Episode 55 – Project Management: Leading Teams On and Off the Field

Episode #55
Original Air Date: 04.20.2018

35 minutes

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Our Guest This Episode: Dr. Tommy Jackson

Former NFL defensive tackle, Dr. Tommy Jackson, joins the cast of Manage This to discuss similarities between a sports team and a project team.

Currently Director of Advising for University College at Kennesaw State University, Jackson holds five degrees, received an All-SEC honor both in football and academics, played for two NFL teams, and was nominated for an Emmy Award as a television sports analyst. While in the NFL, Jackson was actively involved in community projects as he gave his time assisting at-risk youth, volunteering at various charities and ministries in Atlanta and Kansas City, Mo. In March of 2009, Jackson founded and now serves as president and chief executive officer of The TJ Jackson Foundation. Dedicated to helping and inspiring youth, Jackson has a long history of giving keynote speeches to youth groups, the Special Olympics, Boys and Girls Clubs and church organizations.

In this podcast, Jackson discusses the importance of realizing your role on a team, servant leadership, and the value of having high emotional intelligence whether you’re on the field or in the office. Discover how he faces obstacles head-on (sometimes literally!) to be the leader his team needs him to be--both on and off the field.

Favorite Quotes from Our Talk:

"I would just think about this from a football standpoint.  So for linebackers, linebackers always need a defensive tackle to basically cause disruption, jam those offensive linemen, remove people from them so they can make plays; right?  It’s the same thing being a project manager.  Think about it.  What are we here to do?  We’re here to remove those obstacles.  We’re here to make life easier for our team because ultimately, by being the leader, you’re basically serving.  That’s what you’re here to do; right?  And so for linemen, you know, that’s really what we do.  We lead by serving.  It’s true servant leadership."

- Dr. Tommy Jackson

"What do you do when you have those people who are amazing performers, and you know that putting them in this position every time – for instance, I have a guy who likes to rush off the edge.  He’s a great pass rusher.  He’s probably not going to play the run well.  So guess what?  If I’ve got guys who do things really well, keep them in that place, keep encouraging them, and they’re going to help you win every time."

- Dr. Tommy Jackson

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NICK WALKER:  Welcome to Manage This, the podcast by project managers for project managers.  Every other week we meet in an effort to get to the heart of what matters to you as a professional project manager.  We do that by talking with some of the leaders in the field, sharing their successes and sometimes their failures.  And we dig deep to find out what motivates them to be at their best.

I’m your host, Nick Walker, and with me are two guys who are always at their best, Andy Crowe and Bill Yates.  Andy, our guest in the studio today will be familiar to football fans, but he’s actually moved on to a different field.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah, and we’ve got a lot of energy in this small podcast studio today, though.  We’re kind of bursting at the seams.  It’s a good thing.

NICK WALKER:  But you know it’s not every day that we can refer to a former NFL star as “Doctor.”

TOMMY JACKSON:  Ah, that’s what I’m told, that’s what I’m told.

NICK WALKER:  Yeah, but Dr. Tommy Jackson was a defensive tackle for the Atlanta Falcons and the Kansas City Chiefs.  He now serves as the Director of Advising for University College at Kennesaw State University.  Jackson holds five university degrees.  Count ‘em:  a Master of Business Administration, Master of Public Administration, Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration, a Master of Education, and a Doctorate in Philosophy and Adult Education with Higher Education Administration.

TOMMY JACKSON:  A lot of “tions,” right.

NICK WALKER:  Yeah, yeah.

ANDY CROWE:  That’s a long business card, my friend.

BILL YATES:  It’s typical for a football player.

NICK WALKER:  Of course, yeah, exactly.

TOMMY JACKSON:  That’s why you just put “T.J.” on the card.  It makes it so much easier.

NICK WALKER:  Well, you know, as a student at Auburn University, Dr. Jackson received an All-SEC honor both in football and in academics.  As a television sports analyst, he’s been nominated for an Emmy Award.  And in between his work in education he was also the program director for the at-risk student program within the city school system in Opelika, Alabama, his hometown.  Dr. Tommy Jackson, it’s a pleasure to have you with us here on Manage This.

TOMMY JACKSON:  I am so glad to be here. Thank you for having me. Truly, truly.

NICK WALKER:  You had a stellar career in football, both at Auburn University and for two NFL teams.  And in that career you developed, should I say, a reputation for destroying your opponents on the field.  But also you have a passion for building people up.


NICK WALKER:  And helping them succeed in life.  How do you sort of reconcile those two extremes?

TOMMY JACKSON:  You know, because it’s very funny, you have to basically have the same mentality for both, whether you know that or not; right?  And people are like, wait, what do you mean?  Hold on, I’m going to explain it.

