What We Can Learn from Tom Brady and the Patriots

I am not a Patriots fan. But I appreciate what they have accomplished.

Let’s start with Tom Brady. He re-negotiates his contract down every year. Making 14m/yr (against the cap, actual cash guaranteed was only 1m) instead of 24m/yr is the difference in the Patriots always having 2-3 more fundamental pieces. This is a part of their success.

Now, don’t feel sorry for Tom Brady he has received guaranteed bonuses and with endorsements, he is doing alright. But the question on everyone’s mind is always…why doesn’t my quarterback do this? If Flacco was a $14m hit instead of $24.5m, would they have had the one or two pieces that could have got them over the hump and into the playoffs? The answer is trust. Tom Brady isn’t just selfless.

Star players would be tempted to do this more but they are essentially making a 50-100m investment and bet in their front office. That is a LOT to gamble that the front office isn’t going to make a boneheaded move. But Brady trusts Bellichick and Kraft implicitly on this and it has paid off. Seven Super Bowls and five championships later and you see that this bond is the glue that holds their organization together.

There is a lesson in this for leaders. Does your team seem to want to soak every nickel out of your organization? That might be a “you” problem not a them problem. When employees sacrifice salary for other things (winning culture, fulfillment, benefits) they are making a bet on someone other than themselves.

I have been a part of winning cultures where shared sacrifice for a winning goal meant that money was just the cherry on top. I have also been a part of cultures where money was THE thing to paste over the misery.

You might have “greedy” employees or you might have a culture problem. There may be somethings to learn from the Patriots in this regard.

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