Sunday, January 08, 2012

Book Review (#37 of 2011) Joe Gibbs - Racing to Win

Racing to Win: Establish Your Gameplan for Success by Joe Gibbs with Ken Abraham (2002). I well remember Joe Gibbs' Redskins dynasty in the NFL and am well-acquainted with Gibbs' NASCAR team, which he runs with his sons. I didn't know Gibbs' background and upbringing, so I was eager to check out his autobiography.  Rather than just being an autobiography, however, Gibbs gives various "cornerstones" for success throughout the book, making it read more like a management/leadership text. (How many "cornerstones" can you have?  I would think that after the fourth cornerstone you should call them something else, but that's just me.)

The Tim Tebow controversy this season strikes me rather odd given how outspoken guys like Gibbs were about their faith while in the NFL (Reggie White is another).  I guess if you've won multiple Super Bowl titles nobody questions or is offended by what you say?  Gibbs is unashamedly evangelical, even closing the book with a Gospel presentation and invitation.

Gibbs' life had follies.  His poor financial decisions left him bankrupt at the peak of his NFL career in the late 1980s. He blames his diabetes on his poor lifestyle choices. His competitive drive on the racquetball circuit (who knew?) cost him money and time with his family.  But Gibbs preaches from his experiences.

Given that Gibbs has won multiple Super Bowls and NASCAR points championships, it's no surprise that people want whatever his "secret" is, but you won't find much unusual here. One could probably make an argument that Gibbs got his success through good networking and after he'd achieved some success he found others willing to help him out of bankruptcy and into a NASCAR start-up that likely would not have been possible otherwise.

If there's one key trait, I think it would be that Gibbs built his NFL teams around character, doing in-depth research on players to figure out which ones had an internal motivation and not just great physical talent. This seems to be what he looks for in NASCAR drivers as well.  He hired someone to develop some type of empirical evaluation to measure their potential at whatever position they were applying for in his organization.
Surround yourself with guys who are highly motivated and that will separate you in a league where parity is the norm.  

How Gibbs runs his racing team was most interesting to me. His current team features hard-chargers Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, and Busch's character seems to fall far short of Gibbs' standards (Busch was fined and suspended for intentionally wrecking someone late this season, ending his hopes of a title and angering his sponsors). This book was written just after JGR won its first overall points championship with Bobby Labonte in 2001.  Gibbs talks of weekly (voluntary) chapel services for all of his employees, of how Dale Jarrett was led to Christ as one of his employees, and how at least one of his major sponsors wants to "reach people for Jesus" via NASCAR.  It's hard for me to equate that with the childish, volatile behavior of Gibbs' current group.

But there was almost nothing in the book about his coaching methods, communication style, or even his continual improvement in anything.

In all, I give this book 2 stars out of 5.  If you don't care to learn about Joe Gibbs, then this book isn't for you.

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