No, working with people is something that takes a lot of – it takes having a passion for it.  And that’s something I’ve always had, whether it was playing football, whether it was working with students, you have to have a great passion for it because in order for you to be successful at anything, you have to have a high degree of passion, and you have to have a high degree of education.  And that doesn’t necessarily mean degrees from that standpoint.  But it’s like having an understanding of what you’re doing.  That’s what really – that’s what buys your credibility.  People are able to say, “Ah, he’s done it.  He’ll do it.”  And these are just things I’ve done over life.

So, yeah, I enjoy football that way.  I was always in the classroom.  I was always looking at video.  I was always studying my opponent.  And it’s the same thing you do when you work at a university or you work in the private sector.  You’re going to study.  You’re going to study your opponents.  You’re going to study everything you do.

BILL YATES:  Can we call you Tommy?

TOMMY JACKSON:  Yes.  I’m glad you said that.

BILL YATES:  Okay.  Dr. Jackson, Tommy…


BILL YATES:  One of the things that, when I think about the role that you played, you focused on as a young man, both, you know, in your football career, you were the obstacle; right?


BILL YATES:  You were the pain inflictor.  You were the tip of the spear.  You were in the role of a defensive tackle or a nose guard.


BILL YATES:  So you were a disruptor.

TOMMY JACKSON:  Have to be.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  So it’s funny, when I think about the experiences that you’ve had there, you can relate to a project manager because many times project managers are trying to figure out how to manage that type of behavior.

TOMMY JACKSON:  Absolutely.

BILL YATES:  So I want to hear what experience you have as having been an obstacle for PMs who maybe have obstacles now on their team that they’re trying to deal with.

TOMMY JACKSON:  You know, it’s amazing.  I think about the role of being a defensive tackle; right?  So what people don’t understand about linemen is this.  Linemen truly lead by getting rid of obstacles or removing things for people.  So, yes, I may have been an obstacle for my opposition.  But for my team, oh, man, I’m the guy that removes those obstacles, man.  And that’s the way you have to approach things.

So I would just think about this from a football standpoint.  So for linebackers, linebackers always need a defensive tackle to basically cause disruption, jam those offensive linemen, remove people from them so they can make plays; right?  It’s the same thing being a project manager.  Think about it.  What are we here to do?  We’re here to remove those obstacles.  We’re here to make life easier for our team because ultimately, by being the leader, you’re basically serving.  That’s what you’re here to do; right?  And so for linemen, you know, that’s really what we do.  We lead by serving.  It’s true servant leadership.

ANDY CROWE:  You know, Tommy, one of the things that we do, we have a weekly standup meeting here.  A lot of organizations do daily standup meetings.  But in that standup meeting, everybody gets around, and we talk about three things:  What did you do since our last meeting?  What have you got planned for your next work period?  And what obstacles are you encountering?  And we’re really interested in that aspect because then the project manager or the coach on the team can get out there and try and remove as many obstacles as they can.  So it’s similar to that role that you played.  It’s interesting.


ANDY CROWE:  Just real quickly, I’m curious.  When you’re studying tapes, what are two or three things that you look for that you’re watching in your opponent?  What are you looking at?  What are you trying to identify?

TOMMY JACKSON:  Wow.  So I’m glad you said that.  It’s so amazing, I was about to go into that.  You look for tendencies, one, because tendencies are so important; right?  And that’s in any industry.  That’s in sports.  That’s in the private sector.  That’s if you’re working in marketing.  It’s anywhere.  The financial services industry, it does not matter.  You look for tendencies because, when you understand a tendency, you can see where things are moving to, where things are going.  I remember hearing Wayne Gretzky say it’s not the guy who follows the puck, but it’s about where the puck is going.


ANDY CROWE:  You skate where it’s going to be.

TOMMY JACKSON:  That’s what those tendencies help you do.  They help you figure out how to, not follow, but how to get ahead.  A case in point, like in football, if you saw a guy, everybody tells this one, like, oh, he has white knuckles, you know he’s coming off the ball.  Actually, people heard about that, so people started faking that out.  So you would get, you know, you sit back.  He’s all, let me get ready.  No.  People like to show certain things, right, in order for you to kind of fall into it so that they can basically get one up on you; right?  But it’s about being smart enough to understand how some of those tendencies, they do work for you.  But you’re also smart enough to see, one, where the industry’s going; and, two, what are you going to do once you get where you’re going?  It’s amazing in football because people don’t realize how technical it is.


TOMMY JACKSON:  But it’s just like the business world.  Like for instance, if I know for a fact that I have a performer on my team, and there are certain things that they’re not great at; right?  Why would I put that person in that position to continue to fail over and over and over again?  That’s bad coaching on me, and it’s being a bad teammate for me; right?

