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Leadership Tips From the Gridiron

NFL quarterback Dan Fouts on motivating a team and building respect

LOS ANGELES -- Dan Fouts entered the National Football League in 1973 as a promising quarterback looking to raise the San Diego Chargers’ game. Despite a career of setting passing records, “the Chargers struggled for years,” he said during a funny and engaging keynote speech at CSP’sOutlook Leadership conference in Los Angeles.

It was through his efforts to get beyond those struggles that he learned the power of positivity and communication, which he shared with the audience of more than 300 retailers and suppliers at the conference.

“I’m not a negative person, but it happens to all of us,” he said. “It’s a lack of communication and the inability to get a point across.”

Thus, it was a pivotal moment for Fouts when, in 1978, the Chargers hired Don Coryell as head coach. “He was all about treating his players with respect,” Fouts said. And with his inspiration, Fouts and the Chargers went on to lead the NFL in passing yardage for six years in a row. Fouts also became the first player to throw for 4,000 yards in three consecutive seasons, eventually earning him a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “It was because of Coryell and his ability to motivate,” Fouts said.

Fouts never did earn a Super Bowl ring, but he did walk away from his 15-year career with tips to being a successful leader.

  1. Be passionate in what you do.
  2. Take pride in it.
  3. Prepare for every challenge.
  4. Always look for new ways to motivate your team and yourself.

Following his presentation, Fouts helped Winsight’s CARRE Foundation raise donations to help the Feed My Starving Children charity. A live auction of a signed football turned into two sales for $1,500 each and a third for $500, all funds going to the charity. Fouts even threw a donated ball from the general-session stage to the winning bidder in the audience, earning one of the loudest rounds of applause of the conference.

Next year’s Outlook Leadership conference will be held Aug. 11-14, 2019, at the Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C.

Photograph by W. Scott Mitchell

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