CEO Performance Insights from Pete Carroll and Dr. Michael Gervais


I highly recommend investing 45 minutes in Dr. Michael Gervais’ interview with Pete Carroll. on the topic of performance-cultures.   Michael Gervais is a high performance psychologist who works in the trenches of high-stakes environments, where there is no luxury for mistakes, hesitation, or failure to respond.  His client roster includes an MVP from every major sport, internationally acclaimed artists and musicians and Fortune 25 CEO’s.  Pete Carroll is the Head Coach and EVP of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.

Gervais is also a great Twitter follow for those interested in performance psychology and leadership.  You can also subscribe to his podcast here.


  • Carroll’s leadership is grounded in one philosophy: he competes to master the art and science of helping people achieve their very best.  He sees that his “job is to help people be the best they can be.”  He develops this mentality within everyone in his organization.
  • Carroll’s laser focus is on process and performance – NOT on winning.  Winning is the goal of course, but the FOCUS is competing in every moment to help everyone be their very best.
  • Outcomes are merely information/feedback to guide you on your journey toward mastery.
  • Presuming solid talent, teams are VERY difficult to beat when they perform at their best.
  • Carroll puts 100% of his focus in each moment, he lives in that moment and nowhere else while paying attention only to what he can control.
  • Leaders need to be great at focusing…and that requires practice – on focusing!
  • To help others be their best, leaders must understand their teams infinitely well.  Carroll advocates that leaders must “learn the learner.”  Leaders must understand what their teams need, whether they know it or not, to be their best.
  • Carroll’s approach is built on a premise of LOVING what he does and, more importantly, loving who he helps.


  • CEOs should NOT consider this approach if they don’t share Carroll’s sincere and deeply-rooted love for teams and the organization.
  • Building a performance culture (rather than outcome culture) can be a powerful model for a portfolio company if well executed.
  • I submit that private equity firms would generally support this approach despite traditionally being laser focused on outcomes.  My rationale is that they are just as interested in process, execution and continuous improvement. And, any approach that grows EBITDA and revenue will of course be well-received.
  • A performance culture has many powerful benefits than can drive value creation for private equity firms, including but certainly not limited to:
    • Continuous commitment to getting better throughout the organization.
    • Greater resiliency to setbacks because teams move on to what’s next rather than dwelling on the past.
    • Teams are less susceptible to taking their collective foot off the gas after a big win…again, it’s 100% focus on moving into the next thing – and to getting better.
    • Leadership habits are cultivated at all levels of the organization.  This outcome builds a more powerful bench and acts as an organizational development mechanism that includes a stronger succession-planning culture.
    • A-Players will want to work for CEOs who adopt this cultural approach making it easier to build world-class teams.
    • Well-executed performance cultures can deliver sustainable, market out-performance.

As with any culture, CEOs must be ALL IN.  Every CEO I interview talks about culture but, unfortunately, not all CEOs share Carroll’s level of commitment, passion and enthusiasm in this area.  CEOs need to ensure that their hearts are in the culture game, not just their minds.


Execution, Performance Pscyhology

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