So what do you do when you have those people who are amazing performers, and you know that putting them in this position every time – for instance, I have a guy who likes to rush off the edge.  He’s a great pass rusher.  He’s probably not going to play the run well.  So guess what?  If I’ve got guys who do things really well, keep them in that place, keep encouraging them, and they’re going to help you win every time.

ANDY CROWE:  I like that.

TOMMY JACKSON:  Every time.

BILL YATES:  Mm-hmm, that’s good.

ANDY CROWE:  You know, thinking back to another great sports figure, Muhammad Ali, that was the thing that he would do that was so confusing.  He would get people assuming he was going to do a certain thing, and then his motions would confuse his opponents to no end, his footwork and his handwork.  You wouldn’t know what he was going to do next.  So he kept people off balance that way.  We’ve had a few team members do that from time to time, keep us off balance.  We don’t know what they’re going to do next.

BILL YATES:  They’re playing rope-a-dope.

TOMMY JACKSON:  Yeah.  Now, remember, we’re dealing with people.  And that’s what I think people must realize when managing.  As long as people are involved, you’re going to have those very tricky situations.  And that doesn’t necessarily mean that this person’s wrong, this person’s right, this is bad, this is wrong.  No, no, no.  What happens is you just have to understand your opponent sometimes.  And I’m not saying that your team is your opponent.  But, no, understand what’s going on out there and how that affects your team, how you’re going to study for that, study for your opponent.  And that’s going to help your team win.  That’s really what you’re here to do. You’re here to put your team in the best position possible to go out and perform at their absolute best.  And that means being aware of what’s going on.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  One of the things that you said, as a defensive lineman, one of your roles was to free up your linebackers.

TOMMY JACKSON:  That’s right.

BILL YATES:  Because they tend to have the most tackles on the team.

TOMMY JACKSON:  Absolutely.

BILL YATES:  So then they’re kind of the stars; right?

TOMMY JACKSON:  Absolutely.

BILL YATES:  They’re the defensive stars.  They’re the ones that get more of the press.  After the games, that’s where the reporters go.

TOMMY JACKSON:  That’s right.

BILL YATES:  They want to talk to them.  How do you reconcile that, especially when you’re at the NFL level?  That way all of you guys are superstars.  So how do you accept the role of, okay, I’m okay with this role on my team?

TOMMY JACKSON:  That’s right.  You know, that’s a great question.  And here’s the funny part about it.  When you are mature in your thinking, right, you realize that everybody has a role to play.  And that’s the thing about teams.  It’s about loving your role and understanding how that helps the ultimate goal.  Right?  So for a project manager, understand that you’re not going to be able to play every role on your team and be okay with that.  And not only be okay with that, perfect your role.  Like for me the reason why I was good at playing defensive tackle is because I enjoy – I took great pride in destroying offensive linemen.  I took great pride in that; right?  I took great pride in that.

And so I laugh because my linebacker, he actually currently coaches for Auburn University now.  He coaches the linebackers.  But he weighed about 205 pounds.  And at the time I weighed 305 pounds.  Hundred-pound difference; right?  Why would I let another 300-pounder press my guy?  I wouldn’t do that.  I took great pride enforcing or putting, basically imposing my will on those individuals to let this guy go in because I knew by him winning it was ultimately going to free me up, too.

So what I think people must do, especially project managers, is realize that everybody has their role.  And if we love the role we play, wow, man, look how well we’ll do as a team.  We’ll do great things together.  So don’t lament for when, you know, you’re not getting the praise or angry about the things in which, you know, that aren’t happening for you, but notice a team effort.  And everybody gets their praise.  They will.

BILL YATES:  Because the team wins.

TOMMY JACKSON:  The team wins.  At the end of the day, if we all got the win, guess what?  Everybody got praise.

NICK WALKER:  How do you instill that, though, in the rest of your team members in a project management situation?  I just really love your exuberance in this.  But how do you translate that?  How do you plant that in others?

TOMMY JACKSON:  So the good part about, I would say, is having a high EQ.  We always talk about IQ, but EQ is so important.  Here’s why.  You’re going to get a feel for your team.  You’re going to get a feel for those people who may need a little more encouragement, from those people who don’t want to be encouraged, who literally say, let me put my nose down and do my job.  Don’t you bother me; right?  And if you know that that’s the kind of person that you’re dealing with, allow that.

