Five Rules from Atlanta’s Five Stripes

Most people probably don’t know the name Darren Eales, but in the world of American soccer he’s become a legend. As President of recent expansion side Atlanta FC, they’ve made headlines with not just their quality of play, but their fan culture as well. In a few brief years of existence, they’ve made a name for the club on the global stage. Eales recently sat for an interview with Rog Bennet and discussed his five rules. They’re worth sharing here as they easily apply to any professional culture.

1. “There is no finish line.” Eales says that we all experience a gravitational pull towards mediocrity. Every time we achieve a goal, we have to determine our next objective.

2. “There’s power in diversity.” Atlanta FC brought in all sorts of non-soccer people to add perspective from the very beginning. They knew that to be different they would have to think differently.

3. “Don’t take anything for granted.” Eales says they should never forget the reason their jobs exist – the fans. If that means he’s dropping in on local fan meetings to announce a coaching change before they hear from the media or buying back season tickets at a premium to build a special seating section for their supporter groups, the club is always looking for ways to invest in their supporters.

4. “The path to progress is not a straight line.” There will be both ups and downs. Embrace them both in the name of progress.

5. “Have fun, celebrate the highs when you have them.” When they do achieve a goal, they pause and celebrate the victory. Work starts again the next day, but it’s always important to recognize hard work and success.    

If this all seems too philosophical or not practical enough, just invert each of these rules and ask what we might avoid doing instead in our own organizations. If there is not clarity of understanding for how each task flows into the next, if we’re striving for monoculture instead of diversity, if we’re not recognizing that we’re here because of our clients, if we embrace the ups and ignore the downs (or vice versa) without learning, or if we don’t make enough fuss about our victories – an alarm needs to go off.   

With the end of the year upon us and everyone looking forward to next year’s challenges, a list like Eales’ is a good reminder of what matters. And, if you were unsure of who to cheer for in the MLS playoffs, consider the “The Five Stripes” as a team worth adopting.

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