Coastal Carolina head coach (and TD AMERITRADE chairman) Joe Moglia has had an amazing two years. He took a promising, but underperforming, college football team, and turned them into repeat division champions in his first year as head coach. Before becoming the head coach at Coastal Carolina, Joe was the CEO and chairman of TD AMERITRADE, where he led the company from a market value of $700 million to $10 billion.
At the heart of his system is something he calls simply, "Be a Man."
In the interview below, Joe describes exactly what the BAM philosophy is all about, and how others can achieve greater success in their own lives and careers.
Natalie Pace: What is your Be a Man philosophy all about?
Joe Moglia: It's about standing on your own two feet and learning to take responsibility for yourself. It has nothing to do with gender. It has everything to do with being a great leader. A great leader has a respect for others and cares about other people in his or her charge.
NP: What are your BAM expectations of your team?
JM: Everybody on our team is somebody's son or brother. We expect our guys, coaches as well, to live up to that responsibility to their family. Not just on the football field, but in the classroom, and your behavior on and off campus.
NP: It's one thing to say "BAM!" and another to turn a losing team into winners. How did you inspire that turnaround in just two years? Are they receiving extra help? Are you bringing in extra resources?
JM: Remember: We did the same thing in the business world. It was the exact same philosophy. You have to implement a plan. You have to implement a strategy. You have to have a mission. Most people's mission in the business world is, "We want to be the best blah blah blah at whatever we do." At Ameritrade, our mission was that we were going to bring financial literacy to everybody in this country. It was aspirational. But it also wasn't about us. It was about our clients. Our mission at Coastal Carolina is that we're going to put a team on the field that anyone associated with Coastal is going to be proud of. While winning is an important part of that, it also means that you never, ever, ever take the play off. You always give it 100% of everything you have. This is not just football. This is in the classroom. We have incredible resources to help our athletes at Coastal. But if the guys are not even going to class, we don't want them to use those resources. They've got to go to class. They've got to live up to the responsibility and we'll do everything we can to help them.
NP: What other tricks are up your sleeve to help your players achieve greater heights on and off of the field?
JM: There are three ways that anybody learns. It's not about how we teach things or explain things, it's about how they learn. You can learn kinesthetically, by touching and feeling. You can do it through audio and through visual. All of our guys, including our coaches, take tests, so we know what kind of learner he is. If you are a kinesthetic learner and the coach is explaining something to you that you don't quite understand, instead of saying, "Coach, could you explain that again," you say, "Coach, instead of just explaining that, would you mind showing me." In our meetings, our coaches have our players explain to the other players, and to the coaches, what their responsibility is and why in a particular call or a particular play.
NP: How does someone step up and take responsibility?
JM: We talk about spiritual soundness. We talk about dedication. We talk about courage. We talk about love. The commitment to the well-being of others. Truly understanding that and getting that is what separates a good leader from a great leader. It helps a boy become a man. That's what helps a girl become a woman.
NP: I just learned that as a kid, you were in a gang. Does your experience on the street give you more of a connection, and maybe even more respect, from the players?
JM: I think it does. My father was born in Italy. My mother was born in Ireland. My father never finished eighth grade. My mother never finished high school. We grew up in a tough inner-city section of New York. I was part of a gang from the time I was a young kid. Two of my very, very best friends, whom I was with every day in grammar school, got killed in high school. One died of a drug overdose. One was killed robbing a liquor store. Had I not been playing high school football, I would have been with the guy robbing the liquor store.
NP: Wow. Those are a lot of life lessons for a teen...
JM: My father sold fruits and vegetables. He worked 14 hours a day, six days a week his entire life. He didn't retire until he was 80. From the time I was 10, I worked in that fruit store with him. I developed an appreciation from watching friends of mine actually get killed that, again, you stand on your own two feet and you take responsibility for yourself. You choose the road that you intend to go down. You take responsibility for what winds up happening to you.
NP: So, it wasn't just "by the grace of God," that you were spared the fate of your friends. It had everything to do with the choices you made... and, specifically, the choice to play football, rather than to hang out and get into trouble...
JM: Those things helped me to be incredibly appreciative of the fact that I had the opportunity to go to college. I had the opportunity to become a football coach. I still look at that as an incredible privilege for me. Then I had the opportunity to go to Wall Street. There are not that many countries in the world, where that kind of opportunity could actually happen to somebody. So, it makes me appreciative. It also makes me very, very much aware of how critical it is to understand who you are, to take responsibility for yourself and wind up doing things that a) you have the skill set for and b) can be passionate about. That's what separates one performer from another.
NP: How are you able to inspire both business leaders and kids from the street to perform at their best?
JM: I would go back to taking responsibility for myself, having the skill set, having a passion for it and having a genuine interest in the well-being of the people that you work with. At the end of the day, this is truly about caring for others and having an impact on them. That was true for me in the business world, and that's certainly true for me in the world of coaching.
NP: What's your goal and mission for the Coastal Carolina team for 2014?
JM: We were brought in to compete at the national level. We're already doing that. Hopefully, one day, we'll compete for the national championship. But that's not what we talk about. We talk about the mission. We talk about our goals to put a team on the field that Coastal is going to be very, very proud of. It means you never give up. It means you give 100 percent of everything that you have. Then it's our job to be able to create an environment that maximizes the potential of our people and find competitive edges on the field, so we can be more effective when it's time to execute. You have to be able to adapt and to adjust to your players' strengths, not what you think is a good idea.
When the going got tough, Joe Moglia made hard choices for the team -- not just for himself. Whether it was staying out of trouble for a father who worked eighteen hours a day in a fruit stand, or freezing in a storage loft to provide for his four children and ex-wife, or avoiding subprime mortgages to maintain a healthy balance sheet for TD AMERITRADE. Joe's outstanding achievements on Wall Street and in college football are the result of a great plan, a sound philosophy and confident execution.
Joe Moglia is back for a third season at Coastal Carolina this year, doing what he loves. Helping young football players BAM their way to the national championship, with a system that wins in business and life, as well.