So first of all, it’s about being in a place where you understand who you’re dealing with and be okay to manage people differently because not all people should be managed the same.  That doesn’t make sense; right?  So once you have a high EQ, understanding who you’re managing.  And then, when you allow that person to grow and flourish within themselves, they’re going to trust you.  They’re going to trust your lead.  So if they see me exemplifying those things which I’m asking them to do, guess what?  They’re going to do it, too.  And the reason why is because they say, “Hey, he’ll do it.”  All right?  “Since he’ll do it, I can do it.”  And that’s the same thing about being a lineman that I love because about being a lineman, people could talk about or say whatever they want to.  We bang every play; right?

ANDY CROWE:  Right, right.

TOMMY JACKSON:  That’s the thing about being a project manager.  You have to bang every play.

ANDY CROWE:  It’s true.

TOMMY JACKSON:  You have to.

ANDY CROWE:  So there’s a concept that’s come up and come into prominence over the last couple of decades called Agile project management.  Don’t know if you’re familiar with it.  But Agile is this idea that they really emphasize team to the point that they strongly deemphasize the individual.  So now it becomes all about the team.  There’s very little recognition of individuals.  You make commitments as a team.  You do work as a team.  It’s reported as a team.  And it’s not one superstar, you know.

TOMMY JACKSON:  That’s right.

ANDY CROWE:  So it’s an interesting way of doing it that really pushes this idea of performance as a team.

TOMMY JACKSON:  Absolutely.  To me, that’s the smartest way to lead, in my opinion, because that is tried and true.  Think about United States military.  You know, I laugh, and I tell people all the time, though the media may say this guy’s a superstar in football, or this guy’s that, bet if you asked in that locker room, it’s one unit; right? And that to me, when you talk about that, being team oriented, that is the most important way, always, to me, to push a team forward.  It’s all about us.  It’s not about me.  It’s not about you, him, her, it.  It’s we.

BILL YATES:  So this sounds like servant leadership to me.

TOMMY JACKSON:  Absolutely.

BILL YATES:  So what does servant leadership mean to you, Tommy?

TOMMY JACKSON:  The greatest among you will be a servant.  That’s exactly what it means to me.  And so what I mean by that is, if we are fighting to serve one another, if we are fighting to give the advantage to our team members, everybody seems to be working for each other as opposed to one person.  And that to me is how you achieve those goals.  So that’s totally what it means to me.  It’s about truly being willing to go out there, put yourself on the line.  Go out there and do everything you can to get the victory for the group.  And it’s not about patting yourself on the back.  It’s not about just pat one or two people on the back.  When we hug, it’s a group hug.  It’s a joke when I say that.  But really, if we hug, we’re going to do a group hug.  We’re going to do this together.  So, yeah, that’s important, man.

BILL YATES:  That’s good.  And you’ve seen coaches, again, back to the field in your career as a football player, you’ve seen coaches who’ve done that really well, maybe some who have not.  What are some differences in their leadership style that you go, okay, that works?

TOMMY JACKSON:  Oh, you know, it’s funny.  You can see how great a coach is.  And people think this is elementary, what I’m about to say.  But it kind of is.  Look at their record.  Look at their winning record.  Like, you know, people always talk about the Patriots and the Patriot way; right?  All they’re saying is nobody is above the team.  That’s it.  That’s literally all they’re saying.  The University of Alabama, why do they always win?  Eww, I cannot believe I said that.  However, big team, little me.  Big team, little me.  Right?  Even when I was at Auburn when we did win the SEC, and I think my class is the most winningest class or second most winningest class, is because we truly did have a “we” spirit.  Nobody cared who got the praise.  All we wanted to line up and go kick your tail.  That’s exactly what we wanted to do.  And we wanted to do it as a group.  And that was the best way to win.

ANDY CROWE:  Tommy, in the spirit of that, let me ask you, put you on the spot and ask you a question.  If you had to think of one coach in your entire life, your whole life, not just your career, who was the one standout coach you played under and why?

TOMMY JACKSON:  So I have to answer this with two coaches for a reason, and I think you’ll understand why once I tell you.  So I’ve got to say my high school head football coach, Coach Spence McCracken, because now he is an Alabama Hall of Fame coach, you know, in the state of Alabama.  High school football coach, won a few state championships when he was at Robert E. Lee.  But that is a coach who showed me how to lead.  That is a coach who showed me basically how to be a man.  You know, not to go too deep, but when you’re a kid like I was, you grow up, you know, single-parent household, you look for those male figures.  You look for people to stand out and show you what it means to be a man of your word and work hard.  That was him.  He did that for a lot of us.

And we still call him Pops to this day, you know, he’s Pops.  And the reason why he is such a great leader is because the things in which we’ve talked about over this time, he exuded those things on a regular basis.  Like this is how he lives.  He is all about “big us, little me.”  He cares nothing about the individual.  I could go out and crush people.  I remember one day, man, I had like 21 tackles.  I’m a defensive tackle, man.  That is huge; right?  You don’t get tackles like that.

