It doesn't matter if you like Tom Brady.
If you're running a business, or leading people at work, or trying to recruit and retain top talent during The Great Resignation, it's worth looking at what Brady did in advance of last night's game.
To set the stage, this was one of the biggest regular-season NFL contests in recent history. Brady, who played 20 seasons in New England and won six Super Bowls with the Patriots before leaving for Tampa Bay last year (and winning yet another Super Bowl), returned to play in Massachusetts for the first time as a visitor.
Less than a week before the game, however, the Buccaneers signed a new player: Richard Sherman, a cornerback (that means he plays on defense, in case you don't follow football) who has been to the Pro Bowl five times and won the Super Bowl once.
Not a huge deal normally, except for three things:
- First, Sherman has had a good career, but he was released from his last team, the San Francisco 49ers, in February after an injury. Later, he wound up in legal trouble over the summer, after allegedly trying to break into his wife's parents' home.
- Second, the Buccaneers badly needed a cornerback after their starter suffered an injury.
- Third, and most important for us, it was Brady who reportedly made the difference in recruiting Sherman to the team.
At 44 and still playing, Brady is the undisputed best quarterback in the history of the NFL at this point, and he's also turned into an elder statesman of the game.
It's quite remarkable considering he's also a highly polarizing player -- and that he and Sherman have had some tough words on the field over the years, as opposing players. But, as Sherman explained last week after he signed his contract, it was basically 10 words in a phone call from Brady that made the difference.
"You'd better come, or you're going to regret not coming," Brady told Sherman, the latter player revealed in response to a reporter's question after he arrived in Tampa.
More than just convincing him, he said, Brady's involvement also helped convince his wife that maybe it was a good idea for Sherman to travel across the country and play this season in Tampa.
Now, I'm not going to go through the whole game last night. Sherman played, which was a bit surprising since most knowledgeable observers -- and Sherman himself -- thought he'd need at least another week to get ready.
He did OK; not his best game ever, and he wasn't a real factor in the result. After yet another Tampa defensive player was injured, it was a good thing for Tampa that he was available.
What's really instructive here, however, is Brady's decision to get involved in recruiting like this, and what it means as an example in almost any line of work.
This is not an isolated incident. I wrote after last year's Super Bowl about how Brady had been the driving force behind recruiting all three of the players who scored touchdowns during Tampa's win:
- Brady convinced a former teammate, Rob Gronkowski, to come out of retirement;
- He recruited another player, Antonio Brown, not only to join the team but to live with him for a while; and
- He gave another player what we now might call the Richard Sherman treatment, calling running back Leonard Fournette to ask him to straight out play for the Bucs after his previous team cut him.
To be clear, this is not what usually happens in professional sports. One player -- even a marquee player like Brady -- doesn't normally moonlight as a sort of assistant general manager.
I think it demonstrates his understanding of a key truth about leading people, which is that they want to be asked and appreciated. And I think that's probably the kind of player you want on your team as a business owner, too.
These are the exceptional contributors who understand that they can't achieve everything on their own, and who aren't afraid of leaning on others and leveraging their strengths.
They're the rare employees who are not only dedicated to their own success, and the success of their teammates, but are also dedicated to recruiting other outsiders who will make the team even better.
And I think they're the kinds of employees you want to develop, recruit, and stay on the lookout for.
So, forget about the game last night, if you even paid attention. Forget about the football season ahead for our purposes.
Just remember how a Pro Bowl cornerback went from having no team at all to starting for the defending Super Bowl champions within about five days. And stay on the lookout for the all-stars you want to recruit in your industry and to your business.
Most of all: Don't be afraid to pick up the phone and ask.