IIR Inc.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell takes global view after climbing corporate ladder to reach mountaintop

By John Ingoldsby

BOSTON, Massachusetts – NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has reached the mountaintop both literally and figuratively, and his view from the top is surely spectacular.

Professionally, after a 24-year career climbing the corporate ladder at the National Football League, Goodell reached the peak of his profession when he was elected Commissioner four years ago.

Personally, he trained rigorously to successfully scale the 14,411-foot summit of Mount Rainier 15 months ago as part of a group supporting United Way, an NFL partner for more than 35 years.

With the mountains behind him, the 51-year-old Commissioner is now crisscrossing the ocean with the “great American game of Football,” and London has become the league’s new world—one apparently worthy of further exploration.

In an exclusive interview at the NFL’s Fall Meeting in Boston in October 2009, Goodell stated in advance of the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers game before approximately 80,000 fans in London’s Wembley Stadium, “I am looking forward to the game in London. There is a lot of excitement, and our fans in the UK are excited about the match-up. I am always thrilled to be over in London.”

He is not alone, as John York, chairman of the league’s international committee and owner of the San Francisco 49ers (who will play the 2010 game against the Denver Broncos), will also attend. “I will be in London for the week’s events and the game itself, which will be the first time in 11 years that I have missed a regular season 49ers game,” he declared. “That shows our level of excitement as fan interest in the game has increased.”

These fond feelings are reciprocated across the pond, as the NFL said tickets sold out in a remarkable 30 minutes in what was only the third year for a regular season game at Wembley.

This successful international launch is just one of many initiatives for which the charismatic commissioner has become known, including his personal conduct policy for all players and league personnel.

As the leader of a league comprised of 32 diverse, powerful and wealthy NFL team owners, Mr. Goodell learned early to listen well. As the third of five sons to the late U.S. Senator Charles E. and Jean Goodell, being a good listener came naturally.

“I am a big believer in what I call the third alternative,” Goodell articulated thoughtfully. “You might come into something thinking this is the right solution, somebody else may think it is the “B” solution, and it turns out to be the third alternative because that is the better alternative. I do believe that a process is important to allow dialogue that will lead to a more constructive solution,” he added.

This team approach may trace back to his being a three-sport star in high school growing up near New York City, an area where he still resides with his wife Jane and two twin daughters. He graduated magna cum laude in 1981 from Washington & Jefferson College with a degree in economics, a perfect education to manage the NFL and its estimated annual revenue of $8 billion per year.

He appears to have learned his lessons well, describing the league’s management mantras as “staying on some very key fundamentals.” He expounded by adding, “There are 32 clubs and 32 owners, and they all have a say. We believe in transparency to make sure owners are informed about our decisions through us communicating—in fact over-communicating—with them about the challenges and opportunities ahead. The other fundamental I believe in is that I am never satisfied. I believe we can always do better. Even when we have success, I worry about the next challenge ahead. We do not take our success for granted, and there is no guarantee of success going forward. Whatever we do at the NFL has to reflect quality, and we have to be an innovator.”

To sharpen this cutting-edge approach, the commissioner has woven his own management mosaic, proclaiming, “the trick is to absorb people’s leadership and take that into your own thinking about how you want to lead and what’s important to you. Everyone’s going to have their own style and there are certain leadership skills that are right for a particular moment in a particular circumstance, and other skills that are right for a different moment.”

Those moments are many in his job, so he “listens to people to understand all the facts and provide clear direction. At some point in time, after you have had the right kind of dialogue, the right kind of solutions will develop.”

This devotion to dialogue was obvious at the Boston meeting, where Goodell presented a no-nonsense, all-business demeanor while presiding over three days of meetings run with military precision. He moved from meeting to meeting throughout each day like a man on a mission, clearly in command.

At the same time, he also comes across as honest and sincere, and is particularly engaging with the armada of media covering the league, no doubt a reflection of his time practicing public relations for the NFL. He is outgoing and friendly, and even stopped to introduce himself to this writer during the opening night reception.

It is precisely this gregarious and inquisitive quality that Goodell uses to maximize his trademark thought process of seeing the big picture from start to finish. As he learned at the top of Mount Rainier, “You can sometimes reach the summit, but you must think about how you get down because it is not a successful climb until you reach the bottom.”

quarterly financial results news releases, employee newsletters, speaker training, annual meeting, train designated in-house employee, telephone set-up, vendor selection, internal communication policies, SEC filings
Click here to contact IIR Sports