I've met a lot of really famous people, and they tend to fall into two basic camps.

In most cases--even if the whole point is for us to sit down together, like for a scheduled interview--it goes something like this:

I walk in the room. Other people in the room look up, notice me, and make eye contact. Most smile or nod. The famous person doesn't look up. He (it's always a he) is "busy," even if he's not actually doing anything.

I walk over to introduce myself to him. "Hi," I say, "I'm Jeff Haden. It's great to meet you."

We shake hands. Occasionally, he makes eye contact. But he doesn't introduce himself. After all, I know who he is, right?

While you hold that thought, imagine that you're James Develin. You played college football, didn't get drafted by an NFL team, managed to play one game in the Arena Football League, made the Bengal's practice squad for a year and were let go...where professional football careers are concerned, you're as fringe as fringe can be. 

But then you find yourself signed to the practice squad of the New England Patriots.

Surely, when you walk into that locker room, you feel shy and insecure. And surely, when you walk onto that practice field for the first time, you feel like a very small fish in a very, very large pond.

And then a very familiar figure walks all the way across the field to greet you. ""Hi, I'm Tom Brady," the Patriots quarterback says.

"Obviously," Develin says, recalling that moment, "I knew who he was."

As Dan Wetzel writes, Brady's goal wasn't to make sure Develin, now a key member of the Patriots, knew his name. Brady knows that every football player knows his name. But NFL rosters constantly change. Each year--and even during the season--a major portion of the team is new: The average NFL player's career spans less than four years.

That means Brady, just like the leader of any successful team, needs to build new relationships extremely quickly.

"He's just a regular guy," Develin says. "He's just as personable and approachable as anyone on our team. He does a good job staying on everyone's level."

But is saying "hi" to the new guy or gal on the team such a big deal? No.

And yes.

The first time I met Dale Earnhardt Jr., he walked straight over to me and said, "Hi, I'm Dale."

The first time I met Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett, he walked straight over to me and said, "Hey, I'm Kirk Hammett," and then looked at the view through the Inc. office windows and said, "Whoa, this place is rad."

The first time I met Venus Williams, she walked straight over to me and said, almost shyly, "It's very nice to meet you. I'm Venus."

Big deals? No.

And yes.

I knew who Dale, Kirk, and Venus are. They knew I knew who they are...but still. Introducing themselves immediately set a nice tone. It felt more comfortable. It felt more relaxed.

It felt more human.

"I love when people joke with me because it means they are comfortable with me," Brady says. "And I like when guys know me for a while because they feel free to cut loose. That's kind of how I am and I like to go back and forth...a lot of smack talk back and forth."

That's important to Brady, if only because it's important to the team's success. He needs teammates to speak up. He needs teammates to ask questions, to provide input, and to challenge him.

Even though Brady is a lock to enter the Hall of Fame--and arguably the best quarterback in NFL history--great teams are made up of great people, all of whom contribute.

That's why he immediately tries to set the right tone.

And so should we.

Published on: Feb 2, 2018
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