Build Slowly for the Long Haul

Recently, I was privileged to be in Mobile, Alabama at the Senior Bowl, where all the great college football players who are graduating seniors come together for their last big game.

I was asked to come down to conduct leadership training to 900 NFL coaches and scouts. The NFL coaches were there, as they always are, looking at the guys who were finishing college to find out who had the potential to be pro football players.

While I was there speaking to the coaches, Dom Capers came up to me. For those of you who don't know, Dom coaches the new Houston franchise, and was the coach of the Carolina Panthers for several years. He said, "John, let's do lunch, I want to talk to you about leadership."

He had an agenda -- he wanted to ask me some questions on leadership; but I also had an agenda -- I wanted to ask him what it was like to start an expansion team. As the head coach of the expansion Carolina Panthers, he had been so successful that when Houston started their franchise, they said, "We want Dom Capers here."

I sat down with him and said, "Okay, talk to me about Carolina, first of all." I'll never forget. He said, "John, there were some amazing lessons I learned. The good news is, we immediately started winning, but the bad news is, we couldn't sustain that winning."

I knew that he was getting ready to tell me something that was pure gold, and I looked at Dom and said, "Okay, talk to me about this. Why could you not sustain the winning?" He looked at me and said, "John, we took shortcuts. I went after players who could give me instant success." I think that Carolina went 9 and 7 the first year -- they had a winning record. He said, "I went after players who could help me win today, but I didn't develop and I didn't build the team for the long haul."

"In fact," he said, "I had NFL coaches come to me and say, 'Dom, don't do that. You're winning too fast. You're going to spoil the people in Carolina; they're going to think that this is easier than it really is.'" Then he said, "Here's the blueprint for an expansion team to become a champion: don't go for the quick fix. Build slowly and solidly.

"In the expansion draft, there are so many good players and so many veteran players. If I were to pick the best players off of these other teams, I believe I could have a winning record my first year in Houston; but my goal is not to have a winning record the first year. In fact, we've already determined that we'll take no one over the age of thirty in the expansion draft. We're going to go after young players, we're going to draft well, we're going to spend our time developing our players, and we're going to build slowly for the long haul."

This article is used by permission from Dr. John C. Maxwell's free monthly e-newsletter 'Leadership Wired' available at