Scott Pioli is the General Manager of the Kansas City Chiefs, an NFL team that has been miserable for the last several years but in 2011, is going to the playoffs.

From an article about him in Sports Illustrated: “Pioli has longed to capture something from his childhood, something difficult to explain. It is something he tries to explain now. He begins to talk about how, in building a team, you want – no, more than want, you need – to find people who will do the right thing most of the time.”

Pioli is uncomfortable discussing this because it sounds sanctimonious and implies that the purveyor (in this case, him) regards himself as the perfect embodiment of “doing the right thing.” The article goes on:

“He repeats some of the core words about building a team, hoping their power might fill the empty spaces. Reliability, Dependability, Accountability, Discipline. But these words have been used so often and so much in vain that they shrivel and fray and lose their color in the light of day. Say discipline, for instance, and people think of banning long hair and earrings and tattoos, of avoiding dumb penalties.”

Pioli isn’t talking about that (BTW – my definition of discipline is: “Doing what needs to be done, the way it needs to be done, when it needs to be done – every time!”).

One example of Pioli’s (and Chiefs’ head coach Todd Haley’s) dedication to discipline is their quarterback: Matt Cassel. Considered a good but unexceptional quarterback prior to 2010, Cassel decided this year to “go to school” on the NFL quarterback he considered the epitome of discipline: Drew Brees. While many teams regard a quarterback’s physical ability (how far and fast can he pitch a football) as paramount, Cassel (with the encouragement of Pioli and Haley) decided that his natural gifts resembled Brees’ more than anyone else and he went to school on Drew. They decided that Brees’ most outstanding trait was his footwork and drop-back speed (hardly a strength most teams look for in a quarterback). Since Cassel began his quest to improve his foot speed, all of his other statistics have improved dramatically.

By understanding the importance of aligning his natural ability and skills with the precise attributes required for success, Cassel has become a STUD.

The Chiefs are going to the NFL playoffs this weekend. It’s their first trip since Dick Vermeil was their head coach several years ago. At that time, they had many great individual players with recognizable names: Priest Holmes, Tony Gonzolez, Trent Green. Those guys are now gone – replaced by guys like Cassel. Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe. Not exactly household names.

Pioli decided a couple of years ago that having all the best players is not the same as having the right players, and that building a “one year wonder” of a team is not the same as crafting sustainable success built on a foundation of exemplary character.

Some questions for you:

When selecting and assessing your organization’s leaders, do you:

  • Consider their character (and its specific elements) as critical?
  • Regard questionable behavior evolving out of character flaws with as much distain (or more) as failing to achieve financial results?/li>
  • Construct teams of people with complementary strengths from among the following – courage, endurance, persistence, perseverance, hopefulness, trust, faith, gratitude, honesty, integrity, tolerance, enthusiasm, loyalty, discipline – and not merely for their virtues of intelligence or analytical/technical ability?/li>

Maybe most importantly – do you examine yourself with brutal honesty, affirm your virtues and vow to be a productive example for others rather than following the dysfunctional example of others?

Copyright 2011 Rand Golletz. All rights reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Rand Golletz is the managing partner of Rand Golletz Performance Systems, a leadership development, executive coaching and consulting firm that works with senior corporate leaders and business owners on a wide range of issues, including interpersonal effectiveness, brand-building, sales management, strategy creation and implementation. For more information and to sign up for Rand's free newsletter, The Real Deal, visit