Paul Gustavson is most well-known for his work with Fortune 500 companies, helping them to reorganize and strategize to excel and improve their performance as a team and as an organization. Perhaps one of his most rewarding assignments came in 2005 when Bronco Mendenhall called on him for help in reigniting the competitive spirit of the BYU football team. Bronco had a tough job as a brand-new head coach of a team that was failing and was looking for a way to rebuild the image, character, and success of the team.
During my face-to-face interview with Gustavson, he shared some of the reasons he went into the field of organizational behavior in the first place. His father was an engineer at AT&T and his mother a nurse in the suburbs of Kansas City when Paul was growing up. He told me "I recognized as a child that whatever happens at work carries over into the home. When things weren't that great at work, my parents would come home and ask why hadn't the lawn been mowed or why hadn't you been good to your brothers and sister? If, on the other hand, my mother had a good day at work, she would come home and bake the best apple pie; same parents, different type of day at work different result at home. In high school, when I saw the guidance counselor one day, I simply said 'I want to create great places for people to work.' "
"I attended Ricks College for one year, then served a full-time mission for the LDS church to Brazil. I had played football before serving my mission and had a desire to continue playing upon returning. When the school wanted me to come home early from my mission and restart football training to retain my scholarhsip, I decided instead to serve the full two-year mission and give up my hope of playing football."
"I had a wonderful and motivational mission president (George A. Oaks) who taught me D&C 82:10 and told me that because of my faithfulness in serving a full mission, that if I had the desire, I would be given that opportunity to play BYU football. So in 1972 I was the first player to walk on to the football team under the new Head Coach LaVell Edwards. I did so at the suggestion of Keith 'Mad Dog' Rivera, who encouraged and befriended me and later a great blessing in my life was that he joined the church.”
“As a senior in college I took a class from Dr. Keith Warner in complex organizations and he pointed me toward the Organizational Behavior program at BYU to fulfill my dream of learning how to create great places for people to work. Later I worked with Bill Dyer as a teaching assistant and research assistant and learned about building successful teams and workplaces.
In one such metaphorical and emotional experience, Coach Mendenhall took the brand-new team to the Provo River. He had the players take an hour to write down, on large sheets of paper, everything they didn't like about the current BYU football team. Once they had it all on paper, these lists of past grievances was thrown into a giant bonfire and the team watched them burn. Mendehall then said “that’s the past. Now, what do you want in the future and what are you willing to do to fix it?”