With NFL preseason games around the corner and American football teams right in the middle of training camp, it’s that time of the year again for teams to reconnect, reevaluate, and recharge. These training camps offer opportunities for the entire team to work together to develop new players, new coaches, and new strategies as well as revamp strategies and techniques with veteran coaches and players. This year, as I walk around and watch the coaches inspire and transform team members, I notice how many similarities there are between great NFL coaches and great leaders. I can't help but wonder about the opportunities annual training camps could bring to companies.
Much like a typical business structure, an American football team is made up of several smaller teams commonly called units. The three units of football represent the three phases of the game: offense, defense, and special teams. Within each of these units there are multiple positions, each with specific talents and deliverables, to make the team successful as a whole. Because each position holds such a critical role within the team, there are specific position coaches. This is similar to a business unit having its own leader/coach. These position coaches are responsible for making sure their individual players are at their best when it matters most. The best position coaches are excellent communicators, teachers, and mentors. They approach each player as an individual while teaching and inspiring them to contribute to the team. They build players’ belief in themselves and in their teammates. These position coaches teach us the importance of recognizing that each player on our own team has a unique skill set that benefits our team as a whole. Communicating our vision clearly and helping each player contribute his/her skills is paramount to our team's success.
At the football team’s next level, the coordinators are responsible for one of the three units. For these leaders, it’s all about collaborating, creating the right culture for their unit, role modeling a clear vision of excellence every day, and supporting their position coaches so they can be successful. If these leaders are too overbearing and micromanage, they won't develop the full potential of their position coaches. If they are too hands off, position coaches may go in their own direction which could create chaos and disconnection on the field. These leaders are responsible for instilling trust among their coaches and players as well as developing big-picture strategies their units will use to bring their best to each game. These leaders can teach us the value of communicating a clear vision, developing and trusting our direct reports, and role modeling leadership.
The head coach of a football team, just like the CEO of a business, often has a plethora of duties on his plate. His job is to give direction, inspire excellence, give energy to the staff, and constantly paint the picture of success for the entire organization. The way head coaches treat their direct reports and their players immediately becomes the accepted norm. They must show amazing emotional control, discipline, and strategic thinking. This leader is responsible for making sure that each detail within the organization reaches the desired level of excellence, which helps build the team's belief that it's a winning team.
When coaches at each level of the team are at their best and apply their Sustainable High Performance strategies, they maximize their impact at every practice, in every interaction with other coaches and players, and on game day. When they are mentally sharp and agile, they catch more teachable moments. When they are emotionally intelligent, they communicate to their players in a way that builds the players up instead of tearing them down. When they have a growth mindset, they are constantly trying to improve, which sets up a role modeling opportunity seen by their players. When they are great problem solvers, they are always coaching forward by clearly and concisely showing the players what excellence looks like.
Professional sports are very competitive and so is business. If you want to be a Super Bowl Champion (best company to work for, industry leader, nationally recognized, internationally recognized, etc.), you have to lead and coach like a champion. This means having great self-leadership skills. This means making sure you and your team can unload, reset, and refocus after every big push. This means doing all the little things that a champion does, even when nobody is looking.
Tonight, ask yourself, "What did I do today to deserve winning my Super Bowl?" As always, I would love to hear what you think.
By Scott Peltin //
Chief Performance Officer