3 Lessons From American Football to Help Your Team Execute Strategically

Published On: March 7, 20183.4 min read

When we think about team cohesion, we don’t usually mean actual sports teams. But when you look at the big picture, there are a number of things you can learn about improving how your department or division operates and collaborates from the activities that occur during the biggest football event of the year. If you watched the Super Bowl this past Sunday, you’ll know exactly what we mean when we say strategic execution matters in American football as much as it does in business.

1. Focus On Getting To The Next Down

In football the focus is getting 10 yards and the next set of downs…No reason to go for the hail mary on the first play.

While the coach’s overall strategy concerns the whole game, he also employs tactics to propel his team forward in the short run. In terms of your company, you need to have long-term business goals and plans for success, but you should also communicate quarterly or period-based goals to increase employee engagement and keep objectives manageable.

If you set your goals around specific parameters and intervals, your team can better visualize achievement. Sometimes imagining the work it will take for your company to meet your BHAG or Big Hairy Audacious Goal can be daunting.

To combat these feelings, make sure that department leaders clearly communicate realistic short-term goals with explicit start and end points to improve employee motivation and keep your team on track.

2. Offensive Line Protects the Quarterback

Each position in football has a specific role and corresponding responsibilities. While the quarterback is the strategy behind the operation, he wouldn’t be able to complete a pass or run without his offensive line providing him protection and blocking the opposing team from getting through.  Similarly, the place kicker is entirely focused on making field goals, and the wide receiver concentrates on catching passes.

In a business setting, each person on your team needs to be aware of their responsibilities, main priorities, and specific tasks. While team members can and should help one another, just as the offensive line protects the QB, each person must have distinct projects and objectives that he/she is held accountable for.

This way, you can avoid redundancy in your organization, and every team member knows what is expected from them by the company.

3. Celebrate Your Touchdowns, But Not Too Much

NFL players generally celebrate when they finally make it to the end zone and score points for their team. The first documented touchdown celebration occurred in 1965, when New York Giants wide receiver Homer Jones spiked the ball into the ground after completing a touchdown.

These celebrations have increased in intensity in recent years, resulting in high fines from the league for some of the most outrageous displays including leaping into a goalpost, excessive pelvic thrusting, and pretending to moon the stadium audience.

It’s all well and good to celebrate, but it’s important to keep it reasonable and maintain focus on long-term objectives. Even the most well-executed touchdowns cannot guarantee a team the winning score. In the business world, companies often get overconfident with early successes as a start-up but later experience difficulty navigating the slower-paced growth stage.

While your company should be proud of its early wins like securing investor funding or becoming a well-known name in your market, you can’t get too cocky.

You need perseverance and hard work in order to keep scaling up especially if you want to become one of the only 4% of American companies to ever exceed $1 million in revenue. If your organization refuses to adapt to changes in your industry or market because you’re fixated on your initial high levels of growth, you risk the possibility of losing opportunities to your competition and going out-of-business.

Team alignment occurs in all types of companies and industries. Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to glean insights from professional sports teams to help you keep your coworkers engaged and motivated to succeed. Hopefully you can incorporate these 3 lessons from American football to help your team execute strategically.

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