This evening I had the privilege of joining over 600 coaches, athletes and other attendees at NorthStar Church for a special evening with Jon Gordon, author of successful books like The Carpenter and The Energy Bus, and Mike Smith, former head coach of the Atlanta Falcons.

Recently, they collaborated on the incredible new book, You Win In The Locker Room First: The 7 C’s To Build A Winning Team in Business, Sports and Life.  The premise of the book is how Coach Smith was fired just two short years after being one play away from the Super Bowl.  How did things get so bad so fast?  Much of it has to do with a change in culture.

Hosted by Kevin Scott of ADDO and NorthStar’s senior pastor and Falcons chaplain Mike Linch, the following are 91 leadership quotes and lessons on developing a winning culture captured from the evening:

Jon Gordon

  1. Playing a sport in college changed my life.
  2. Billy Graham said, “One coach will impact more people in a year than most people will in a lifetime.
  3. My calling is to be there for coaches who are giving so much to others.
  4. You know you are with the right person when they give you strength.
  5. I lead a team at work. I’m second-in-command at home.
  6. Mike’s belief and support early on gave me the confidence I could do this (speak to professional teams).
  7. You can tell culture immediately by the energy and feel you get it when you walk in.
  8. Your culture is what you live and breath each day.
  9. I don’t have a ghost writer. I have a Holy Ghost writer.
  10. I opened the first Moe’s in Florida. It was the sixth Moe’s in the country.
  11. I was baptized in 2006. Shortly after that I started writing The Energy Bus.
  12. I wrote The Energy Bus in three-and-a-half weeks as God gives it to me.
  13. I’m just the pen. God is the ultimate writer of the books.
  14. God doesn’t pick the best. He picks the most willing.
  15. Dabo Sweeney, every speech he gives is a motivational speech. He believes in them more than they believe in themselves.
  16. My goal is to create to program where they (Florida, Michigan) want to be life us. – Sweeney
  17. A team that stays positive together, wins together.
  18. You are either a germ or a big dose of Vitamin C everyday to your team.
  19. Being positive doesn’t just make you better. It makes everyone around you better.
  20. We always create our life from the inside-out.
  21. You have to lead from your values. You have to lead from your beliefs. You have to lead with who God says you are.
  22. I believe in tough love. But love must come first. I call it love tough.
  23. When there is a void in communication, negativity fills it.
  24. Fear breeds uncertainty. Uncertainty breeds the void and negativity.
  25. Communication is the foundation of every great relationship.
  26. We have more ways to communicate than ever but we’re communicating meaningfully less.
  27. I have to know where everyone is to lead them where they need to be.
  28. One of the best things we ever did as a family is have a family meeting.
  29. Words mold you and shape you into who you want to be. Serve is now a part of me because it was my word for a year.
  30. A team has to connect. That is the difference between a good team and a great team.
  31. Teams that are connected are better. Team beats talent when talent isn’t a team.
  32. You can look at the synergy of the Clemson team this year is because they are more connected.
  33. The players knew Mike cared about them. I saw first-hand a coach that cared about his players.
  34. Do you care about me and can I trust you? The two things we all ask.
  35. Your players know if you care about them.
  36. The most powerful love is sacrificial love.
  37. When there is no caring there is no connection.
  38. We don’t get burned out because of what we do. We get burned out because we forget why we do it.
  39. We’re created from the inside out, not the outside in.
  40. Don’t chase success. Live with purpose and success will find you.

