If work day becomes game day, you’ll bring home a winner

I love football. By the time a game is over, my voice is hoarse, my stress is gone and I'm physically shot. Besides the sheer excitement on the field, I've come to appreciate the strategy and execution of the game. And I've found that there are a lot of lessons that can be applied to my work with managers and organizations. Most managers are interested in becoming better coaches and teambuilders. The next time you watch a football game, imagine it's on a split screen: one screen is playing the game at face value, and on the other screen is a play-by-play of how the organization works.

Let's compare coaching a football team with coaching a team at work. Perhaps you can think of more similarities, but this will get you started.

Building the Team
Major league coaches are usually excellent judges of talent. They also have a sophisticated group of scouts working for them at all times to identify talent early and recruit selected individuals to meet the needs of the team.

·        Is your organization recruiting at all times? Does everyone in the organization recruit employees? Have you devoted enough resources to the task? For example, one company I know pays recruiting bonuses to employees when someone they refer is hired. The employee gets half of the bonus when the new employee is hired and the rest when the new employee stays for nine months. In addition, the employee is expected to conduct a thorough new employee orientation with their recruit.

Sharing the Strategy
From week to week, the head football coach works with his offensive, defensive and special teams coaches to develop the strategy for the coming game. His coaches work with their respective players to develop a game plan.

·        If you passed out sheets of blank paper at your next staff meeting, and asked everyone to write down the organization's strategy for the year, or even the strategy for your department, would they all write the same thing? Yet, managers frequently express frustration about how their team isn't working together. It's the senior team's job to provide the vision and strategy, and make sure people understand it, yet too many organizations are run day-to-day, with little or no direction at all.

Studying the Competition
Football teams study the opposing team. They watch videos of prior games. They know their opponents. When game day comes, they are armed with counter-maneuvers to overcome their enemy's strengths and exploit their own.

·        Too often, organizations operate in a vacuum. They haven't asked their customers what they really want and need. They don't know who else has been calling on their customers and what they're promising. Why not do an independent survey of your customers or conduct focus groups to find out what they want and how to add value. If you don't want to do a formal process, ask each field sales person to interview their customers face to face.

Half-Time Huddles
Games have a half time built in, and with good reason. Everyone needs to catch their breath, re-group and adjust the strategy.

·        Are you calling a "huddle" at least once a month to talk about the big picture? What's in the sales pipeline? Are there any big problems with the work in progress? What needs to be communicated company-wide or between departments? How close are we to our goals? Without these periodic meetings employees can lose sight of the game they're playing. If employees don't know where they are in relation to the goal, work loses meaning and becomes "just a job."

Field Huddles
Without a quick huddle, the offensive line would be running in circles on the field. The players are able to make last minute changes to the approach and get everyone in formation. It's where critical information is exchanged as the game is in play.

·        Do you have regular huddles at work? I don't mean "round robin" staff meetings, where everyone gives a numbing book report about their latest project. Weekly (or daily) huddles sound more like this: "What's happening this week?" "What problems can we anticipate?" "Who can help her with that?" "How can we avoid that problem in the future?" Without a weekly huddle, people fumble the ball, bump into each other, run in circles and miss the end zone.

Pulling Players Off the Field
Watch a good coach at work. He watches the players to see which players are playing well and who's tired or having an "off" game. He pulls a player off the field and immediately tells the person what he sees and what he wants them to change. He doesn't wait for their annual performance review form to give them feedback.

·        Are you providing your employees with real-time coaching? Or are you letting them play any way they want, as long as they're not making any huge mistakes? The only way to create a motivated, winning team is by fine-tuning each player’s performance along the way. In the next week, give each of your employees some advice about something they could do better. And don't forget the high-fives for making a winning play.

Monday Morning Quarterback
After each game, the coaches and team members watch a video of their performance. This intense scrutiny has a powerful affect on the players' perception of their own performance. It helps them realize their impact on the team's performance and what they will need to correct.

·        Do you do a periodic "Monday Morning Quarterback Session" to discuss projects that are complete? Do you analyze what went right, so employees learn what to repeat? Chose a project that was recently completed or a product that was recently shipped to a customer. Call the employees together who worked on it and ask them, "How could we have made this better?" "What worked really well?" "What problems could we avoid next time?" Without this periodic "instant replay," valuable group learning is lost and mistakes are repeated.

Is your team positioned to win? It's your job as coach to make sure that they are.


Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
 
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