On February 2nd, Super Bowl LIV will take place in Miami, Florida, featuring the San Francisco 49ers versus the Kansas City Chiefs. For some people, Super Bowl Sunday is about gathering around with family and friends, indulging in food, and discussing favorite commercials. For others, it’s primarily about watching two of the most successful NFL teams compete for a championship.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably heard “Teamwork makes the dream work,” or better yet, “There’s no ‘I’ in team” thousands of times. Not as frequently discussed is one of the more fascinating aspects of football – witnessing eleven teammates working together in unison under the guidance of their coaches.
One thing is for sure, whether or not you understand the difference between a “4-3” or “3-4” defense or know how many players should be on the field at any given time, your workplace can learn a great deal about the importance of collaboration from the Super Bowl. We’ve highlighted three of these lessons that will give your organization the right game plan that’ll help it exceed its goals.
Having trust that your teammates will successfully “win” their assignments is vital to success. While every player on the field has a different assignment each play, they’re all working to help the team succeed. Former NFL player Jeremy Bloom, now CEO of tech start-up Integrate, wrote an article on what pro football taught him about trusting teammates. He explained, “I’ve been on losing teams and high-performing ones both in the NFL and in the business world, and the common thread of success is trust. Mike Tomlin, the head coach in Pittsburgh, was the most trusted leader that I had ever been around. Rather than motivating with fear, he inspired the team with a sense of familial trust and honesty that is rarely found in any professional sport.”
This holds true in the workplace as much as in football. As important as personal goals may seem, the shared goals of the group must always take priority for any team to succeed. It’s challenging to cooperate, never mind succeed, if your team consists of members who are only concerned with their own achievements.
Are great leaders born or made? There have been countless studies performed on this topic, and the answer generally falls somewhere in the middle. Football championships are won through the dedicated hard work of talented people with amazing athletic and coaching abilities. Super Bowl-winning NFL head coach Tony Dungy once said, “I've always felt that it's better if other people follow me because they want to follow, not because I've been put up there as the leader and they have to follow.”
The question then becomes, how can the leadership of an organization motivate their team to strive towards team goals and not their own? Dr. Damian Vaughn, former NFL player, and successful entrepreneur believes the formula is simple – know your people. In a recent Fast Company article written by Dr. Vaughn, he compares his football career with his current role in business: “Being a leader today—both on the field and in the workplace—demands not just knowing how the game works but knowing how your people work.”
Great leaders, such as the two head coaches in this year’s Super Bowl, are always thinking about ways they can help their players improve. A successful coach will convince their players that playing a “team-centric game” is more important than padding their statistics with plays that might be detrimental to the team. Great leaders in both sports and business emphasize the importance of achieving team-oriented goals over individual accomplishments.
Although every team goes into the season with one objective – winning the Super Bowl – thirty-one losing teams are left strategically planning how they can improve their organization post-season. As you can imagine, NFL teams, like many non-athletic organizations, consistently bring in new talent, especially in the areas that didn’t do so well. This includes not only players but the numerous members that make up the coaching staff.
The head coach leads the on-field hierarchy, followed by the offensive and defensive coordinators. Teams that don’t live up to their expectations often fire their coaching staff after the season. Makes sense, right? It’s easier to replace a few coaches and not a full team of players. Naturally, the most desired candidates to fill those vacant roles are offensive and defensive coordinators from successful teams, like the two playing on Super Bowl Sunday.
As critical as it is for the overall success of any organization to replenish its talent pool, equally as important is retaining the highest performers. One way successful organizations do this is through close-knit teams and strong professional relationships. This helps them keep their best talent from jumping onto another team, especially when they’re faced with competitive offers.
When watching the Super Bowl on Sunday, remember, even if the winning team makes it look easy, it’s not. It takes years of hard work and dedication from the players, coaching staff, and trainers. You don’t need to be an elite athlete or a coaching genius. While you may not hoist the Lombardi trophy, receive a gaudy super bowl ring, or even a ticker-tape parade in your honor, you will get a team full of champions who know how to win.
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