Whether he’s playing for New England, Tampa Bay or the planet Mars, there’s much everyone can take from the rise and ascendancy of this legend, and not just in the world of sport. Here are seven TB12 career management tips you can add to your playbook:
- It doesn’t matter where you start off, it’s where you finish that counts. Tom Brady played college football at the University of Michigan from 1995 to 1999. While he was All-Big Ten honorable mention and Team Captain in his senior year, he wasn’t selected in the NFL draft until the 6th round!
I have many clients who express concern about a lack of degree, an unimpressive or irrelevant first job and other aspects of their past they’re afraid may prevent them from achieving career success. Here’s the deal: while your past can help shape your future, it doesn’t have to determine it. Find a way to contextualize where you’ve come from and use it as a steppingstone to get where you want to go.
- Your body may not be a temple, but it’s the only piece you’ve got on the board. One of the reasons Tom Brady’s NFL career has lasted for 20 years is his absolute commitment to taking care of himself. While it’s all good to talk about “attitude” and “mental toughness,” TB knows that high performance starts at the level of the body.
Since your “game” is probably not pro football, you don’t have to be slavish to Tom’s diet and exercise regime, but the better condition your physical body is in, the better your mental and emotional states will be. The pandemic has brought additional challenges, with some people gaining a “Covid 19” and others over relying on alcohol to manage stress. If you’re concerned about your career in these uncertain times, make sure you’re in as good shape as possible. Not only will you look better in networking meetings and interviews (even if web-based), but you’ll feel better overall.
- Create a compelling critical vison as a benchmark. In a recent interview about greatness with former Dallas Cowboys QB (and brilliant sports commentator) Tony Romo, Brady shared that he carries in his mind a vision of “the perfect pass.” Since he knows what that looks and feels like, he can use that vision to inspire his practice and assess his performance on an ongoing basis.
Note that this process does not entail judging himself so harshly that it’s disempowering; TB is a master of shaking his head at any blunders, then shaking them off so he can refocus on the next play. All careers are plagued with goofs and gaffs, some with “disasters,” but dwelling on them serves no one. If you’ve blown it, learn from your mistakes, “fail forward” and incorporate the learnings as you keep going.
- Surround yourself with talent. The Patriots’ Three B’s of Brady, Belichick and Bob Kraft worked together so well because of their shared commitment to building the best team possible (given the constraints of things like salary caps). Belichick made a number of acquisitions that raised eyebrows at the time like Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson back in the day and more recently Cam Newton. Kraft stood by his Coach, and while not every pick was a success, some like Randy Moss and Tom Brady helped propel the Patriots to stratospheric results and longevity as champions.
Brady convinced Tampa Bay Head Coach Bruce Ariens to let him adopt this recruiting strategy. He enticed former Pats Tight End Rob Gronkowski out of retirement and helped the Bucs snap up Leonard Fournette, recently waived by the Jacksonville Jaguars (despite 3 seasons in which he ran for 2,631 yards, added 134 receptions for 1,009 yards and scored 19 total touchdowns–go figure!) Notably, Brady literally rehabilitated former teammate Antonio Brown, the troubled Wide Receiver who had been released by the Pats in 2019. Yesterday’s Super Bowl proved the wisdom of recruiting well: Gronk scored 2 touchdowns, AB caught a touchdown in his first Super Bowl appearance in a decade and Running Back Fournette had four catches for 46 yards and rushed for 89 yards and a touchdown during the 31–9 win.
Watch and learn: when you are in a leadership position, use your leverage to bring on other talent as committed to you and your vision as you are to their potential. That’s how you can score big, even in Year One with a new “franchise.”
- Pick your best spot and then bloom where you’re planted. Brady played 20 seasons with the Patriots, performing miracle after miracle for Bill Belichick, the coach who initially drafted him. When Brady become a free agent last year, he considered several options, eventually selecting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for reasons personal as well as professional. While Brady saw a good fit and a lot of potential in the Bucs, his wife–the even-more-successful Brazilian super model Gisele Bundchen–made it clear that after all those years in frigid New England, she wanted warm weather. Despite two decades of TB12 sporting the Pats red and blue, it didn’t take long to see Tom was “all in” with Tampa Bay, assisted by teammate Wide Receiver Chris Godwin, who graciously ceded his uniform number to Tom. TB12 produced a Super Bowl win for TB21, now known as “Tompa Bay.”
If you’ve been a long time with one “team,” you may have misgivings about the advisability or even possibility about moving on. As a coach, I’ve seen many people who “grew up” in one organization leery about “leaving home” until they realized the benefits of fresh start where they are perceived with new eyes that view them as they are today and can be in the future.
- Raise up those around you. Brady gets a lot of flak from those who love to denigrate him, but he rises above the fray, even graciously reading some really “mean tweets” aloud on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Embodying the Pats’ simple motto of “do your job,” TB is all about getting down to business himself and inspiring his teammates to do the same. Winning games–especially the Super Bowl–requires each individual to perform at their best so as to create masterful synergy on the team as a whole.
No matter what you think of him personally, Tom Brady is a great team leader (there’s no “I” in Tom Brady!). Ariens wisely allows Tom to call plays at the line (sorry about that playoff game, Aaron Rodgers) and coach the team on and off the field. The week before SBLV, Brady reportedly Tweeted teammates on a daily basis, each player receiving the same initial message “We’re going to win this game” along with specific coaching messages, like reminding Fournette that Kansas City ranked 31st in the league in yards allowed after hits, meaning they were “soft.” He advised Fournette “put your shoulder down and break them” and Fournette obliged.
As a leader, you can do the same by recognizing that your role as a leader is to inspire confidence in each member of the team and the team as a whole. Offer reinforcement of the behaviours you want to see more of and redirect those you want to see shift. You’ll note that so-called “constructive criticism” plays no role in this approach, as criticism is inherently negative, past-focused and demoralizing.
- Finally, to whatever extent you can, do what you love. In the interview with Tony Romo, Brady indicated that he felt privileged to do the work he is most passionate about. He said, “For me, I’ve always tried to be very consistent and dependable and knowing that the team was going to get a certain level of performance out of me every day…You gotta show up every day with a great attitude and a great commitment to winning. There are really no days off…If you want to be truly great, you gotta bring it every day…I’m very fortunate in that I love the sport so it allows me to work, I wouldn’t say work hard, but work fun.”
Someone once noted that half of life is just showing up, so start there. Then find a way to love some aspect of what you do while looking for what you truly love. That will make your present tolerable and infuse your search for better with purpose and commitment v. bitterness and frustration.
At the end of the day, Super Bowl LV was a demonstration that age and experience paired with an impeccable work ethic can triumph over youth and prodigious talent. If you are on the far side of what you’ve believed is your “prime,” take a leaf from Tom Brady’s book and do what you can to get back into the game. It’s never too late to be what you might have been (or what you were once but lost. I’m looking at you Tiger Woods, coming back to win the Master’s at age 43!) And if you need help, let’s talk. After all, now that there’s been a female Ref at the Super Bowl, can a Coach be far behind?!
Day Merrill, M.A., is the founding Partner and Career/Executive Coach for 2BDetermined. She is a 30-year career services professional with expertise coaching individuals and teams on a range of career and work-related topics as well as consulting to organizations in Canada and the U.S. on their workforce development needs. Day holds a B.A. from Connecticut College, a Master of Arts from Wesleyan University and has completed Coach U’s coach certification training.