As a consolation for the end of summer, football season has returned to the land. Hope springs eternal in the hearts of fans across the country, and this past week the 32 NFL teams have girded their respective loins and are once more vying for the Vince Lombardi Trophy. The advent of the perennial competition for gridiron glory has us thinking about the similarities between football teams and business teams, and the lessons that can be drawn from America’s game.
Specialization – Offense, defense, special teams; from punter to linebacker to quarterback, each team member has a specific role to play, without which the team as a whole can fail, even if individual performers do well. All parts need to do their jobs well in order to execute a strategy. Similarly, a business team is likely to be comprised of members with widely differing skillsets and personalities, e.g., in terms of task vs. people focus or convergent vs. divergent thinking. The team is apt to be most effective when the contributors’ roles line up with their individual strengths.
Communication – Just as the individual members of a football team need to perform well in executing a strategy, effective communication of that strategy is essential. Whether it’s the coach calling the play on the field or a manager directing workflow in the office, ensuring everyone knows the expectations is crucial in producing results. It is incumbent on management to communicate the game plan and make certain every member of the team is on the same page.
Adaptation – Both in football and in the business world, the ability to adapt on the fly to changing circumstances is crucial. Dealing with setbacks, tight time frames, injuries to key players, unforeseen developments, or a relentless pass rush is part of the game. Making successful adjustments requires flexibility as well as a pool of talent to draw on. Having the necessary bench strength on your team can enable you to handle such events and help identify potential leaders both on the field and in the office.
While the everyday world of work might initially pose a stark contrast to the excitement of a late fourth quarter touchdown drive, football offers valuable lessons on team dynamics and how best to leverage individual strengths to get to the end zone.