redskins toxic culture

The 5 Dysfunctions of the Redskins Team

One of the bibles of leadership has to be Patrick Lencioni’s, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.  This book told in the form of a fable is the story of a new CEO called upon to turn around a dysfunctional company and executive team, locking the executives in a room, and building a culture of a highly functional dream team.

No leader could learn more from a reading of this book than Daniel Snyder, owner and CDO, Chief Dysfunctional Officer of the Washington Redskins.

Dan Snyder purchased the Redskins for $750 million in May of 1999.  He purchased a venerated franchise that had celebrated 20 years of glory including 5 Super Bowl appearances and 3 Championships.

In the 14 years of Snyder Ownership the team has:

  • Made it to the playoffs just 4 times playing a total of 6 playoff games
  • Accumulated a record of 104 – 133
  • Been lead by 7 Head Coaches (soon to be 8)
  • Had 9 Starting Quarterbacks
  • Finished last in the Division 6  times
  • Finished 2nd to last in the Division 4 times
  • Outright Sucked!

With all the changes, the revolving doors of players, coaches, front office staff, only 2 things have remained constant: 1) The Owner Daniel Snyder and 2) a culture in a downward spiral.

The Washington Redskins are a closely held company. If the team was publically traded, Dan Snyder would be canned and replaced by a turn around CEO and that leader would most likely follow the lessons of Mr. Lencioni.

Lencioni’s premise is that a culture of high performance is built on a foundation of 5 important building blocks. Daniel Snyder has shaken that foundation by eroding those building blocks and creating one of pro sports most dysfunctional franchises.

Dan Snyder’s 5 Foibles

  1. Absence of Trust – The owner plays favorites, certain players have a direct line to the owner, other’s report to the coach. Today’s coach won’t be here tomorrow. How do you develop trust in a revolving door of staff? Who do you trust when you don’t know who’s going to be here tomorrow. How do you build trust with a guy who’s been here for 15 minutes? When this owner unceremoniously fired Daryl Green, one of the most beloved, hall of famers on the team, he set a tone that years of loyal service are soon forgotten. He set a tone of distrust and disloyalty.
  2. Fear of Conflict – When there’s a lack of trust, there’s a tendency to avoid disagreements. There’s fear of reprisals. Is there anyone in this organization who feels that they can disagree with an owner who demands that he be referred to as Mr. Snyder? Snyder’s cut off access to the press and former players who had the audacity to disagree with him. Who’s willing to tell this emperor he’s naked?  By the way, Snyder once launched a $1M spurious lawsuit against a journalist who created a list of Snyder offenses against humanity.
  3. Lack of Commitment – People are committed to organizations that stand for a higher purpose, for something bigger than themselves. Now I’m not taking a shot at Snyder’s diminutive height, it’s just that what bigger thing, what higher purpose do the Redskins stand for? The Redskins players and coaches are here for their oversized paychecks and not their diminutive owner. The fan base is eroding. There’s nothing to be committed to but Dan’s cash. Highly functional organizations like the Pittsburgh  Steelers are family, The Rooney’s are revered by their team and by their city. Players in Pittsburgh play for something bigger than a paycheck or a little man owner. When Chicago Bears owner, Papa Bear Halas died, the entire team, the city, and the league mourned his passing. You don’t see this kind of dysfunction in great teams like the Patriots, The Stealers, or The Ravens.
  4. Avoidance of Accountability – Finger pointing and almost an entire lack of anyone on this team saying, “that one was on me.” Accountability starts from the top. Dan Snyder has not accepted responsibility for any of the team’s dysfunctional performances. For any of his bonehead decisions. Great leaders model the behavior for their followers. Snyder models passing the blame to anyone but himself. Great leaders stand in front of
    their team when there’s blame and behind when there’s credit to be had. Danny’s mixed that whole give credit and take blame thing up.
  5. Inattention to Results – Maybe the only thing at which the Redskins excel. Unfortunately, if you only pay attention to the top of the pyramid, the results on which you’ll be paying attention turns out to be losses, name-calling, finger-pointing, and empty seats. By the time you have a losing team, it’s too late to do anything.

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