HR Management & Compliance

Remember the Titans to Build a Cohesive Team

How does the movie Remember the Titans help managers deal with mergers, integration, and other challenges? In today’s epinion, BLR CEO Dan Oswald shows how it’s helping at his recently-merged company.

Recently, at a company luncheon, I was asked about my favorite movie. Ask about the business and I’m quick with an answer. But the question about my favorite movie was nearly a stumper. I scrambled to come up with something and ultimately came up with a reply, but really wasn’t satisfied with my response.
Well, I’ve had a couple of months to consider it and finally have come up with a good answer. Remember the Titans is my answer to the question, “What is your favorite movie?”

I can’t say that Remember the Titans is my absolute favorite or the best movie I’ve ever seen. There are so many movies I’ve enjoyed over the years that narrowing it down to one is tough. Various movies resonate with you at different times in your life. If you ask me the same question a year from now, I’ll likely come up with a different answer.

So Why ‘Remember the Titans’?

Some may think I like the movie because it’s about football. And, yes, I’m a big football fan. (In fact, early in my career I coached high school football on a part-time basis for a number of years.) But that’s not the reason.

Others may think it’s because of the incredible movie soundtrack, which included songs by Marvin Gaye, Cat Stevens, The Hollies, Ike and Tina Turner, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and James Taylor. It’s a great soundtrack with many songs from my favorite musical era, but that’s not the reason either.

Earlier this year we completed a merger. We’ve spent the past eight months bringing the two companies and cultures together. Remember the Titans is my favorite movie right now because I think it’s incredibly a propos given what our company is going through.

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The movie, based on a true story, is about the T.C. Williams High School football team. In 1971, a court order forced three Virginia high schools to integrate their student bodies and faculties. T.C. Williams was one of those schools. The movie documents the trials and tribulations of the football team as two different cultures come together and attempt to unite to reach a common goal—winning the state football championship.

The similarities between the impact that racially integrating the school had on the football team and the challenges we’ve had to face as a result of our merger are striking.

Early in the movie you see the players angry and confused about their roles on the newly combined team. Each player is wondering how he and his friends fit into the new team dynamic. The players must come to grips with the new reality of an integrated team. They must accept new and different roles for the team to ultimately be successful. It’s that process that takes place throughout the movie.

And it’s not only the players who are affected. T.C. Williams’ head coach is asked to take an assistant’s position in order to make room for a new African-American head coach played by Denzel Washington. After initially balking at the change in role, he chooses to stay on and the results are positive.

As the players begin to accept and trust one another, they are successful in their pursuit of wins on the gridiron. Of course, throughout the season, that trust is put to the test numerous times. Situations arise that raise questions and concerns for those involved, but each time the focus on the common goal of winning the state championship allows them to move past the issue.

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Ultimately, the movie is about hard work, dedication, sacrifice, leadership, and success. As the players, coaches, and community first accept the new reality and, ultimately, embrace it, the results are astounding. Not only does T.C. Williams win the Virginia State Football Championship, but the bonds that are formed between players, coaches, and families are also noteworthy. Ultimately, it was the people who won.

These are lessons that can be applied to many business situations. Overcoming differences to find common ground and building a cohesive team are abilities every manager must possess. It may be that the department you’re leading has some friction with another department in the company and to meet the business objectives you need to get past the infighting. You might be dealing with two individuals who just can’t seem to work together for the benefit of the company. Or it might be a cross-departmental team that’s struggling to come together to help the business succeed. There are situations to which the lessons displayed in Remember the Titans can be applied.

So, right now my favorite movie is Remember the Titans. Not because it’s the greatest movie I’ve ever seen, but because the message is so appropriate for our situation right now. Chances are, the movie has lessons you could apply to your job right now, too.

Accomplishing a goal takes hard work, dedication, and sacrifice, but it also takes people coming together. The next time you’re asked to work with another group within your company or to merge two groups together, let this movie be a reminder that if you keep the common goal in mind, you’ll see success.

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