The NFL Patriots – A Team-Based Culture That Survives Employee Turnover…

Kris Dunn Culture, Leadership, Onboarding, Salary Caps, Sourcing, Succession Planning

So the Patriots did just enough over the weekend to get past the Giants and become the first pro football team in history to go 16-0.   You can hate them, as many pro football fans do.  You can’t deny their success. 

Here’s another thing Patriots haters can’t deny – the Patriots have one the strongest "team-first" culturesMoss_mooning in all of professional sports.  These aren’t the Yankees or the Red Sox, writing checks to ensure they have the best talent in the league.  No, this is the NFL, with a hard salary cap.  That means that on a year to year basis, around 30% of your roster turns over and you have to start from scratch. 

That’s right – the Patriots are one of the biggest employement brands in professional sports, and they have 30% turnover.  That’s what a hard salary cap does – just like in your business when you decide not to match that stellar offer that an average employee has to work elsewhere, the Patriots have to decide the best way to divy up fixed payroll, meaning a lot of players shuffle in and out on an annual basis.

But the team-first culture of the Patriots survives.  The Patriots seem to understand that they need to keep the cultural pillars that have been around for all 3 world championships – the Vrabels, the Bruskis, the Faulks, etc.   This talent performs on the field, but more importantly epitomizes the team concept and more than likely leads in the locker room, where dissension usually begins.

The Patriots are also incredibly fortunate to have a megastar in Tom Brady, who is the poster child for world class performance laced with humility.   Has this guy ever missed a chance in interviews to talk about his teammates in interviews?

We could spend all day breaking down the Patriots and their success, but to close I offer up these two examples of the strength of the team culture in New England:

1.  The Patriots have successfully assimulated Randy Moss into their culture.  Not familar with Moss?  He’s the guy in the picture above doing a simulated "mooning" of an opposing crowd after a touchdown in the playoffs a few years ago.  Widely seen as a "me-first" cancer, he joined the Patriots this season and set the single season touchdown record for a wide-receiver.  More importantly, he’s been performing with ZERO controversy, outlandishness, etc. 

2.  Team Introductions – I’m from Missouri, which means I’m a Rams fan.  A few years ago, the Rams were hot and won the Super Bowl with the greatest show on turf (lots of passing and invdidual stars – Kurt Warner, Mashall Faulk, etc.).  Next year they faced an upstart Patriots team in early stages of the culture they have built.  I’m wathcing the player introductions, and the Rams go first – introducing the starters for their incredible offense.  The Patriots started their introductions, and instead of shining the lights on their individual players for a little recogniton and glory – they came out as a team and ran through the tunnel 45 strong.

I thought to myself – "That felt different".

Game over – it was the start of the New England dynasty.

Love them or hate them, the Patriots are different.  Not different like the Yankees, different like when Jerry McQuire hugs Rod in the tunnel after his breakout game.  You watch, and you wish your workplace could be like that.   The sense of team and selflessness while still getting great results.

Here’s hoping you get a taste of that type of culture in 2008.

Kris Dunn
Kris Dunn is a Partner and CHRO at Kinetix, a national RPO firm for growth companies headquartered in Atlanta. He's also the founder Fistful of Talent (founded in 2008) and The HR Capitalist (2007) – and has written over 70 feature columns at Workforce Management magazine. Prior to his investment at Kinetix, Kris served in HR leadership roles at DAXKO, Charter and Cingular. In his spare time, KD hits the road as a speaker and gives the world what it needs – pop culture references linked to Human Capital street smarts.