Tag Archives: roger goodell

4 Goals for the NFL’s Medical Officer

On the cusp of the 2015 Super Bowl, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell surprised fans with an unusual focus for his annual state of the league press conference: player safety. He announced that the league would hire a chief medical officer to oversee the league’s health policies. This is good news. But first and foremost, Goodell must firmly plant the goalposts for this new hire. What does the new top doc need to accomplish to win? Here are four goals to start:

Goal One: Make Concussions Rare

In 2014, there were 202 concussions among players in practice, preseason and regular-season games. With approximately 1,600 players, my back-of-the-envelope math calculates one concussion for every eight players — in one year alone.

The new chief medical officer will have some momentum to build on to address this issue. In recent years, the league has implemented tough restrictions about when and under what conditions players can return to the field after an injury. The league has also improved equipment and changed the rulebook to penalize hits to defenseless players. The number of concussions is down by 25% from 2013, and defenseless hits are down by 68%. The new medical officer needs to accelerate that progress.

Goal Two: Research and Enforce Best Practices

To make a major impact on players’ health and safety, the new medical officer will need to rigorously examine the protocols in place to protect players. No one can argue with the notion that, at its core, football is a contact sport; injury is inevitable. However, some injuries are entirely preventable, yet they can easily topple the career of a valuable player. In my world, we’d call this kind of injury a “Never Event” — it should never happen.

The new medical officer needs to consider how the team functions as a whole, get solid research on best practices and create enforceable guidelines for prevention. To protect past, current and future players, he or she will have to shake up the entire enterprise and institute a culture in which making the play is balanced with protecting the player.

Goal Three: Demand Safety off the Field, Too

One in eight is a frightening statistic for concussions, but, surprisingly, players may be safer on the field than in a hospital. Players — and league employees and their families — depend on the healthcare system just like the rest of us. True, players often receive treatment at elite centers of care, at the hands of celebrated physicians. But our research finds that even places with big reputations can be equally unsafe. One in six admissions to a hospital results in an adverse event, and as many as 500 people die every day from preventable errors, accidents and injuries in hospitals. Even the most highly regarded institutions struggle to keep patient safety a top priority.

But some providers are much safer than others, and the new NFL medical officer has a role to play in helping players and employees pick the winners. He or she can demand data on safety of hospitals and physician practices and use that data in decision-making. The NFL can structure health benefits packages to favor safest providers, encourage performance-based payment models and give employees transparent and candid information on quality and safety to encourage them to select the safest care. Many other employers and unions are successfully deploying these strategies, and they have good tools to help.

Goal Four: Be a Champion

Championship  isn’t exactly a standard element on boilerplate job descriptions, but it’s critical to this one. The NFL knows how to spot champions, and it should expect no less from this new hire.

The new chief medical officer needs to inspire a good number of people: teams, to change the way they function; youth, increasingly wary about the game; retired players, whose health issues cast a shadow over the whole sport; and the millions of fans who love American football.

Being a champion is the most important goal, because the NFL has the opportunity to go beyond defending its safety record and start playing offense. As a top-tier brand, the NFL could be a national leader, ensuring that safety comes first in America, on and off the field. By taking the right steps to protect players and the league, the new medical officer can inspire all the fans, not only to embrace the game, but to champion a healthier America.

This article was originally posted on Forbes.com.

4 Things a Leader Must Do in a Crisis

Ray Rice hit his fiancé in an elevator. The video is shocking, and the response by the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell has been infuriating to many. How this will all play out, no one knows at this point. It feels as if we are only in Act One.

As a leader, you will almost certainly face at least one crisis during your career. In business, “stuff rolls uphill.” Knowing how to effectively handle a crisis may mean the difference between survival and devastation. The keys are:

  • be truthful
  • be pessimistic
  • be definitive

In one of my previous companies, we created and ran a program for future Fortune 500 CEOs. Our faculty consisted of the most respected chief executives of a generation: Anne Mulcahy, A.G. Lafley, Jim Kilts, Carlos Gutiérrez, Jack Welch and more than two dozen others. One topic that would consistently come up in discussion was what should a senior leader do when confronted with a crisis. While their individual approaches were as personal as their leadership styles, here are four things that top CEOs stressed any leader should do in a crisis.

1. Get the facts. Quick. Ask your direct reports to get every detail of the facts out on the table. Then ask again. During a crisis, those who work for you at all levels of the organization will be reticent to bring you more bad news. But finding out later will often lead to a far worse outcome. Be relentless in your pursuit of what really happened. The good, the bad and the ugly.

2. Come clean with the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. You must act as though all of the facts you have now discovered will eventually be public — and they almost always will be. Isolated crises turn into full-blown organizational meltdowns not typically from the initial act, but from the response to those acts. Heed the lessons of Nixon and Clinton. It’s the cover-up that leads to impeachment.

3. Estimate the broadest possible fallout from the crisis. Then triple it. I remember a specific discussion with Welch and a small group of CEOs about this topic. Jack said that, in nearly every single public crisis he was confronted with in a five-decade career, the final damage was far worse than anyone had estimated at the onset. By being aggressively pessimistic about the outcome from the beginning, he found his leadership teams were much better prepared to deal with the ultimate reality of the situation.

4. Realize that someone big is going to fall. “I wasn’t aware of it!” “It was the act of a rogue employee.” As a leader, it is impossible to keep your eye on everything. You can’t control the actions of everyone you lead. So, when a crisis occurs, it is tempting to rationalize that it wasn’t your fault. How can you or senior people on your team reasonably be blamed? But, in the end, the organization and the public will demand definitive action, and someone senior will ultimately take the hit, including potentially you. The more you resist, the angrier the villagers will get, and the more heads they will go after. Make the difficult decisions earlier than later, or your options will quickly turn from bad to worse.

Here’s hoping you navigate your entire career without ever having to face a crisis. But the odds are against you. Be prepared to act truthfully and decisively, and you may just make your way through the storm.