Life Lessons from The Book of Amy Trask
The Book of Amy Trask
I could hear the voice of Amy Trask, channeling Al Davis, telling me to write. Write what, you ask? Write about the emotions and struggle I felt during and after reading her new book, “You Negotiate Like A Girl” (written with Mike Freeman). Emotions? Struggle? From a book? Yeah, read on…
Journey to Leadership
When I reached that last chapter, I knew the journey was coming to an end. But, I didn’t want it to end. I felt as though I was reading about a part of my life that I never knew before. As a lifelong Oakland Raiders fan, I felt as if I was peeking into something I shouldn’t be — the man who represented the Raiders, Al Davis.
Represented doesn’t even seem like the right word, does it? Al Davis was, and in some ways still is, the embodiment of the Raiders. In my formative years, he seemed both brilliant and disconnected. Maniacal and innovative. Rebellious and…well, let’s just leave it there.
Here I was reading about Davis from someone who worked closely with him, Amy Trask. Trask was the Raiders CEO at the time of her departure – the first female executive in the history of the NFL. She worked her way up through the organization the right way – with hard work, determination and passion for the organization.
But, what impressed me most about Trask wasn’t just how she handled the relationship with Davis. That, in itself, was no easy task (She always tried ‘not to f— it up!’). No, what impressed me most was – is – her outlook on work and life. In many ways, it surpasses many of the leadership books written by so-called experts, gurus and motivational speakers.
- Listening Skills – “Reasoned and reasonable arguments intended to problem solve can be valuable. I don’t believe, however that such arguments should ever include ad hominem attacks.” (excerpt from chapter 7, “Get the Sandwiches”)
- Company-minded thinking: Trask made a concerted effort to learn all she could about the organization from top to bottom, even when she wasn’t yet at the top. Understand how things currently work within so you know what works and what doesn’t.
- Encourage team dialogue: Trask was cognizant of how every cog in the wheel is important. She encouraged a team-effort to help get the Raiders through the lock-out a few years back.
- Think like a fan: I cannot overemphasize this point enough. I’ve been preaching this for years on Twitter to sports marketers. You want to connect with and reach fans, think like them. Amy Trask made it a point to sit with fans, talk with them, use stadium concessions and facilities like they do. Guess what? It worked.
Not In My Twitter Village
If Trask is never named commissioner of the NFL, can she be named Twitter Commissioner instead? Twitter Czarina? Twitter Princess of Darkness? (More on that in a moment.)
As I closed the book, I had tears in my eyes. Tears because the journey “with” Trask was over. Tears because of all of the stories told (don’t even get me started on what she says about her nameless husband). Tears because of the “what ifs” about “my” Raiders. Tears because I knew I needed to write this review, but deep down I knew it wouldn’t matter. Nobody would read it anyway.
Just write, baby.
There are days when I open Twitter on my phone or TweetDeck on my desktop or laptop and I either a) cringe b) shake my head c) feel like crying d) sigh e) immediately close it. The Twitter of today isn’t what it used to be when I joined back in 2009. Today, it’s a cacophony of look-at-me’s, I’ve got an opinion and you WILL listen and arguments with no one listening.
And that’s just in sports media.
Then I heard a voice. It wasn’t Amy channeling Al this time. It was Amy saying,
Not in my Twitter village.
Amy Trask is a leader. Not a perfect leader, as she would tell you. But, she is a leader who understands the big picture. To reach the conclusion, you need to work out the story first. The story cannot have 10-20, 50-100, 500-1000 different writers each trying to write their own plot. There needs to be a common theme, a common goal to the overarching story.
This won’t happen without communication. Communication requires not just talking but listening too. Listening has become a lost art in many sport media circles.
Call it what you will: the chains/muzzles/restrictions/whatever have been removed for sports media with the advent of Twitter. Before, they could not show any partiality on any non-sports topics. Well, they could, but…not a good look for the employer – a journalist showing a bias about a subject matter meant they couldn’t be unbiased about anything.
Those days are gone. It’s been a blessing and a curse. There is more rhetoric, more bickering, more discord, more (dare I say it) self-importance than ever before. Then again, it’s always been there. It just didn’t have a method of delivery that spreads as quick as Twitter. Twitter has become this generation’s sports talk radio – only instead of callers being screened or certain types of hosts getting on air, everyone gets to talk.
Not in my Twitter village.
Darn it, Amy Trask.
What “You Negotiate Like A Girl” reminded me is to ‘be true to myself’. That has been Trask’s mantra, passed down to her by her mother (to thine own self be true). Trask has operated in that mindset her entire adult life, all the while encountering various levels of resistance.
Trask didn’t looked at her gender as a help or hindrance, although some did and do on both sides of the coin. She didn’t look at race, although she was fully cognizant of it in her organization – the Raiders did many “firsts” along this line – and in society as a whole (read her Nolan Harrison story in the book).
For her, it was about what you did not who you were. Do your job, whatever that may be, and do it to the best of your ability. You’ll be rewarded based on what you did not who you were (i.e. not because of your gender or race). Don’t whine about what you don’t or didn’t get – make your work so good that you can’t help but be noticed. Learn all you can about your job, help others when you can and just work, baby.
To read Trask’s perspective on this mindset is affirmation for me. My book is filled with folded corners, underlined sentences and numerous margin comments – some of the YES or AMEN variety. I know I’ll have to re-read it to gain even more perspective, but being true to who I am…
To me, if we want equality, we can be cognizant of discrepancies and differences that exist all while not operating in them. How? Don’t promote one at the expense of another. Work hard, be determined, learn your craft, listen well, leave toxic environments, champion others and surround yourself with those who believe in you for you.
Communication – which is BOTH listening and speaking – is paramount in any discussion on equality. We may end up agreeing to disagree, but at least we aim to dialogue WITH one another. We need to listen to each other’s point of view instead of screaming (in all caps, of course): I’M RIGHT. MY POINT OF VIEW IS RIGHT. MY INTERPRETATION IS RIGHT. YOU’RE WRONG ON ALL COUNTS.
It all starts with respect. Respecting people as human beings. Respecting that they are a person with value no matter who they are or what they represent. They are uniquely created human beings with a mind and a soul. We don’t have to agree with their actions, but they are human beings.
When we as a society begin to view people in that way, society’s mindset will change. A Herculean task, to be sure. But, given where society is currently at, there needs to be a mindset change. A “village mindset”? Maybe.
If you follow Amy Trask on Twitter, you understand many of these concepts when she talks about her “Twitter village”. However, if you do follow Amy on Twitter and haven’t read the book, I suggest that you read it. Not only will you learn about her journey, Al Davis, the Oakland Raiders and leadership, but you might even learn a little about yourself if you’re willing to…
Just listen, baby.