Fit Happens, so the Detroit #Lions can’t win . . . And why every leader should care

FOR the record, I am a fair-weather fan.

I generally do not watch sports, but when I do, it’s a Detroit team and they’re in the playoffs. Or it’s Turkey Day and there’s a bloody mary (spicy) involved.

Anyone who knows me can tell you that I do take some pride in my lack of sports-ball knowledge. That’s not to say that I don’t have a solid, proven way to change the Lion’s fortunes.

It certainly works in other organizations.


The Detroit #Lions have amassed an impressive losing record under the Ford family’s ownership—legendary, in fact. Since acquiring the team in 1964, the Ford’s Lions have won a total of one playoff game.


The 2008 season was their most recent perfect season—they successfully navigated the season with no wins or ties (0-16).

I’m told that the team has not lacked on-field talent . . . I’m told that they get to draft and hire talent from the same pool of players as every other team . . . I’m told that they hire from the same pool of coaches and leaders as every other team . . . I’m told that some of the same players and coaches go elsewhere and perform at high levels . . . I’m told that they’re rebuilding . . .   

Fire, hire . . . underperform . . . rinse & repeat for 50+ years.

Despite the fact that I know very little about football, I’m confident that I could significantly improve the Lion’s performance on the field.  


The Detroit Lions’ results are not random.

Fit Happens

There’s more than enough research to demonstrate that fit happens.  Not only that, but simple reflection on the choices that you make on a daily basis prove it.

  • We naturally seek out similar others and environments in which we fit.
  • We have a strong preference to be with others who share our goals, values, and beliefs.
  • We also prefer people who think, talk, and act like us.
  • We prefer work environments that enable us to think and act most consistently with our goals, values, etc. surrounded by people who also share those very same things.
  • Personality is generally predictive of your college major, the type of industry you prefer, and even the organization you prefer to work in.

There is also enough evidence to suggest that:

  • Leaders (anyone who hires) are inclined to hire in their own image
  • Organizational culture is a reflection of the personality and values of the top leader(s)

These are simply psychological truths about the human animal—whether this is a good or bad thing is a separate discussion.

A Quiz

The quickest way to understand why the Lions can’t win is by way of a short quiz (feel free to substitute your–or any–organization for “the Lions”):

  1. Who is attracted to the opportunity to coach or lead the Lions?
  2. To whom is leadership attracted to fill those positions?
  3. To whom is leadership most likely to offer the job?
  4. Who is most likely to accept an offer to lead or coach the Lions?
  5. Who is most likely to stay with the Lions over time?
  6. Who is most likely to quit or be fired?


  • 1.-5. individuals who fit the people and culture, and those people current and past have a lot in common with each other and top leadership
  • 6. those who do not fit the people and culture

These phenomena hold from top leadership through entry-level positions.

The truth is, the Detroit Lions’ leadership and culture attracts, hires, and keeps leaders, coaches, and others who fit. And whatever it is about that culture, it is not a winning culture, and that culture starts and stops at the very top.

The Fix

So what’s the fix? There are several options:

  1. Sell the team to owners with very different goals, beliefs, values, etc. and hope that their leadership and culture will create a new fit cycle of attracting, hiring, and keeping winners. This won’t happen so long as Lions fans fill 99% of seats every year.
  2. Hire new leaders and coaches from a pool of qualified people at random and hope for something very different. This approach removes top leadership’s biased preference for specific types of leaders–which is what got us here in the first place. This is a tough sell.
  3. Break the cycle by utilizing a scientific approach to hiring top leadership and coaches. And then empower those leaders to make decisions and do what comes naturally to build a culture that will bring in winners.
    • If the “right hire” doesn’t feel like a fit with ownership and others, we’re likely onto something good.

To review, fit happens. So the Detroit Lions can’t win. 

It certainly doesn’t have to be this way for the Lions—or any other organization for that matter. How is fit helping–or hurting–your organization?

And yes, I’d love to help the Lions break that cycle so I can watch more games.



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