The leadership and management skills that small business owners need aren't so different from those of great football coaches. You both lead a team toward a goal and must understand how to get the most out of your people, especially when the game is on the line. You both have to objectively evaluate strengths and weaknesses to maximize performance. And you both really, really don't like losing.
So what have some of the best NFL coaches of all time done that you can implement to bring your business to the next level? Here are 5 tips.
1. Scout the Best Talent
Legendary football coaches like the Dallas Cowboys' Tom Landry were brilliant at identifying and the recruiting the kind of talent that fits best into their teams — and identifying future leaders. The Landry "coaching tree" goes on to include future top-notch coaches such as Mike Ditka, Mike Shanahan, Jim Harbaugh and more. Landry also won two Super Bowls, a sure sign of scouting talent. During an interview, you should make sure to do some sleuthing about key soft skills like work ethic, presentation and leadership, by posing hypotheticals and asking for examples from previous work to see if candidates are the right fit for your workplace.
2. Put Players in the Right Positions
Raw talent is not enough. Both football coaches and business owners need to understand the unique strengths and weaknesses of every team member and then put them into positions where they can succeed. Case in point: New England Patriot Julian Edelman, drafted by five-time Super Bowl winner Bill Belichick, played as a quarterback in college. In the NFL, he has returned punts, played defensive back, and is best known for his success as a wide receiver in the NFL — rarely passing the ball as he did before coming to the Patriots. Someone who may have succeeded in one position at a previous organization could arrive at yours only to find that the same job with you won't end with the same successful results. It's your job to recognize that act accordingly.
3. Look Back at the Game Tapes
Coaching legend Bill Walsh of the San Francisco 49ers was, first and foremost, a brilliant teacher who helped players like quarterback Joe Montana and wide receiver Jerry Rice grow into superstars. Small business owners must be great teachers, too, providing the kind of daily performance feedback that helps team members understand what they're doing well and how to improve upon their weaknesses. Formal performance reviews may or may not be a good fit for your business, but everyone can benefit from a system of regular feedback.
A great coach should be an amateur psychologist who understands how to drive performance, especially at crucial moments (whether it's the Super Bowl or the holiday shopping season). Leaders understand how to motivate people to work well under pressure. Inspire your team with consistent praise and recognition for good work and let them know your door is always open. Lead by example with confidence in your business and your leadership and management skills; if they never see you sweat, they'll know there's nothing to worry about and that they can proceed with confidence.
5. Develop a Strong Playbook
While each team member will focus on their individual tasks, the role of the leader is to decide how best to utilize the team's resources in order to attain victory. Buddy Ryan, recognizing a lack of particular skills on his roster, went on to revolutionize defense in the 1980s when he created the 46 Defense. A business owner, like a coach, needs to see the big picture and make a strategic plan for success that leverages individual and team strengths.
And while it's vital that your team comes to count on you as a strong, steadfast leader, you need to be ready to pivot. When it's halftime, and the team is down by 10 points, the coach needs to readjust the game plan based upon how the team is performing and what the opposition is doing. When things aren't going as planned, your team is looking for you to acknowledge that and make necessary adjustments.
If you want to be holding the championship trophy at the end of the day, you need the know-how to come up with a great strategy . . . and the wisdom to understand that you can't always stick with it.
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