And so he used to post the numbers outside, you know, on the board.  So I’m up there.  I was feeling myself.  I was in high school, of course.  He heard me saying it.  “Oh.  So you think you’re good now, huh?”  He snatches those stats off the board.  “Nobody’ll see your stats again.  That’s right.”  Wow.  And I was, you know, and I’m thinking to myself, really?  But it taught me something.


TOMMY JACKSON:  It’s not about personal accomplishments, man.  You could sit and do that all day long, but it doesn’t help push the team forward.  And once he did that, I learned a very valuable lesson that day.  It’s always about who we are, not who I am.  And that man is one of the greatest leaders I’ve ever, ever seen.  And people still say that to this day.  There are several coaches that have coached for him that are coaching in other places.  That’s because of that leadership.  And then I’ve got to throw Coach Yoxall in there.  He was a strength and conditioning coach at Auburn University.  And the reason why I have to say that is this.  Never have I in my life seen that, I mean, the most consistent leader I’ve ever, ever seen.  You’re not going to shake him.  No circumstance will shake him.  He’s not going to change his mind.  He is who he is, and that is it.

And he taught us all about being men of our words.  If I say it, I’m going to do it, and that is that.  And every man who’s ever, ever been coached by that man, we all say that same thought.  We all have that same thought.  It’s along that same vein because Kevin Yoxall has to be by far the most consistent leader in the history of this world.  I know people say, oh, you don’t know.  Trust me, if you knew him, you would.  If he says you’re going to run after practice, you’re running after practice.  And he don’t care if you destroy people; right?  You’re still running because you were a minute late.  He doesn’t play it.  You’re going to show up on time, you’re going to be professional, and you’re going to come here to work.  That’s what I learned from that man.

BILL YATES:  I’m so glad you asked him that, Andy.  I think the project managers who are thinking about what kind of legacy of leadership do I want to be known for, man, those are such powerful words.  That’s great.

TOMMY JACKSON:  And I’m telling you, it travels beyond just working with your team here, man.  That’s at home.  That’s out in your life.  They laugh at me because I’m always, like, 15 minutes early for meetings and stuff.  They’re like, why are you always like that?  Because I used to have a fear of running after practice.  That’s why.  Thanks, Coach Yox, thanks.

ANDY CROWE:  I’m 305 pounds.  I don’t run.

TOMMY JACKSON:  I don’t run anywhere.

BILL YATES:  I’m not built for it, yeah.

ANDY CROWE:  I’ve asked that question to probably close to 10 former professional athletes.  And this is just interesting.  I’m not going to dive into this right now.  But I think every one of them has named a coach from middle school or high school in that list.  That’s been the most influential coach that they’ve ever worked under.  I just think that’s an interesting point.

TOMMY JACKSON:  And I’ve got to tell you, if you think about it seriously from a project management standpoint, that’s because those high school coaches made sure, they are forced by law almost to have great EQ with us.  They have to know us.  They have to be vulnerable with us.  They have to open themselves.  They do these things.

ANDY CROWE:  High emotional intelligence.

TOMMY JACKSON:  High emotional intelligence.  And that’s why you’ve got to think about it, especially that developmental stage where we are in our lives, that is a pivotal point for us in terms of what we gain from our leaders, our mentors.  And to me I think if we take an approach as leaders, more of a mentorship role, more of a role of really getting to know our people, I think that gives us a greater chance of making a real impact because imagine you can make an impact that’s more far-reaching than just work.

ANDY CROWE:  Well, we talk about that a lot here.  At Velociteach we have a few grizzled veterans…

BILL YATES:  Why are you looking at me?

ANDY CROWE:  And we have a lot of younger team members coming in, starting their career with us.  And we talk a lot about how do we develop people?  How do we mentor and lead them?  How do we help them ease into this idea of work and career?  And I look back at the most formative times in my career as being some of the first assignments I ever had.  It’s just the nature of it.  And that’s a lot of responsibility to carry as a manager, as a project manager; you know?

BILL YATES:  You know, one of the things that Tommy and I talked about earlier just really resonated with me, and it had to do with dealing with adversity.

TOMMY JACKSON:  That’s right.

BILL YATES:  And when you look at the characteristics of a healthy team where you do have a coach who has set something up, a project manager who has set up a team that is healthy, then these kind of things fall out.  And Tommy, you told a story about Josh Thompson and when you were injured, and just relay that because I thought that was such a great example of what a healthy team looks like.

