LAS VEGAS — In front of a packed room, NFL legend Joe Montana shared with attendees at NACUSO's annual conference Wednesday morning two key components that can make credit unions and other organizations thrive: strong fundamentals and preparation.
"The way you prepare for work is asking, 'What can we do to make our organization better,'" Montana said. "When you look at organizations, the ones with the strong fundamentals are the strongest.
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Montana took the audience at the Encore Las Vegas back to his childhood recalling his love of many sports – basketball was his favorite – and practicing with his father, who didn't play any sports but had a love for them, Montana shared. One day while playing basketball with his dad, Montana discovered he would make the shot every single time from a certain spot on the court.
His confidence soaring, he continued to stay in that spot. His father, however, made him play from around the court, playing him hard on defense. The lesson?
"It's about paying attention to the little things. You never know when the little things will come back to you. When I talk about preparation, you can determine with your organization how you're going to show your team how to do it better," Montana said.
To illustrate, Montana went back to 1979 when he was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers. It was then that he learned a hard lesson about how crucial the fundamentals were.
"There wasn't a whole lot of acrobatic catches back then. When I look back at who I played with, it was about the fundamentals."
Closely aligned with embracing the basics is having an environment of trust and a strong worth ethic, Montana said. He pointed to how from day one, teammate Jerry Rice practiced hard, ran fast and was consistent.
"When I think of work ethic, I thought we had a good one until Jerry Rice came along. Every time Jerry caught the pass, he would score a touchdown. Is it a coincidence? No, because that's how he came to work, that's what he did every day."
As the 49ers quarterback, Montana said building trust was a necessity with his teammates. For instance, trust begins early with the quarterback and center, he offered.
"I got five fat people in front of me that I trust," Montana said, referring to his offensive linemen. "I have to know that I can stay back and not have to worry about getting rid of the ball before getting sacked."
NACUSO conference attendees were able to participate in a question and answer period after Montana spoke. The questions were all over the gamut from "what do you want your legacy to be" – "All you can hope for is that people enjoyed the game. Not because of me but the people around me too" – to "what kinds of positive reinforcement did coaches give since they were often know to yell a lot" – Montana chuckled as he replied "One of the biggest motivators was 'OK, you just got fined.' Really, there was only a lot of yelling when someone was making the same mistake over and over."
Since Montana talked at length about trust, preparation and how the two emanate from the top, Credit Union Times asked Montana during his football career, did he ever have instances where he or his teammates felt a lack of trust from the coaching staff. Montana said while there weren't really any of those scenarios from the top (he demurred a bit – "what happens in the locker room, stays in the locker room), he did say that if there was dissension among teammates, they would go off to the so-called "gravel pit" and try to work things out.
His response piggybacked onto another attendee's question about dealing with different personalities and leadership styles "in the huddle."
"We're together so much. You know when someone is having a problem of there any changes," Montana said. "The one thing I never wanted anyone to see was me being nervous, so I was kind of a prankster. I had respect for (my teammates) and they had respect for me. My philosophy is what happens in the huddle, we have to help each other out. If something is wrong, you have to say something."