The world doesn’t need another ‘sport is a metaphor for life’ blog post, but I absorbed some powerful thoughts at the American Football Coaches Convention that I do need to share.
Yes, they are words of wisdom espoused by college, pro, and high school football coaches and therefore shouldn’t automatically be accepted as life lessons. But they just as easily could have been words of wisdom from business, government and societal leaders. By extension, they would have similar transferability to the sports arena.
Certainly, the coaches presenting and attending at the AFCA Convention feel they contribute to the world much more than just fun and games. The unofficial theme of the event was that football and the military are the last remaining bastions of American society for young men today. Their pitch to their fellow countrymen is that without football, their country is at risk of a weakened backbone. That football provides the role modeling, discipline, and maturation that young men in America need so desperately today more than ever.
I have long suggested that businesses should also take a role in nation building. Business executives (female and male) should be role models for their current, future, and former colleagues. Businesses should provide opportunities to teach, train and develop young people. Businesses need to be prepared to help in times of financial need, small and large crises, and unexpected disasters.
In order for businesses to be able to act as a guiding force in our communities, they may consider approaching their culture building based on some of the principles that lead to successful football teams.
Let’s examine three.
Culture drives behaviour. It needs to be established at the outset and worked on every day. The leader must be clear on three things: 1. Here is our plan; 2. The plan is infallible; 3. Follow the plan.
Competing is all about maximizing your abilities. This requires a relentless focus on preparation, hard work, and effort. Tell your team that they are the hardest working in the league. Tell your staff they are the most prepared. Push them down the stretch not to punish, but rather to prepare them to handle adversity late in a game, a project, or a sale. Expect adversity. It’s part of the game.
It is the job of the coach and the business leader to hold their people to a high standard, to stress accountability, and to communicate clearly with people when they are falling short. As an individual in an organization or a team, you need to do your job so your colleagues can do theirs. As a teammate, you show your love for your team based on how hard you are willing to work.
Sports and Business share a common trait. The ability to measure success and failure. Wins and losses, Profits and losses. The results are not hard to see.