Superbowl Lessons for Today’s Leaders

Worth noting… an interesting article in today’s Globe and Mail Careers section about the “perfect coach”.  In light of Superbowl Sunday, Brian Christmas wrote a feature about Bill Belichick’s success coaching the New England Patriots.  I confess, I’m not an avid football fan but I love the article because it explored many of the traits in Belichick’s successful leadership that are relevant to leaders of all kinds in today’s workplaces.

Christmas interviewed experts who gave credit to Belichick for: drawing the players to his vision and keeping them focused week in and out; finding the right players to fit the various team roles; mentoring the talent; paying attention to detail while empowering team members to think on their own; having a solid competitive strategy; communicating  clearly and giving feedback constructively (not personalizing)….and more.

One of the last quotes in the article really stood out for me. Professior John Phelan, an adjunct professor in Organizational Behavior at Queen’s University School of Business spoke about Belichick’s approach to empowering his team “From an employee’s perspective, that shifts them from a compliance to a commitment.”

The leadership team at Tribute Communities will love reading that one. “Commitment – Not Compliance” was one of the key guiding principles behind its employee engagement initiative (which earned the Prism award from International Coach Federation — read more here).

Another quote worth repeating: Chris Shultz, a football commentator for TSN said  that it appears Mr. Belichick understands that “there’s football players, and there’s people who play football,”……implying that the coach focuses on the latter….i.e. coaching the person not the ‘label’.

Coaching people as people….another theme and guiding principle that I distinguish regularly with many of my clients who are leaders and have responsibility for supporting and developing others.

Accountants aren’t just accountants. PR professionals aren’t just PR professionals. Construction folks aren’t just construction folks.

A good coach recognizes they don’t coach people’s roles or titles. We coach who they are in the context of their work. There’s a difference.

A big difference.

We are all more than the widgets we build or professions we represent.

Leaders who recognize this will be more effective at empowering, inspiring, challenging and growing their people.

Questions for Reflection:

What do you notice from some of your team sports observations and/or participation? What lessons can you draw for  your own leadership? What leaders do you think stand out and why? When you support others in  your team do you think of them as whole and unique individuals — or see them more narrowly – strictly through the lense of their ‘job description’ ?

Food for thought….perhaps after all the tailgating this weekend has subsided.

To a TGIM worklife and to leaders who get it right!

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3 Responses to “Superbowl Lessons for Today’s Leaders”

  1. Steve Rosenbaum Says:

    The interesting thing about football is that the front office organization is more important than the coach. If you look at successful franchises over the years, they transcend coaches and players. There aren’t many coaches that go from team to team and win superbowls.

  2. Eileen Chadnick Says:

    Thanks for touching base Steve. Interesting comment. I bet there must be some good leadership within the ranks of those winning franchises (within the ‘front office’). I’m not an avid follower of the sports world so can’t really comment.

    One coach who seems to have transcended ‘something’ pretty spectaculr was John Wooden. He is quite renouned for having brought his UCLA basketball team to 10 Championships….he’s shared some very useful insights into his leadership style and the impact it had…..I’ll be referencing soon in a post. But if anyone is interested, they can read his book “Wooden on Leadership”.


  3. Steve Rosenbaum Says:

    One of the interesting things is the difference between basketball coaching in college and in the NBA. In college, recruiting players is a major part of that role while in the pros, there is a draft. This is true of other college revenue sports. So to be a great recruiter you need serveral things. First a tradition of winning, second an active alumni, and three a program that has all the bells and whistles. Wooden is unique because he won a lot of champsionships with the best players and a few year when he didn’t.

    He also won in a era of a 16 team tournament versus a 64 team tournament.

    I’d like to point you to a book called “Money Ball” by Michael Lewis. Here’s the link

    This is about creating winning teams by going against traditional wisdom and apply rigorous statistics. It shows how the Oakland As can be one of the best teams in baseball year after year with one of the lowest salaries.

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