Getting fired can be a good thing

When you are fired, you’re rejected.  It’s as simple as that.
It’s the end of the road for that job.
But it might put you on the superhighway to a Super Bowl championship!

Look no further than Gary Kubiak, who is the newest poster child for rebounding from adversity.  He was fired as head coach of the NFL’s Houston Texans after the 2013 season when the team won only two of 16 games.  If you had predicted that less than two years later, he would coach the Denver Broncos to a Super Bowl championship, people would think you were delusional.  But good things happen to people with experience who continue to work to improve.

Professional sports, entertainment and business are filled with stories of people who got second, third, fourth and more chances.  That’s because there is no substitute for experience.  For example, last year in the National Football League there were seven head coach openings.  Four were filled by people like Kubiak with prior experience.

Kubiak also exhibited a strong leadership trait in loyalty.  He brought seven assistant coaches from his previous head-coaching job in Houston with him to Denver, and he also signed a few players who were cut from his previous team after he left.

It’s interesting that the two competing coaches in last year’s Super Bowl – Bill Belichick of New England and Pete Carroll of Seattle – were both fired from previous jobs as well.  

I remember before last year’s game how Carroll called himself a “retread multiple times.”  He said:  “It’s just experiences ….  Everybody is going to falter and make mistakes and say, ‘I wish I would have known then what I know now.‘”

I interviewed Bill Belichick for my 2004 book “We Got Fired! … And It’s the Best Thing That Ever Happened To Us.”  Belichick was fired by the Cleveland Browns after the 1995 season and became head coach of the New England Patriots in 2000, after Pete Carroll had the job for three seasons and was fired.

Belichick said:  “I think every game, every week, every year is a great experience.  I’d say I’ve learned every year I’ve been in the league no matter what capacity it’s been in.  Hopefully I’ll keep learning.  I’ve got a lot to learn.”  And this from one of only two NFL coaches with four Super Bowl championships.

One comment that Belichick made, which I also heard Gary Kubiak mention, was about delegating.  Belichick said that he is a detail-oriented person and has learned to delegate more with the Patriots, focusing more time and energy into some bigger picture things.

After a sideline stroke during a game in 2013, Kubiak also said he has learned to delegate more and not be a control freak, as he was in his previous job.  He empowered veteran players to make decisions and impose team policy.  It helps that he inherited a veteran team, including his quarterback Peyton Manning.

Yes, the same Peyton Manning that won a Super Bowl in 2007 with the Indianapolis Colts and was also “fired” when the Colts were able to draft Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.

For the rest of us, getting fired may not be as public.  So it’s important to figure out why you were fired.  Most people are mistaken in why they believe they lost their job.  Some will say that they’re failures, others that their boss had it in for them, and others yet that they were sure their career ended because of a faux pas they made at the company picnic.  Often firing is a straightforward cost-cutting measure.  When you’re fired, it’s easy to weave fantasies and imagine villains. If you are going to spend even an hour feeling miserable, make sure that you are miserable for the right reason.

Tony Dungy, whom I was instrumental in recruiting to the University of Minnesota and who was recently elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, is another Super Bowl winning coach who was fired.  For the record, he coached the Indianapolis Colts to the 2007 championship after being fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Dungy said:  “When I got my first head coaching job at 40 years old, I thought I was ready.  I was shocked at how much better I was at 47.”

“Because you get fired doesn’t mean you were a bad coach,” Tony added.  “It doesn’t mean you weren’t smart.  It means it just wasn’t the right situation.”


Mackay’s Moral:  The way to douse a firing is to use what you have learned for an even better hiring.


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