Football Commentator Amy Trask on Honesty
For author, attorney, and sports commentator Amy Trask, one of her weaknesses has proved to be her greatest strength.
“Throughout my career, I have been told that I’m direct to a fault,” says the Girl Scout alum. “But I don’t believe there is such a thing. The world would be a lot better and we would communicate more effectively if we all did that. It’s important in work, and in life.”
Amy has told direct reports throughout her career how she feels about honesty.
“I am very, very direct,” she says. “You’re never going to have to guess what I am thinking.”
She encourages the same radical honesty from those who work with her.
“Don’t worry about offending me,” she says. “The only thing that will bother me is if you don’t tell me something, even if it is not easy to say and even if it is not easy for me to hear.”
For Amy, there are no exceptions to that rule—including when employees feel she needs to make a correction.
“I think it is important to hear that I have made a mistake,” she says. “My brother and sister-in-law are doctors, and they can’t yell out ‘oh no!’ during a procedure. But with limited exceptions, it is OK to make a mistake in business.”
“The only people who don’t make mistakes are people who aren’t trying new things and aren’t trying to innovate,” Amy adds.
During her time working for the NFL, Amy made it a point to ask all her colleagues to call her out on her mistakes. She spent nearly 30 years with the Raiders, where she started as a legal intern during law school and ultimately rose to the role of CEO.
“I’m going to make a lot of mistakes, and when I do, I am going to come to you and say, ‘Will you help me fix it?’ That fostered an environment of people coming to me for help as well,” she says.
This figures into her philosophy on leadership, which revolves around four skills, Amy argues: communication, cooperation, collaboration, and coordination.
“As tolerant as I am of mistakes, the mistake that I have the least tolerance of is a failure to communicate,” she says.
She learned this lesson early, as a Girl Scout at Camp Whites Landing on Catalina Island in California. That’s where she discovered that in competition, the team that won was always the team that communicated—and therefore collaborated—the best.
Amy attended the University of California, Berkeley, for undergraduate school and moved to Los Angeles for grad school the same year the Raiders moved there. She had always loved football, and the Raiders were her team.
“The team gave second, third, and fourth chances to members who were labeled behavioral problems. That resonated with me; I have been called [a behavioral problem], too,” she says with a laugh.
After she left the Raiders, she was contacted by CBS Sports about a position as an on-air football analyst. “When they first approached me, I said, ‘No, I can’t be on camera!’”
Later, after she shared the experience and her on-air fears with a group of friends, one leaned in and said, “Let it go.”
“It resonated with me,” she said. “My first couple years, I was so terrified when the lights were on and the cameras were on that I could barely breathe. But the team at CBS Sports gave me the encouragement I needed.”
Amy says that at the beginning, one coworker held her hand when they were on air, and another gave her looks that told her, “I got you.”
Now she loves the work.
“Facing my biggest fear was extraordinarily frightening, and really hard, but doing that can lead to things that are very, very fun.”