“Individual commitment to a group effort–that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” -Vince Lombardi
Business and life lessons can be found in most group activities–and especially in sports. We all know that to win the game it takes a team (along with its coaches) working together toward the same common goal. A football team’s success, perhaps more so than any other team sport, is predicated on this. There are many different tasks being performed correctly at the same time by all of its members on virtually every play. Therefore, every position and how it’s performed are vital to the success of the team.
If you’ve ever watched a Pop Warner football team practice, then you know that there’s a lot of drilling, studying, repetition and refining. In order for each position to be performed well it must be mastered. This requires the right player with the right skill set and attitude at every position.
It’s no different in business. You hire skillful people to perform tasks in order for the organization to grow and become stronger. But to achieve organization-wide success, the mere hiring of the individuals that comprise your team is only the starting point. Here are a few lessons I learned coaching Pop Warner football that can be applied in your business to encourage your team to succeed.
Develop a Team Focused Winning Mindset
Before every Pop Warner football practice and game, the team stretches, warms up, and huddles together. The pre-game routine usually ends with some form of rousing team chant. In fact, at every level of football from Pop Warner to the NFL, you’ll find teams performing these rituals on the field prior to practices and games.
Because they value the constant instillation and reinforcement of an attitude and culture of winning before they do anything on the field. Every practice and every game, the team is focused on the team goals first and the individual goals only as they pertain to the team’s objective. And when the team wins, so do the individuals who comprise it.
Now businesses often preach about teamwork and a positive mindset, but more often than not these are simply corporate buzzwords from the executive, human resources or training departments. Beyond orally suggesting a positive mindset to your team, is your organization honestly set up to encourage team success?
If not, here are some ideas that will help. Begin first by moving beyond the empty motivational bulletin board stuff. Model the behavior you want emanating throughout the organization and reward those that exhibit it. Get buy-in from your employees towards the team goal and have a system of positive reinforcement and team accountability on the path toward achieving it. Encourage your team members to get involved in every aspect of this process and give them the freedom to openly do so.
The result is a well-focused and motivated team that is prepared to work together to create an environment of winning.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Pop Warner players have to do many of the same drills over and over again. So do the pros. The reason is that it’s the culmination of doing all the little things correctly that will lead to the overall success of the team. The quarterback cannot consistently complete passes by himself. He needs the proper mechanics, footwork, blocking, receiving, and communication to execute each play.
Business, just like football, has a lot of moving parts with people directing and carrying them out. But even the most competent people have flaws and occasionally make mistakes. So it’s imperative that your team works in an environment that is geared toward rallying and forging ahead together when setbacks occur. Furthermore, grant your team members the time and resources to work on developing their skills. This will help reduce mistakes and allow your team to improve. Encourage them to document their processes and find ways to refine them. Have them mentor and train others to reinforce a culture of teamwork and pride. As the old football adage goes, leaders are not born – they are made.
In the end, applying lessons learned in Pop Warner football—practice, teamwork, and a winning mindset—will help your team succeed in business, too.