Season 2: The Coaches:
Growing up as an athlete, Dan Quinn realized early on that he wanted to pay back the coaches from his playing days by becoming a coach himself and passing on the lessons they instilled in him. Coach Quinn made the choices he had to in his life to become successful and reach his ultimate dream of coaching in the NFL. But he didn’t get there alone, and he had a lot of influences along the way.
In this week’s interview, the Atlanta Falcons head coach and I sit down and discuss how his dream of teaching elementary school children and coaching high school football evolved into what would eventually become success as a head coach in the NFL. We talk about how working for coaching legends like Jimmye Laycock, Bill Walsh, Nick Saban, and Pete Carroll have shaped him and his philosophies of how to act as the head of a team and organization.
Having mental toughness and an immense work ethic are two of the key qualities Quinn believes has led to him achieving the success that he has enjoyed. He has a passion for passing down core values to his coaching staff and players and is eager to share. We talk about how he has evolved as a leader, how everyone in an organization plays their own important role, where he finds his joy amid the everyday grind of NFL, what are characteristics he looks for in assistant coaches, and what advice he’d like young coaches to know. He even gives us his current outlook of whether or not an NFL season is going to happen this fall.
The interview with Coach Quinn speaks to the many motivational ideals that people can use on the football field or in the board room. This week’s conversation should not be missed.
LESSONS FOR LEADERS
There are people who have a singular mindset versus a team-focused mindset and that is a good thing. You can still think as a part of a team but keep yourself to a higher standard if you feel you didn’t do your part.
Set goals and don’t be afraid to make sacrifices for them. If you can go for it, you should.
Be authentic. People can tell when other people aren’t being real.
Be consistent with everyone in the organization.
As the top leader, you need to coach those around you so that the message gets passed down to the rest of the staff.
However high the standard you set, you better live up to it.
Once you know what you have when it pertains to your employees or group, you need to figure out how to motivate each of them. There isn’t one way that works for everyone.
Every person in the organization wants to know where they stand. It’s up to you to communicate that to them.
You have to be willing to adjust as the landscape in business is ever changing.
Learn from your losses. You’re not going to win them all.
Dan Quinn Career Accomplishments
Football and track and field captain at Salisbury State University
Assistant coach in college football for nine years
Assistant coach in NFL for 12 years
Head coach of Atlanta Falcons since 2015
Super Bowl champion in 2013 as defensive coordinator for Seattle Seahawks
Led Falcons to Super Bowl LI
Key Conversation Takeaways
1:05 - Dan Quinn’s childhood and his coaching background
7:50 - How his coaching journey has developed
13:10 - How Nick Saban and Pete Carroll helped him grow his coaching style and how their coaching mindsets compared
21:15 - What attributes make assistant coaches valuable
24:54 - How Coach Quinn has evolved as a leader
28:05 - The reach of a head coach in an organization and how every person in an organization is important
33:02 - What are the differences between coaching in college vs. the NFL
37:15 - Talking to players about their responsibilities for a season
41:58 - Where he finds his joy from coaching
45:14 - Where he has evolved the most as a coach from the beginning of his career to now
50:43 - What advice he gives to young coaches
54:21 - Will there be football this fall
2:23 – “When I got to college and being around some of the college coaches, I really caught the bug to say ‘I’d like to do this with my life, devote my time to others, and help them get there.’”
3:59 – “…Now that I’m much older, I think what I’ve learned most about my life is that I like to do hard things with a group of people. The fighting. The games. Standing right on the edge with a two-minute drill with 1:15 and you’re down by four and you gotta go get a score. Those are the moments as a coach. When you win those opportunities as a group, it’s as fun as you can imagine.”
8:31 – “I really had a sense that I wanted to coach because of all the people that had invested so much time in me from baseball, football, track in high school, I did hockey too. I just connected with that mindset. I loved competing.”
10:30 – “Some of your best competitive moments are when you have to bet on yourself…”
13:28 – “Any coach, who has been around enough to know, knows you better be authentic to yourself because, if you’re trying to be somebody different, one thing about athletes…they have pretty good perceptions. They can see through when somebody is being real or not.”
15:30 – “People are going to look at you when you take an L and how are you going to respond to that and people are going to look at you when things are going right. Really being consistent was this underlying theme that got hammered home for me.”
18:59 – “The first job as a head coach is to coach the coaches and make sure that the message is getting down the players. For Nick (Saban), that came through staff meetings and film together. That was his way. For Pete (Carroll), it was maybe don’t spend as much time together as a big staff but he would be back and forth between the two (groups asking), ‘What’s the attitude? What’s the mindset?’ It was our job (ass assistants) to build on that.
21:47 – “You have to pick the right team and the right people to help get you where you want to go because, when you pick the wrong people, it can definitely derail your vision.”
23:17 – “Everybody has to recognize this is the only way we’re going to go about it. It’s not my way or your way. This is our way of how we want to go about it. “
23:49 – “However high is the standard you set, you better be the one as the leader to live up to it because if you don’t, you’ve just established a new standard.”
29:30 – “It’s important to let every player know that your role in this (organization) is going to help us win a championship this year.”
35:13 – “Doing something very hard together at the highest level does build lifelong connections.”
40:13 – “Having love in the locker room first carries onto the field and you can’t quantify it but you can see it.”
42:11 – “The happiest and most joyful time is accomplishing something really hard together.”
47:55 – “One of the best parts of being a coach is that the learning never stops. You keep growing and keep changing.”
50:50 – “In coaching, it will take a lot of mental toughness and you only are going to know where you’re at when you get tested.”
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