Blog Episode

Not the Underdog – How Joe Burrow is Building a High-Performing Culture

On Sunday, (January 23, 2022), a last-second field goal gave the Cincinnati Bengals a 19-16 win over the Titans. It was an amazing game, but what stuck with me isn’t the game, or the win, but what Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow said after the game.

“I’m tired of the underdog narrative,” Burrow said. “We are a really, really good team.”

This bold statement might be even more important to the Bengals organization than the win. Burrow, with just two sentences, is shifting the culture. He is declaring that the mindset we’ve had has not led us to success. Moving forward, the Bengals will believe that they deserve to be there.

And the coaches and players responded to that.

It’s the same in business. If you want to guide your team to success, you first have to believe in the team and have a vision for that success. According to Gallup Press’s It’s the Manager, by Jim Clifton and Jim Harter, (page 12) “70% of the variance in team engagement is determined solely by the manager.” This means that success rests in the mindsets of the stakeholders.

It’s the optimism, the glass-half-full mentality, that we need more than ever, both in sports and in business. And it’s the desire to shift the mindset that gets results.

This is what we saw so clearly on Sunday evening. Burrow believes in his team, and they are going to step up and give him everything they have, to help the Bengals win.

The Leadership Excelleration model of a high-performing culture consists of alignment, collaboration, empowerment, and innovation. All are necessary for a high-performing culture. Joe Burrow’s statement about being tired of being considered the underdog and being a really good team is an example of alignment. He is setting clear expectations for his organization, while demonstrating trust in his coaches and teammates. He is establishing alignment around the fact that the Bengals deserve to be there.

High-Performing Culture Model

Leadership Excelleration approaches cultural change and development systematically. We assess factors like purpose and mission for the future, leadership and people engagement, consistency of practices, and adaptability to change. Then, we apply proven tools to to manage change through leadership support and coaching.


Really great leaders define the culture of where the organization needs to be and inspire others to get on the path to the new culture. When you look at your organization, can you say that you have built a culture that unifies your team and inspires passion and success?

Download our new High-Performing Culture brochure to learn how Leadership Excelleration helps our clients to develop an organizational culture of inclusion and success.

Organizational Culture Development Brochure