5 Year NFL Offensive Lineman for the Jacksonville Jaguars / Baltimore Ravens / Buffalo Bills / Tennessee Titans
With football season in full swing and the super bowl just around the corner, millions of Americans have their attention on the grid iron. Is it simply a game? Does success happen with talent alone? I reached out to Marques Ogden who played in the NFL for 5 years and is now a keynote speaker and a best-selling author of his new book “Sleepless Nights”. In the book Marques describes his story about the NFL, his struggles in Corporate America after his NFL career, and his strong perseverance to overcome the struggles of everyday life.
Jay: Thank you for joining me on Sports CEO Marques, I’m sure you’re busy and I appreciate your time.
Marques: My pleasure, I always felt that there was a lot more in the “work” of sports than just the game, and I’m glad to share my experiences.
Jay: Let me start with a great saying from Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix. “Don’t tolerate brilliant jerks, the cost to team work is too high”. Teamwork in sports is so important. What have you learned from it and how it plays out in business?
Marques: There is no question that in order to win championships, teamwork is the most important ingredient. Just look at that New England Patriots. Some NE fans might hate me for this, but the Patriots don’t have more talent than any other team in the NFL. They have an excellent quarter back, and a lot of average players. What makes them so great is because they are a cohesive unit. The reason for that is because their “CEO” Coach Belichik won’t tolerate nonsense. It’s my way or the way, and that is what players respond to. They win because they buy into the team work of Bill Belichik
In business it’s the same way. You certainly need a boss who will listen to what employees have to say, but at the same time you need someone who is stern and who employees know they need to answer to.
Jay: I heard Steve Young once discuss how important the locker room is, and to be a real leader you need to gain the respect of the locker room. Most of us have never been inside of a locker room, explain what that means. Is there a similar concept in business?
Marques: It’s all about respect and having a leader. Take a player like Ray lewis, he can demand respect from a whole team. Even now that he has retired, you still see him on the side lines. He sets the tone for the work ethic and high standard the players have. The same is true with Tom Brady. He is the captain of that team, he demands respect, and that’s why they always win. In business it’s the same way, you need a leader that demands top flight performance.
Jay: Leadership vs Skill. How much does leadership play a roll in success in sports? Or does skill play the main role?
Marques: Jay let me tell you something. Many teams hire veteran players even though they don’t play much.
Jay: Are you telling me they put players on their pay roll, even though they can’t play? What’s the logic there?
Marques: That’s exactly right. The value of veteran leadership goes far beyond the skill on the field. When I was in Jacksonville we had Marco Coleman as a leader for our team. He was at the end of his career but his experience and knowledge brought more value than all the skill we had put together. Marco told me once: “Marques: When we come to the line of scrimmage, if I see fear in your eyes you’re a dead man. Fear can be catalyst to drive you to do great things, but if you show fear, or if you’re scared of being embarrassed or whatever, you’ll never succeed. Skills can only give you the potential, but without knowledge and experience you won’t succeed. So to answer your question Jay, to play in the NFL you certainly need talent but without the leadership you’ll never win. Mistakes always happen, but if you’re smart you will limit those mistakes by listening to others who have already achieved success.
Jay: In order to be promoted in any position you need to develop trust more than anything else. The same is true in football. What have you seen in sports that has helped you earn the trust of your employees in business?
Marques: The first thing I learned is that you have one chance to make a great first impression. Meaning if you’re just hired on a job, you better know everything there is to know about that position before you walk in. if you’re making mistakes and you’re new in the company you are going to be out the door. If you have been a reliable employee for a few years and then you make a small mistake, chances are they can look the other way. But if you’re new on an NFL team and you don’t run your route, or you get beat in coverage you’re done.
The second thing is it depends on what type of mistake you made. There is a huge difference between getting beat physically and making a mental mistake. When you’re new in the league coaches know you’re going to get roughed up. Other players are going to be faster than you or stronger than you are. If you get beat by another player who took you down physically that’s ok. But if you get beat mentally, coaches have zero tolerance for that. When you come into the game you better have studied the play book a thousand times. If you get beat because you didn’t line up right and you cost the team penalties kiss it good bye. Do everything you possibly can to make yourself as prepared as possible.
Jay: I’m going to take a stab at a question here that may seem totally out of line, but I think your take on this would be very valuable. Are you ok with that?
Marques: Bring it brother. I’m not afraid of any type question, but you gotta be ready for an honest answer. Deal?
Jay: You got it, here we go. Many people talk about dress code at work. Some people insist on the suit and tie while others insist on letting people come in as they please. What is the right balance?
Marques: Huge mistake, letting people come in as they please will ruin your company.
Jay: I’m surprised you feel so strongly that way. Honestly I thought you would have the opposite approach. Playing in the NFL you don’t exactly come dressed in a suit. Why do you feel so strongly about being well dressed at work?
Marques: Listen Jay, you may have seen us play in shorts and tee shirts, but first of all we all had to wear the same uniform. We couldn’t come in as we pleased. If you want your team, whether in sports or in business to play as a cohesive unit, there’s got to be regulations and dress code is a great way to do that. Secondly, whenever I was doing an interview after the game, I always wore a suit. People want to see that you respect who they are. If you meet a new client dressed in sweat pants and a hoodie that’s insulting. I’m a keynote speaker now and I speak to many distinguished companies and I always come dressed in a suit. My logic is this: Would you listen to what I had to say if I looked unprofessional? No you wouldn’t and you shouldn’t. If you want to make a positive impact dress professionally!