Mike Smith

  1. “He treats us like men. That’s why we love him.” – Mike Linch on what players say about Coach Smith
  2. I can’t tell you who my 5th grade teacher was but I can tell you who my coach was.
  3. We as coaches have the opportunity to touch so many people.
  4. Everyone in here, believe it or not, is a coach. Everyone in here coaches a team.
  5. The first three guys I ever recruited out of Cobb County (location of the NorthStar Church) are all here tonight.
  6. My wife and I have been married for 35 years. It was love at first sight.
  7. Any relationship you have with your spouse and daughter, you have to have a relationship with God.
  8. I think it’s important you have an outside voice.
  9. It’s important as a leader you evaluate not only the good things, but the bad things and you learn from them.
  10. I knew the first thing (arriving in Atlanta) wasn’t how were we going to turn this roster over. I had to meet, greet and engage everyone in the organization.
  11. I let them know they were going to help make us successful.
  12. We were going to create an organization everyone could be proud of.
  13. Don’t lose sight of the process. Wins and losses are how you are graded as a coach. But if you forget about the process, you’re doomed for failure.
  14. As a leader and a head coach, you don’t only affect the people in a locker room. When you walk in a room, they are all taking their cues from you.
  15. The culture is defined at the top. It grows organically from the bottom up.
  16. The first five years we focused on the process of what we wanted to accomplish.
  17. We were focused on the fruit the last two years instead of the root. When you focus on the fruit instead of the root, the tree dies.
  18. The focus changed from the process to what do we have to do to win a Super Bowl. We paid dearly for it.
  19. When you get away from the process and focus on the results, the results will never materialize.
  20. All men and women should learn from their mistakes.
  21. It is very important that people you work with know you truly care about them.
  22. Everyone’s caring quality is a little different.
  23. We weren’t going to have goals. We had to get buy-in early from our team. We’re going to talk about milestones. Once you reach milestones, we’ll give you another milestone. We were going to measure baby steps.
  24. First impressions are the most important. And you only get one chance at a first impression.
  25. When we had a setback we changed our milestone.
  26. If you don’t have a two-game losing streak, you’re going to be playing for a play-off spot.
  27. I’m a list maker and I write things down. I wrote I’m not going to have a bad day. I might have bad moments but I’m not going to have a bad day. We can always find something to be grateful about. I’m blessed to have the opportunity to do what I want to do at the highest level.
  28. From the very beginning you knew Matt Ryan was special.
  29. Matt Ryan is not only a great football player. He is a great man and a great leader.
  30. Being positive is very contagious.
  31. Tony Gonzalez was non-verbal. But when he walked on the field everyone watched what he did. He’d arrived 15 minutes early to catch 100 passes. Being contagious doesn’t have to just be verbal.
  32. In three years, Tony Gonzalez will be in the Hall of Fame. It is just not what he did on the filed. It was also what he did off the field.
  33. You’ve got to be consistent. It’s learned. I learned it first from my mother and father.
  34. The players will lose trust in you quicker than anything if you’re not consistent.
  35. When you’re consistent you’re doing the same thing over and over and over again. You don’t change. You adjust.
  36. You can’t coach each player the same way.
  37. It’s important you learn who you are working with. You can’t always be about business.
  38. My father as elementary teacher could tell you the names of everyone of the over 200 students he had.
  39. When going into a new situation the first thing you want to do is speak with everyone in the organization.
  40. The best communicators are not the best speakers. The best communicators are the best listeners.
  41. When you want to have meaningful conversations, don’t email. Don’t’ text.
  42. You can’t just focus on the players. You have everybody that is contributing to the success.
  43. Games in the NFL come down to one series. 20% of NFL games are 3 points or less. 50% are 8 points or less. Most NFL games come down to how we finish.
  44. The teams that have the most success are the most connected teams.
  45. When you are connected inside the locker room and outside the locker room, you know you’ve got them. You’ve got to have connections outside the workplace. You become invested in your teammates.
  46. We’re looking to care for other people. And we’re looking for people to care for us.
  47. As a coach and as a teammate, the people you work with must know you love them and care for them. Xs and Os are overrated.
  48. It’s about the love and care you have for human beings.
  49. It’s about leaving your legacy and how you can affect thousands of people.
  50. There is nothing more gratifying than tonight to see three recruits from Cobb County.
  51. Caring and love. At the core that is what humanity is all about.

As a special bonus to everyone who attended, Scott Pederson of Positive Athlete Georgia made a special presentation to Coach Smith by bringing three of his former players on stage who are now coaching high school football in the area.  See this amazing video below.


I want to thank Mike Linch and NorthStar Church for putting together this incredible time together.  On a personal note, I got to spend some personal time with Jon Gordon.  He is the real deal and a great leader.  If you have not yet purchased You Win In The Locker Room First: The 7 C’s To Build A Winning Team in Business, Sports and Life, click HERE or on the image to the left to do so immediately.

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