Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Business Lessons We Can Learn from the Super Bowl Teams



By Matt Valentine

Like many Americans I am a huge fan of the NFL and with the Super Bowl less then two weeks away am getting swept up in all the hype surrounding the game. As I was looking at the matchup between the two Super Bowl bound teams (the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts on the off chance you don’t already know) and thinking about what made them so successful this seasons I began to realize that the elements that make a football team successful are the same elements that make a business successful. So, obviously I had to write about it because that’s what I get paid to do!


Strong Leadership

Excellent leadership is essential for success on the gridiron and in the board room.

Look at the two teams headed to the Super Bowl. What do they have in common?  Give up? Ok I’ll tell you, they both have great front offices, great coaches, great quarterbacks, and great players in key positions. In essence their leadership both on and off the field, enabled them to reach their ultimate goal.

Businesses are no different. They are built from the top down. Devoid of great leaders a business, like a football team, is sure to suffer. Case in point, in 2000 a man named Jeff Zucker took over the entertainment programming for NBC. Back then NBC was number one. Today, well, we know how that story goes…

Strong Foundations

“Building a football team is just like building a house…it starts with a foundation. And the foundation of a strong football team starts with those in the trenches”.  A pretty apt quote if you ask me, especially if you replace the word business for football team.

The Colts and Saints both have excellent offensive and defensive lines, referred to as the men in the trenches. It is their hard work that allows the stars behind them to shine, and this can ultimately determine the outcome of the game.

The importance of these players is often overlooked and the same can be said about the business world. The people in the trenches, the people making the cold calls, handling customer complaints, dealing with technical issues etc. are really the ones who determine how brightly a business does or does not “shine”.

An incredibly wise man once told a story of two men who were building a house. The first built his house on a pile of sand, and it was destroyed as soon as the storm hit. But the second is known as the wise man, for when “…the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house…it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.”

When the recession hit and the storm descended the foundations of every business were tested. Those built on sand collapsed. Those built on a rock are sill standing.


Preparation and Evaluation

Ask Peyton Manning or Drew Brees how they are able to execute so well on game day and they will answer that successful execution lies in preparation and evaluation. They study film constantly. They learn everything they can about their opponents in order to expose their weaknesses. And, perhaps most importantly they study themselves. They evaluate each mistake they made and they look for ways to correct them. 

Preparation and evaluation is essential for successful execution in business as well. How prepared are you to meet challenges from your competitors, your clients, or outside factors like the economy? How often do you evaluate your company and look for mistakes that are being made and how you can fix them? 

Obviously as a business we don’t have film to study, but utilizing the resources we do have available is vital to executing our game plane each and every day. 


Finding, Retaining and Utilizing Talent

Another important lesson we can learn from these two teams is their ability to recognize, retain and utilize talent.

Finding superstar talent, keeping that talent and utilizing that talent effectively is a big reason why these two teams are in the enviable position they are in.

If you find superstar talent you must keep them! Think about how important Peyton Manning is to the Colts. Without him they would simply not be in the Super Bowl. Now, look around your office and think about where your company would be without your superstar talent. As a business you’re not playing for a Super Bowl, but you are playing for profits. Allowing a superstar to become a “free agent” could have disastrous effects on your bottom line.

Some people have astonishing talent waiting to be unleashed if they are just given the proper outlet. Reggie Bush for example, the Saints running back, is an extraordinary talent who struggled with his role early on in his career. Eventually Head Coach Sean Payton found better ways to utilize Bush’s’ talent and he’s a big reason why the Saints are on the cusp of their first Super Bowl title.

Just because an employee is underperforming in their current role doesn’t mean they are useless. You’d be surprised how often talented people have been let go only to go on to a have tremendous success with a different company. Recognizing the talents your employees do have and finding the best way to utilize that talent can play a major factor in your businesses success.

So, those are the lessons I think we can take away from these Super Bowl teams. Any I missed?

P.S. Go Saints!

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