CLEVELAND -- Cleveland Browns chief executive officer Joe Banner knows what it is like to succeed, and also how to process and learn from failure.
And according to Banner, to be truly successful, one cannot live in fear of failure. That was his message as the keynote speaker for the Midtown Cleveland, Inc., luncheon at the Intercontinental Hotel in Cleveland Tuesday.
“If you approach something, and you’re not confident of what could go on or fear failure, the degree of success you hope for is not as great as possible,” Banner said in his address. “You have to have an attitude and hire people that believe that regardless of the obstacles, they’re going to come and you’re going to achieve your ultimate goal.”
A fear of failure is what Banner saw in the front office of the Philadelphia Eagles when he became part of the team, and again, 19 years later, when he joined owner Jimmy Haslam in reconstructing the Browns last October.
“I felt like I walked into a situation where people had been afraid of making a mistake, of what could go wrong, and the criticism that comes with making mistakes,” Banner said. “One of the first things I wanted to do was implement a culture within the Eagles and the Browns with that attitude that we were no longer afraid of what could go wrong and assuming we were going to be right. We do so, by the way, knowing that we are going to be wrong a certain percentage of the time, but if we let that guide us, we’re going to limit the potential for success.
“If you watched the game this Sunday, you saw us fake a punt and fake a field goal. It’s more of just the same mindset. If we were being driven by a fear that that fake may not work, then, we wouldn’t even try. As it turns out, the guts to try that actually won us the game.”
Lacking a fear of failure is only part of Banner’s philosophy in business and football. Another element in changing the culture and reversing the fortunes of a football team involves taking risks, which Banner did while playing an integral role in taking the Eagles to five straight NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl after the team fell on hard times in the early 1990s.
When analyzing what made a head coach successful in the NFL, Banner and the Eagles focused less on wins, losses and schemes, and more on leadership, managing a staff, communicating with players and co-workers and a meticulous attention-to-detail.
That process led Banner and the Eagles to Andy Reid, who had never been a head coach or coordinator in the NFL before taking over in Philadelphia. Eventually, Reid led the Eagles to 132 victories and nine playoff appearances in 14 seasons.
And it was that same process which led the Browns to their new head coach, Rob Chudzinski, back in January.
“We feel very lucky and excited to have him,” Banner said of Chudzinski. “He’s a strong leader. He pays attention to detail. I don’t think there are three better coordinators on any NFL staff. I’m hard-pressed to think of any staff that has had three coordinators that are that good. He’s managed the staff extremely well. He’s a very straight-forward and honest person, and all the people he works with and manages recognize that.
“We do believe that by bringing that mindset to the organization and filling our organization with people that are similarly-minded, that have the willingness to take risks and not fear failure, then, that will lead to a greater level of success than the franchise has had in the past.”