How the NFL Is Improving Its Culture: Podcast #38

Today, I’m thrilled to share a conversation with Austin Moss. Austin is the manager of player engagement at the NFL’s headquarters in New York City. In his role, he oversees the administration and execution of all NFL PREP programs for high school and college student athletes. Austin Moss will also be a speaker at our National Leadership Forum this summer in Atlanta. Here are some highlights from our conversation.


Tim Elmore:
Austin, we’re really glad you’re here with us today. It’s been great to kindle a friendship over the last few years. Our hearts are so alike in wanting to develop people. You are working with young professionals who have just begun a career. How do you guard the reputation and behavior of those employees and the league every Sunday?

Austin Moss: There are a lot of different things that go into what you see on Sunday. Our players are playing a kids’ game that we have all grown to love, but they are still employees at the end of the day. The goal is to position them for success both on and off the field. When it comes to our personal conduct policy, there are things that they need to adhere to, for them to continue playing. From player engagement, football operation, events and marketing, we all collaborate with one another to execute at a high level at all times.

Tim: Like any organization you must have some great employees and then, sadly, there’s often one bad apple that people form an opinion from. How is the NFL working to rebrand that one bad apple reputation?

Austin: It is unfortunate that the headlines that sell papers are often the negative ones. The NFL is just like any other industry. We are victims to societal issues just like everyone else, except we have a greater spotlight on us. In that sense we are trying to continuously educate our employees by putting in place programs for guys to learn. We have development programs for our players in the off-season for when their NFL experience is over. We try to equip them with tools and skills to build up their résumés and give them some working experience in the off-season.

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Tim: That’s so vital because for some of these guys who are so good at football that’s all they have known. I remember years ago talking to a former head coach of a D1 program who said he got a phone call from a player who got his first paycheck, and he said, “Coach, I don’t know how to cash a check. I’ve never done this before.” He had never been equipped for that, so you play a vital role for the players after they’re done with their football career and have to start working in a different industry. Austin, every day you see the power of culture. There is a culture in the NFL, just like every company has a culture, that’s impactful both inside your offices and around the nation. Would you take a minute to talk about the paramount role that organizational culture plays on people and behavior?

Austin: I believe that organizational culture is critical to running a successful business, regardless of what industry you’re in. It starts at the top and trickles down to everyone. When the leader in place outlines the company’s values and goals with a clearly communicated vision, a healthy organizational culture is established. We are here to serve our players, serve our fans, and to do it with excellence every single day.

Tim: When I look at your career it reminds me of Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours— where you have to devote 10,000 hours to something to call yourself an expert. I don’t think the average person in America realizes how much you’re trying to put good fingerprints on so much more than just guys who play the game. I was so impressed.

Austin: Definitely. I think it goes back to our peer to peer model. We understand that from the NFL we can only say so much. But when those guys—who have competed at the highest level and been through the situations that many student athletes or coaches are in now—come back and share those experiences, the lessons learned, and how they were able to attain success in their position, the value in that is incredible. When I can call a Hall of Famer and say, “You resonate with a certain community. Would you mind speaking to them at a high school or college level about leadership, life skills, and things you have learned along the way?” It’s a really cool opportunity to give back to those men and empower them. It gives students, coaches and administrators perspective from someone who did it right—on and off the field.

Tim: Austin, I am very excited because you plan on joining us June 23 and 24 in Atlanta, Georgia for our National Leadership Forum. Would you mind just whetting the appetites of those who might consider attending on what you’re going to talk about there?

Austin: I think the National Leadership Forum is an awesome opportunity for educators from all over the country to come together, network, and have a really unique professional development experience. I’m going to bring a lot of the daily practices and strategies from the NFL perspective in what we do to try to establish a healthy culture.

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How the NFL Is Improving Its Culture: Podcast #38