Geoff Garrett, Dean of the Marshall School, held a wide-ranging discussion with Pete Carroll, executive vice president and head coach of the Seattle Seahawks and former head coach for the USC Trojans Sept. 22, 2020.
The discussion, titled “Leading Football through Change; Leading Change Through Football,” was the second in a series of new webinars, called Dean’s Dialogues, that pair Garrett with influential thinkers and business leaders.
Garrett, a self-described sports nut, admitted it was exciting to get an hour of Coach Carroll’s time early in football season, and quickly got down to business.
Black Lives Matter
GG: “I think it’s fair to say that no coach has been more outspoken on the topic of Black Lives Matter than you’ve been. Why?”
PC: [speaking of his podcast with Steve Kerr] “We have a big problem, and issues that need to be addressed in a new way. What has happened in the past and the outcry from our communities of color have not been heard or responded to properly or effectively. I’ve been coaching people from every background you can imagine, and I’ve been very fortunate to have exposure that a lot of white people don’t get. I think we have a unique perspective because of this interaction. I hope we can create a common language and common perspective better than exists now.”
GG: “I was really interested in the mission statement of your enterprise, Compete or Create, which states [the purpose is] ‘to increase the ability for people to live in the present moment more often, to not only perform at their best, but to flourish. How did you get to that place?”’
PC: “My philosophy is always to compete. But how do you define completion? To compete is to strive, it’s old Greek version of that thought. Striving to be the best. We live in a world, in our culture, where you’re either competing or you’re not. That’s the mentality. What it really comes down to, really, is about helping people find their best. Helping people become what they’re capable of becoming.
It goes back to people. It goes back to caring.”
Different Communication for Different Players
GG: “I once heard a story that a part of your success was being able to deliver the message that was most effective to a specific individual. For example, one quarterback responded to yelling, while another wide receiver responded to softer communication. The message was the same, but the delivery was different. Is that how you think? You have common messages but delivery and relatability have to go individual to individual?”
PC: “That’s the great challenge of teaching, being able to get your message across to different people. Everybody is uniquely different and special in their own way. To develop language for all people is what’s important. The way we do it is to be compelled to understand who they are and where they’re coming from and how they listen and what’s important to them. Sometimes you have to kick someone in the ass and sometimes you need to give them a hug. That’s how you have to compete to get the message across.”
Dealing with Failure
GG: “Can you talk a little bit about your failures and how you’ve dealt with and grown from them?”
PC: “I have been fired quite a bit over the year, and I’ve been involved with that discussion my whole career. I haven’t done things classical the same as others, from the outside in. Personally, I didn’t take it like I was defeated. I set out to find the next opportunity to prove with the help of people around me who supported me and continuing to give me reason to keep believing in myself.”
Bringing the Energy
GG: “You and your team bring such genuine spirit and energy to everything. Is there a way to bring that energy into a corporate environment? How do we do it?”
PC: “Absolutely, there’s a culture around you whether you want to admit it or not. You’ve got your own personal culture you’ve got your family culture, you’ve got your business culture. If you want to have a better culture, you can have it. You have to go for it. And you do it by caring for people."
Staying Unscripted in Difficult Situations
GG: "You’re a classically unscripted guy. How do you manage to remain so unscripted on some of the most difficult issues out there?
PC: "I’ve often said it’s not so much the words you say as where it comes from and the emotion you send the message with. But that’s not always the case, and sometimes your words get you. Sometimes, you know you have a feeling about things, but you need to work at acquiring information, doing your background, reaching out, so you can speak from a perspective that has some grounding."