TOMMY JACKSON:  And I’m going to tell you, man, in college football, especially in the SEC, it is competitive stuff.  I’m talking about from position wars that you have in order to gain a starting job or just getting to that college anyway.  So for us, I remember my junior year.  This is my first time I’ll be starting because I played a backup role my freshman and sophomore year, although I did pretty well, which is why I earned that job.  First week of camp, summer camp, I dislocate my elbow.  A friend of mine just blew down two gaps and kicks my elbow out of place.  Yeah, it was awful.  My entire arm was purple, man, it was ridiculous.

So I’m sitting here thinking, oh, my god, I cannot believe I finally got to this stage, I’m ready, it’s my time, and I can’t play.  Wow.  I’m thinking, oh, they’re going to give my job away, and I’ve worked so hard, I’ve worked so hard.  I remember Josh coming up to me in the training room.  And I’m always going to remember this.  And Josh comes up, “You’ll be all right.  Don’t worry about it.  You’re going right back to your job.  You’re going to be fine.  Brother, we’re good.  We got you.  We got you till you’re out, you know, until you come back.”

ANDY CROWE:  And he was a teammate.

TOMMY JACKSON:  He was my backup.  Like that’s crazy.  And the ironic part about it with Josh, like Josh helped me deal with a lot of those things, like even just, again, because as a college football player you battle.  You sometimes battle with your position coach.  Sometimes you battle other teammates.  The way our team was set up, although we were in competition sometimes, we still always pushed each other.  Josh came up and said you’re going to be fine.  Don’t worry about it.

And I’m sitting here, and I’m thinking to myself, wow, would I have been mature enough to say something like that, you know, if it were me.  And the amazing part is of course I go in, I make All-Conference.  But that also set Josh up to do great because after I left, Josh did a great job, as well.  He was an All-Conference player.  And it’s funny how that mentality works.  It’s not about me.  It’s not about you.  Literally.  What gives us the best chance to win as a group?  And that vote of confidence to get from someone who you’re supposed to be in competition with, but realizes that the team is the most important, the most important thing that we’re actually focusing on.  That to me is what a team should be comprised of, at least the mindsets.

So I’m always going to remember that.  And that’s why I take that mentality into everything I do now.  It’s not about you.  It’s not about what happened to you today or happened yesterday.  It’s about how we’re going to move forward as a group.  And we’re going to continue to move forward because this is how we win.  And that’s what we do.

BILL YATES:  Nick, there’s some project managers right now who need to notice the time on this episode and play this portion for their team.

NICK WALKER:  Yes, yes, absolutely.

BILL YATES:  Because they’re dealing with political games and all these ins and out…

TOMMY JACKSON:  That’s right.

BILL YATES: …where people are trying to get the heads-up on other team members.

NICK WALKER:  You know, when I watch television, watch football on television with my wife, she is – she whoops and hollers.  I love watching football with her.  She’s very animated.  But what really takes the wind out of her sails, and mine, too, is when somebody is injured on the field.  It’s just like, oh.



NICK WALKER:  And you could almost feel it, you know, even through the television…

TOMMY JACKSON:  Absolutely.

NICK WALKER: …on the team.  Why is health such an important player, not just for the team member, but for the entire team?

TOMMY JACKSON:  Oh, brother, you’ve got to learn how to take care of yourself.  See, that’s the thing people don’t realize.  If you don’t take care of yourself, you’re not going to be available.  That was the old saying we used to have.  If I’m not healthy, I’m not available; right?  It’s the same thing that you do in your daily lives.  Sometimes you have to find time to make sure you’re doing those things that are important to keep you in the game.  Case in point, I know sometimes we all believe, like, I’m going to work 50 hours today.  Yes.  Here’s the problem.  Is the work you’re doing going to be good?  Are you going to be efficient?  Just because you’re there and you’re working doesn’t mean you’re actually working.  Time spent isn’t always the best time; right?  And not only that, remember those people that you do this for.

So this is what I love about football because a lot of us come from the same kind of background I did.  What we do is attached to a gain for our families; right?  We work.  Hey, when you work, you’re working to get a paycheck in a lot of ways, but it’s also something that you’re doing to make sure that you’re pushing forward your family.  Take care of your family.  See, because if you’re taking care of yourself and your family, and you keep those things intact, and you keep those things as the focus, that’s what’s going to keep you healthy.  Mental health is dang near more important than your physical health; right?


TOMMY JACKSON:  So if you’re not going to take care of yourself, how can you lead a team?  How can you push a team forward?  And I have always believed in that because I’ve seen guys who might have not had the best habits.  They were always injured; right?


