Woodie Dixon on how to juggle details, find a greater objective, and carry out the ultimate vision.
By Maggy Carlyle
Editor’s Note: Woodie Dixon is the General Counsel and Senior Vice President of Business Affairs at the Pac-12 Conference. He will be featured in issue 12 of Forefront Magazine, out on July 11. We reached out to a former colleague to talk a bit more about Dixon and his lasting influence on others. Look for his feature story soon.
Woodie has vision. Early on, we would have afternoon meetings in his office in Kansas City, and more often than not, he would recount some story or experience that always ended with a takeaway lesson. I remember very distinctly the message from one of those afternoon conversations. “You have to see the forest through the trees,” he told me. “It’s important to see the big picture, but you can’t forget to zero in on the details. To be the best, you have to know how the smallest details fit into the greater objective.” I’ve carried that single piece of advice with me ever since.
In sports, the “big picture” is always to win. The “win” may be a championship at the team level, fan engagement at the conference and league levels, or even activation in the sponsorship sector, but there’s always a clearly identifiable greater objective. It can be very difficult, however, to identify how the small issues and ordinary, day-to-day minutiae contribute to that win. Whether he’s establishing conference conduct policies and the bases for player discipline or negotiating a conference championship venue deal, Woodie has an uncanny ability to identify deceptively simple but significant details, understand what effect those details may have on the greater objective, and ultimately, use that understanding to inform the conference’s larger business, sport and legal strategies.
This vision doesn’t stop at negotiating deals and papering contracts. His ability to dissect the pieces of the big picture also allows him to assemble and empower superstar support teams. A large part of working in sports involves reacting to new and unique challenges—it’s impossible to foresee even a significant percentage of matters that crop up on a daily basis. Being involved in the conferences’ football, legal, human resources and business affairs, there’s no way Woodie can “know it all,” so his objective has always been to assemble a support team that collectively knows it all and allows the conference to react positively to even the most dubious situations. He’s able to assemble these teams by establishing the greater objective of the conference, identifying the distinct skills, knowledge and experiences needed to reach that objective, assembling team players that fit those needs and setting them loose to do what they do best.
Woodie wears a lot of different hats. Even though he makes it look easy, his day-to-day responsibilities could easily spiral out of control. They never do, though, because at the end of the day, he steps back, re-assesses the big picture, evaluates his team’s progress and fine-tunes the game plan. It all comes back to the vision. And from where Woodie’s sitting, I have a feeling the view ain’t bad.
Maggy Carlyle is the Associate Counsel at Sharks Sports and Entertainment.
Woodie Dixon will be featured in Issue 12 of Forefront Magazine