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What’s in a Winning Team? The Perseverance of the New Orleans’​ Saints in 2021 Evolves around a Leader – Thank You Sean Peyton!

Vision. Effort. Determination. Perseverance. Trust. Respect. All of these factors help build a winning team. It sounds simple when you read it as a list, but looking at examples of success, whether it’s a sports team or business, we know several key factors contribute to a winning culture. 

What is “Team Culture”?

A team’s culture can be many things, and no two groups are made of the same things. A team’s culture can combine the leadership style of the executives or coaches with the organization’s vision, followed by goals for each individual. No matter what the culture is made of, it is foremost a community; The better the culture, the better the success. Culture drives EVERYTHING!

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A team is like a giant family, and my favorite one to think about as the perfect example is the New Orleans’ Saints. Like any other NFL or sports team, the Saints are a group of individuals selected to work and play together, not of their own volition, but because of their employer’s choice and vision. Each player comes from a different place with diverse backgrounds and perspectives and brings their own goals, beliefs, skills, personalities, and issues.

The Saints are known for their connection with one another, to the city, and their beloved fan base. But not every season has been a success for this team. Every culture has its challenges, some numerous, some large, and some small. For example, take this past year’s season for the Saints, which challenged the team in unbelievable ways. 

All Teams Face Adversity at Some Point

The 2021 – 2022 season was unlike any other for the Saints. They faced many unforeseen challenges and experienced new lows. To start, this was the first season in 16 years that quarterback Drew Brees didn’t take the field as the team’s leader. Even fans felt the absence of the player, who many considered the true heart and soul of the group. Drew was the Saints CEO, while Payton was its Chairman of the Board. They had a great bond. 

The season started with the New Orleans metro area facing Hurricane Ida. The storm displaced the Saints players for six weeks. The team found themselves in disruption living in Dallas for a month and a half. The result was that the Saints had the least amount of home games out of all the NFL teams in 2021.

Throughout the season, more challenges occurred. They started with a $100 million salary cap deficit that forced them to cut or let go of key players on both sides of the ball. Then COVID-19 forced several starters and coaches to the sideline for many games.  

Due to having so many players out on quarantine throughout the season, the Saints set a record for having 57 different starters in one season. The maximum number of starters in one season is typically much lower. They also set a record for being the first team in NFL history to win with three different quarterbacks playing four or more games. Even head coach, Sean Payton, was out for a game due to COVID reinfection. During one game, the team suffered their worst COVID outbreak; 42% of their team (and a ton of starters) were ruled out. Yet despite all the disruption, the team endured, adapted, and barely missed the playoffs.

But the Saints continued anyway because Saints’ players persevere. They always have. They are a family with trust and respect for each other. They have a selfless attitude. It’s in their hearts to play for each other and be the representative of the city they play for. Through any storm, they always get back up again and start anew. Former Saints’ player, Steve Gleason, is the perfect example of a team player who has a vision, is determined, and gives all his effort to persevere. He indeed possesses a “Give a Damn” attitude. 

Team Character 

Being a team player involves having character. It consists of thinking about others first and focusing on what is good for the entire team. To possess a “Give a Damn” attitude, you must first think of altruism. Team players honor their commitments to others, are willing to put in extra time, practice positivity in adverse situations, and work hard towards team goals. When people think about individuals who embody a “Give a Damn” attitude, Steve Gleason is at the top of the list. Gleason played for the Saints for eight years. No Saints fan will ever forget the punt he blocked against the Atlanta Falcons when the Superdome reopened for the first time on September 25, 2006, following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Gleason became the symbol of the city’s resilience in its rebuilding efforts during a turbulent time. 

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After his ALS diagnosis in 2011, Gleason was told he would not live more than five years. But his will and determination to live led him to fight with everything he faced down. Eleven years later, he’s still here, getting to watch his two children grow up and making significant progress in the ALS community to help others diagnosed with the disease to live a quality life. He has helped thousands suffering from ALS and other debilitating neuromuscular diseases using cutting-edge technology. He partnered with Microsoft to develop a program that uses eye movements to control devices such as wheelchairs, computer keyboards, and appliances. Since Team Gleason was founded, his foundation “has provided over $20 million in adventure, technology, equipment, and care services to over 20,000 people.” I am lucky enough to have met Gleason, and I am honored that he wrote the opening foreword to my book. 

Twenty percent of all book proceeds go to Team Gleason.

A Successful Team Drives A “Give a Damn” Attitude

In recent years, the Saints organization (from top to bottom and not only the players) has endured to play and work together like a team that enjoys each other’s company and thrives on one another’s success. It’s hard not to enjoy Alvin Kamara’s infectious smile and Demario Davis’s and Cam Jordan’s coordinated dances. The Saints have established themselves as a young, talented, bold, slightly cocky, and entirely united group with one goal – to give the game and the fans their all! It is all built on a positive and moral character. This team “Gives a Damn” and is successful whether they are playoff contenders, Superbowl finalists, or not. 

God bless Sean Payton and the leaders of the Saints organization for instilling and teaching us the GIVE A DAMN attitude that they have invested into their organization. It breeds a positive character and a happy environment. If you are on a team, take a minute to ask yourself if you want to have the same character of a team player like the Saints have in their organization? Do you give enough of a damn to have that kind of character? If you do, your chance of success is far greater than otherwise. We hope you do because we want to see you and your business persevere; and most of all, see you succeed. If you want to learn more about how you can build a successful team that revolves around a Give A Damn initiative, go to www.giveadamnbook.com or email me at mlewis@giveadamnbook.com.

A winning attitude evolves around a leader, so thank you, Sean Payton, for providing us with a model that we can implement for success and happiness. 

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