TOMMY JACKSON:  Because they didn’t do what was necessary.  They didn’t spend enough time working out.  They didn’t spend enough time taking a rest when they told us get off your feet; right?  Eat the things that we needed to eat, spend the time with the people we need to spend time with.  Listen.  Taking care of yourself is one of the most important things as a leader because how you do that is literally how your team will.

ANDY CROWE:  And Tommy, when I hear you talk about this, one of the things that goes through my mind, one of the most important lessons I learned early in my career, and it wasn’t early enough, was how to get the most out of myself.

TOMMY JACKSON:  That’s right.

ANDY CROWE:  So really it starts with, this sounds a little corny, but before I could effectively lead anybody else, I had to really learn to lead myself.  I had to learn the right boundaries, the right way to optimize my work.  And I started my career as a software developer.  For a long time I was a programmer and learning how to get in that zone where I was really effective and where I could crank out things.  And it was different than the person next to me.  The time I needed, you know, I’m most effective really early in the morning.

TOMMY JACKSON:  That’s right.

ANDY CROWE:  And so I would get to work absurdly early.  I would crank out work product.  And I’d have – you know.  But then about 3:00 in the afternoon I’m not getting anything done anymore.  A cup of coffee isn’t going to do it for me.

TOMMY JACKSON:  That’s right.  You’re spent.  You are spent, man.  I can’t even imagine what you were doing.  Programming?  Oh, my god.  That stuff is amazingly difficult.  I mean, I probably shouldn’t even put those two words together.  But I did.  Because, again, think about what you were doing.  High-level stuff, man, your brain, oh, the synapses were firing; right?

ANDY CROWE:  It was pushing my brain to its limit, I’ll put it that way.  But the interesting thing is, you know, when you try and be somebody else, when you try and adapt to their work style or do it their way, you know, some people are just wired differently.

TOMMY JACKSON:  So think about what you just said.  That takes us right back to what we were saying before about why lineman are the way that they are, and linebackers are the way that they are.  It’s about being comfortable in your role.


TOMMY JACKSON:  Knowing who you are.


TOMMY JACKSON:  Being okay with who you are.


TOMMY JACKSON:  When you’re a lineman, you’re good with being a wrecking ball.  That’s what we love to be.

ANDY CROWE:  You like confrontation.

TOMMY JACKSON:  Yeah, we do.  We thrive in it.  Yeah.  No.  And those awesome greyhounds that we have on the backend, we let those guys run and be cool like that because I’m not looking to do it.  But I’m comfortable in my role, and I love my role.  And like you said, once you come to that place where you’re comfortable with it, oh, man, that to me is what’ll make a team function.  Amazing.  Amazing.  You guys are doing amazing.

BILL YATES:  Such a good lesson for me, too.  As a leader of a team, as a project manager, I have to not play favorites.  I have to remember everybody plays a significant role, and I have to communicate that.


BILL YATES:  Both in what I say and how I behave.

TOMMY JACKSON:  That’s right.

ANDY CROWE:  Everybody fills a significant role.  Hopefully everybody plays a significant role.

BILL YATES:  That’s right.

TOMMY JACKSON:  No, it’s the truth man.  You know, I had a very, very valuable lesson recently with that.  One of my employees, she literally asked just, you know, “Do you have a favorite?”  And I’m like, “Uh, no, I don’t, actually.  I think you all are my favorites; right?”

BILL YATES:  Yeah, okay.  Good answer.  Good answer.

TOMMY JACKSON:  I said, “I think you all are my favorites at this point.”

BILL YATES:  You passed that test.

TOMMY JACKSON:  Yeah, I did, pop-quiz.  And as I said, it’s like, yeah, I’m always going to compliment.  I’m always going to push forwad.  And that’s everyone.  I want everybody to know that they’re my favorite.  I really do.  Because I think if everyone knows that, you know, you’re their favorite, guess what?  Nobody feels slighted.  And that’s the whole, if you feel slighted, that’s where the work drops.  So, yeah, everyone should feel like they’re my favorite, just like everyone should feel like they’re yours.

BILL YATES:  I know we’re about to run out of time, but you said something that I thought was just, like, T-shirt worthy, coffee cup worthy.

NICK WALKER:  Okay.  Let’s do it.

BILL YATES:  And I want to make sure – I want to give you credit for this quote.  We were talking about being healthy.  And so many times we can develop an unhealthy habit as a leader of a team, go “I’ve got to set the example.”  So if somebody’s getting here at 6:00 o’clock in the morning, I’m going to be here at 5:30.  Somebody’s staying till 7:00, I’m going to be here to 7:30.  I’m going to push, push.  And your quote was, “Don’t win today at work and lose tonight at home.”

TOMMY JACKSON:  That’s right.

ANDY CROWE:  So what do you mean by that?

