What Winners Do
I live in the South where people rank the importance of their favorite football team in their lives right up with family. On any given fall Saturday afternoon down south, which comes first or second to SEC fans is debatable. It’s the opening day of football season this weekend and football’s coconut telegraph (also known as message boards) is buzzing. From the armchair quarterbacks to the network pundits, advice to the coaches abounds about what it will take for their team to sit atop the polls come December. Yep, I admit I’m one of “those” people who have no problem rejecting family members for my loyalty to my favorite team. I do love football and I often turn its lessons into metaphors for what it takes to create winning organizations. So, in the spirit of the season, I thought I would share some thoughts about what leaders can learn from winners.
Several characteristics of championship teams epitomize what it takes in organizations to turn a group of people—all from different walks of life with different motivations and talents—into a cohesive team that crosses the goal line together.
Winning requires talented people, a good game plan that everyone buys into, an organizational structure that supports the plan, and adequate financial resources. Many groups have these characteristics, but nevertheless don’t win. I believe that there are three key differences between winners and losers in football and in business. I learned these lessons from two of the best coaches I’ve ever known, Art Williams and Rickey Iden: Winners believe more, want it more, and execute better.
Just like football, you can’t create a winning organization if your players are sitting on the sidelines.
Winners begin with leaders who share a compelling vision, a clear plan, and a team that is a little more passionate, a little more committed, a little better at executing, and a lot better at adjusting the plan, as needed, in the heat of the game.
Here are some observations I have made over the years that I think we can learn from watching football this season: Let me know if you agree. Anything else you would add?
1. Each player understands where they fit on the team.
2. Teammates trust each other to execute, but they have each other’s back, when needed.
3. Each play is designed to reach the goal. But one play alone (with rare exception) doesn’t achieve the ultimate goal.
4. Small accomplishments that contribute to the end goal are celebrated.
5. The team works as smaller units (front line, defensive back, backfield, etc.), but they are all coordinated and committed to moving together to a shared vision.
6. Winners don’t quit. Failure of one play or losing one game doesn’t define the team’s destiny.
7. The coach understands he can’t play the game. He excels at his role: motivating, inspiring, and guiding those who ultimately execute his vision: The players.