How Saints QB Drew Brees Leads a Multigenerational Team

 

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek October 30, 2019
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NEW ORLEANS—At 40, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees works with teammates who, in their early to mid-20s, are closer in age to his nearly 11-year-old son than to him. But the difference between them fades when they unite for a common purpose.

"The minute you walk into the locker room together, you are one. You are striving for the same goal, you have the same purpose at the end of the day," Brees said. He shared his thoughts Tuesday during a general session conversation on "Tackling a Multigenerational Workplace" at SHRM's Inclusion 2019 event. Emily M. Dickens, J.D., corporate secretary and chief of staff for the Society for Human Resource Management, moderated the talk.

Getting to know who his teammates are when they're off the playing field is important to Brees.

"You start to develop a genuine relationship and a genuine level of trust and compassion for each other," he said. "The camaraderie that you create in the locker room, that directly translates to what you do on the field."

That includes showing appreciation for others, like giving the team's long snapper a clap on the back and a word of thanks after a play or a game. The snapper often is nameless to fans (the Saints' long snapper is Zach Wood) but has an important job, like blocking after a punt snap and possibly tackling the opposing team's punt returner.

"When people feel they are appreciated, when they feel they have an important role [to play], I think that's when you can really bring out the best in them," Brees said. That sense of purpose and value "will directly result in a positive way of winning in the workplace."

He believes part of his job as a leader of the team is helping his teammates succeed.

"I want my teammates to know I'll do whatever I can do to help [them] to be the best player [they] can be," he said.

He also is conscious about the example he sets—being at the stadium already at work when they arrive and still there when they leave at the end of the day.

"As a quarterback, people will see what you do a lot more than they hear what you say. I have to set the right example," he said.

He pointed to former Saints wide receiver Marques "Quiet Storm" Colston as an outstanding teammate he tries to emulate. Colston said little but his actions on the field spoke volumes, Brees said.

"He came to practice every day, buckled his chinstrap and got to work. You watched his level of focus and intensity. He didn't need to say anything; you knew exactly what you were getting out of Marques every time he stepped on the field."

Brees wants his teammates to feel the same way about him.

"I can't ask somebody to do something that I'm not willing to do myself," he said. Nineteen years into his career, he still picks up trash left in the locker room because it's his way of showing respect for the workplace and the people he works with.

Brees is an entrepreneur and founder of the Brees Dream Foundation, created to improve the quality of life for cancer patients and provide care, education and opportunities for children and families in need.

He recalled three job candidates who were being considered for positions at one of his enterprises. All three had excellent qualities—strong work ethic, integrity and character—but the one with slightly more experience got the job.

Brees, however, didn't want his company to lose out on two good potential hires.

"We can teach them to do the other stuff, so let's try to find other roles for them," he told his talent acquisition team. "There are so many unsung heroes, and if you can find the people who have the foundational components" of integrity, character and a strong work ethic, then "you can teach them to do the job you want them to do."

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