The Law of Threes

I had been planning to write a post about Bill Simmons–ESPN’s “Sports Guy”–as one of my storytelling heroes for some time (and I will), but his latest ESPN column demands immediate linking as it had an awesome note on how the New York Giants’ head coach handles the “three types of players.”

Check it out:

Our friend Mike Lombardi did a tremendous job describing Tom Coughlin’s coaching style over at the National Football Post last week: “He is using a very simple leadership strategy called the ‘Law of Threes.’ On each team there are three types of players. The first are the ones who will do anything that is asked, willing to help the program. The second group are the undecided players, the players who are not sure what to do. And the third are the malcontents. These are the players who want to buck the system all the time and try to break down the team. As a leader, there is a tendency to try to win over the players in group three by trying to make them happy. But all that does is move the players from group two into group three, and cause you to start to lose the players in group one. What Coughlin has done is focus on group one. He pays no attention to group three and what has resulted is that Plaxico is on an island and no one wants to join him. The team is bigger than Plaxico.”

[Plaxico Burress is the Giants’ leading receiver who was suspended earlier this season for breaking team rules.]

With all the talk of Tribes lately, it seems like the “Law of Threes” applies to almost any organization. What do you think?

P.S. Check out the full article for Bill’s complete ranking of the NFL’s 32 teams, as well as why Showtime beats HBO and why you can never let your friends put down Kate Bosworth in your presence again.



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6 responses to “The Law of Threes

  1. Lee

    Love this Law of Threes. I’m fascinated by management and leadership issues. Wish I had known about this when I was managing a large staff of producers and editors–even now, 10 years later, I can put each of them into one of the three categories. If only I had thought to IGNORE the jerks πŸ˜‰

    Also love this Bill Simmons. You’re right, he’s a great storyteller.

    Hope you are having fun adjusting to life in Chicago. -lee.

  2. Lee –

    The idea makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?

    Speaking of management and leadership in business, you might check out Howard Mann’s “Your Business Brickyard” — I just read it (we have a book club thingy at GasPedal, how cool is that?) and it’s full of some great ideas and simple, actionable steps. Not exactly a leadership book, and not exactly a management book, but it has enough insights on both that you might like it.

    And thanks, Chicago has been great so far!


  3. Lee

    Thanks for the lead on the Brickyard book. You can download it for free (sweet πŸ™‚ here:

    I’m looking forward to reading a blog entry about your new work, and learning more about word-of-mouth marketing. -lee.

  4. Nice, thanks for the lead on the download link.

    No worries, more blog posts to come. πŸ™‚

    And if word of mouth marketing interests you, look to Andy’s blog at and our blog at GasPedal at

    And I can’t wait for you to launch your blog! πŸ™‚

  5. Lee

    I’ve been so busy I just noticed your response from 10 days ago. Busy = good thing πŸ˜‰ Thanks for the lead on these blogs. And about my blog…I think I need to get my website functional first, dontchathink? Yeah, I’m working on that!

  6. Cale,

    Many thanks for the great post. I love a great sports story related to business!

    And MANY thanks for the kind words about my book.

    All the best,

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