TOMMY JACKSON:  So here’s how this works.  It goes back to the family piece, and it goes back to the things that really help us keep why we do this in focus.  What good does it do me to try to show up at work at 5:00 a.m. and the doors don’t open until 8:00 a.m.?  Right?  That’s three hours out of the house that I’ve not spent at home with my wife, with my kids, when I probably could do more; right?  Don’t lose focus attempting to set an example when somebody may just be wired that way.


TOMMY JACKSON: Like if somebody tried to do that with me, they’re getting out of the bed now at 4:50.  I’m just built that way.  I’m weird; you know?  I’m up every day at, like, 5:05.  That’s just how I am.

So again, being confident enough in who you are to be yourself, but also being smart enough to know that the real, real place to win is at home.  Because if home isn’t going well, work won’t go well.  And that’s what people need to keep in mind.  If things aren’t going well with my wife, I’m going to struggle at work.  I’m telling you I will.  And so, and it’s the same thing about staying late.  Yeah, you could stay late.  But again, are you going to win at night?  Like are you going to win?  Probably not.  And I’ll be the first to say I like to win at home.  It’s good.  I’m just saying, winning at home is so important.

BILL YATES:  That’s good.

TOMMY JACKSON:  So if I don’t win at home, but I won the day, come on, you know, it’s not good for you.

NICK WALKER:  Tommy, I know you share a lot of your values with young people and professionals.  You do a lot of public speaking.  Before we let you go, let us know how can folks get in touch with you if they want you to come speak?

TOMMY JACKSON:  Oh, well, it’s kind of easy.  At least I try to make myself accessible.  I’m not that involved in social media.  And I will be honest, I’m about to say something really sad.  I’m kind of technologically challenged.

BILL YATES:  You’re old school.

TOMMY JACKSON:  Yes.  That is it.  I didn’t want to say it.

BILL YATES:  You’re vintage.  You’re vintage T.J.

TOMMY JACKSON:  I’m an old school guy, man.  I got d-lineman fingers.  I meant to type this.  I typed four things.  People were like, what was that?  I’m like, dude, I didn’t mean it.  My hands are like, you can look, they’re like…

BILL YATES:  Sausages.

TOMMY JACKSON:  They’re like, yeah, these sausages, man.

BILL YATES:  Autocorrect.

ANDY CROWE:  Like grabbing a bunch of bananas.

TOMMY JACKSON:  Yes.  My hands are huge, so I struggle with that.  The easiest way, of course, is always you can email me easily at tommye.jackson@gmail.com.  And that’s the easiest way to get in contact with me.  I’m a constant email checker.  It comes right to me.  I’ve tried all those other things before.  I struggle with them.  So just email me.  I’m easy.


NICK WALKER:  Well, before you go, we want you to know that we’ve got a gift for you here, sitting right in front of you.  It’s this Manage This coffee mug.


NICK WALKER:  With thanks for being here with us.  And you mentioned playing favorites?  We hope that that mug will be your favorite.

TOMMY JACKSON:  You know, it is, and I’m glad, because I was going to just take it.  Sorry.  Yes.  This works.  I didn’t have to just take it.

BILL YATES:  And who’s going to stop him?

ANDY CROWE:  Nobody’s going to get in your way.

BILL YATES:  Exactly.

TOMMY JACKSON:  I’m kidding.  No, I really do like this mug because it’s one of the very few mugs I can actually put my fingers through, so this is awesome.  I can get three fingers.  No, you guys are awesome.  Thank you guys for having me on.  I really enjoyed this time with you guys.  Thank you.

NICK WALKER:  Well, Dr. Jackson, thanks again for joining us today.  Andy and Bill, as always, thanks for your insight.

I want to remind our listeners that here on Manage This we want to keep you motivated, informed, and educated.  And that’s why we give you a little something extra each time you listen to our podcasts.  It’s a way to receive free PDUs – Professional Development Units – toward your recertifications.  And it’s easy to claim them.  Just go to Velociteach.com and select Manage This Podcast from the top of the page.  Click on the button that says Claim PDUs, and then click through the steps.

Well, that’s it for us here on Manage This.  We hope you’ll tune back in on May 1st for our next podcast.  In the meantime, we invite you to visit us at Velociteach.com/managethis to subscribe to this podcast, to see a transcript of the show, or to contact us.  And be sure and tweet us at @manage_this if you have any questions about our podcasts or about project management certifications.  We are here for you.

That’s all for this episode.  Thanks for joining us.  Until next time, keep calm and Manage This.

One response to “Episode 55 – Project Management: Leading Teams On and Off the Field”

  1. Laetitia Munro says:

    I really enjoyed this podcast and I just loved the speaker. Thank you,

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