Falcons became too results-focused toward the end of his tenure.
“I think it’s very important that you have a collaborative atmosphere,” Smith said. “I talk in the book and Jon talks in the book about how you create that collaborative atmosphere where everybody feels like they’re a part of the process – and it is a process. I think what happens is is many times when you’re close to having the success that everybody’s looking for – the Super Bowl – sometimes you forget about the process that you’ve gone through to get you there and you focus on the results instead of focusing on the process that you go through that has helped you and made you successful in previous years. As you mentioned, its a high-stress, very public domain that the NFL operates in. It’s all about results. But I think sometimes we forget to focus on the process – and when we start focusing on the results, that’s when I think that we went in the wrong direction in Atlanta.”