Every week in the NFL, NCAA, high school and down you can hear fans screaming for the head of their favorite teams head coach. At the highest levels, the talking heads are constantly second guessing the play calling and just about every questionable or unsuccessful call. These same analysts at the same are time praising plays that work effectively and describing these same head coaches as geniuses. Have you ever wondered why this is such a frequent occurrence. Better yet, are you guilty of these same actions?
Well, you would be surprised to see how similar coaching a football tea m is to running a business whether it’s a fortune 500 company or a mom and pop ice cream stand. People who don’t understand the game of football are constantly amazed at how easily they pick the game up when we compare it to the companies that they run, the split second decisions in the heat of battle, and the preparation that goes into winning a game. Let’s take a closer look.
For simplicities sake, let’s take Francine Head Football Coach and Betty Big Business Owner as examples:
Being Prepared vs Being Ready (The Game plan)
Coach Fran gathers her coaching staff together every Monday to put together a “game plan” that will entail how they plan to attack the upcoming opponent this week. Each member of the staff is responsible for their own particular area of this plan. At the end of the discussions, Coach Fran must decide how they can put their players in the most advantageous position to be successful, what plays are going to work best and the overall risk reward of her final decisions. As soon as this game’s final outcome is decided, she must turn her attention to the next opponent. But only after reviewing and evaluating the plays, players and situations that were called in the last game. In addition, the entire staff must be prepared for and understand the new opponents strengths, weaknesses and tendencies. This responsibility lies squarely at the feet of the head coach.
Betty B. Owner
While Betty may be CEO of a company or selling hot dogs, it is critical for her success to have a game plan. Profit/ Loss statements, cash flow reports, marketing campaigns and general accountability questions have to have a direction in order to compete at the highest level. Is there a parade scheduled tomorrow or is it going to be torrential downpour if I’m selling hot dogs in Central Park? How are we going to handle it? The bigger the operation, the more delegation Betty must incorporate within the organization. Am I going to match my top salesman to this must have new client or sit him on the bench? Is the rookie ready for more responsibility? In order to be successful, management must be prepared for every situation and not go into the game just ready to play.
Compliance vs Agreement
Coach Fran must be able to deal with the pressure, handle all the variables and relate the sense of urgency consistently to the players and coaching staff. She has to be able to deal with the individual players and groups of players to discuss the positives and negatives of where they stand at that moment. Whether positive or negative, she as the head coach must get them to perform at their highest level without getting too high or too low. She has to make changes where needed to improve the overall performance of the team. This is all done in front of their peers. Next, she will have to make sure her plan (because she is the BOSS) that the staff can get the players to understand the part they are expected to play in the plan, the opponent and the ultimate goals. After that, they must actually train (not practice) accordingly.
Betty B. Owner
Betty should be evaluating their business performance metrics. How well the business did against their goals. What went as planned and what did not. What surprises occurred and how well were they handled. She must meet with management or outside consultants (every business should have consultants or mentors they can turn to). Together with management, they must execute the old or new policies (game plan) to overcome any issues that were inhibiting the business in the past and that is designed to meet the new week or months objectives for the business.
Betty should have meetings with management to make sure that everyone is communicated with regarding the new plan / scheme, and understands the part they are expected to play. There should be training or Continued Learning Courses to make sure that they are capable of executing the plan. It is also good to give both positive and corrective feedback to employees or vendors who have had an impact on the prior period’s business to insure growth and deter complacency. Your management and employees must comply and not just think that what you say is good idea and agree with you. This is a critical point that separates the good from great.
Execution and Flexibility
We all know that in the heat of the game, all heck can break loose. There will be surprises and there will be mistakes, but no one makes a mistake on purpose. They either don’t know or haven’t been taught yet. Some of your players will just not be good enough or overmatched. In these instances, the head coach needs to make some decisions or halftime adjustments. Specifically, how are they going to counter these new issues? She may need to help a player out, by getting them help with an opponent. Sometimes players just need more instruction to understand how to better handle the situation the next time it occurs. Either way, she and the coaching staff have to quickly adjustment and work to understand what else they need to do to counter the competition and win the game.
Betty B. Owner
We all know that in throughout the course of a day, all heck can break loose There will be surprises and there will be mistakes, but no one makes a mistake on purpose. Some will be surprises from management dealing with employees’ situations, irate customers, or perhaps something that a competitor is doing that is impacting the business in a negative way. Betty should already know how much business they expected to do in the period, and be ready to evaluate what is wrong and to make adjustments to correct the problems. Is the company being out performed, out priced, out managed, or are there people or marketing deficiencies that need addressing. Do employees need more training to be successful? Betty and her staff must be prepared to react quickly and decisively to not let these issues snowball.
This is where the rubber meets the road
No matter how big or small your business is, whether you’re a single proprietor or the CEO of Microsoft, these same principles apply. Every business needs to have a game plan that includes projections, goals and a strategy to achieve them. Profit projections are a basic gauge of how things are going in businesses and wins are the ultimate measures for coaches. You need these so that you can evaluate and make adjustments.
If you don’t have a game plan, then how are you going to evaluate what is happening in a timely manner to make adjustments?
Do you communicate with employees or vendors who support your business about how well they are doing and what needs to be done to improve performance? Or do you wait for the right time to have those conversations? Better yet, HOW do you communicate with your employees or vendors?
A very successful coach I know has top notch advisors who work for free. He simply networked and identified the knowledgeable people he thought could fill in the gaps of his expertise. He simply asked them if they would be his consultant for a certain aspect of the game and almost all of these experts said yes.
In coaching, if we see a situation that is beyond your scope of knowledge and experience, we get help. In business, there are plenty of resources around that are available, and many of them are free. The Houston Chamber of Commerce has resources as well as many of the other community organizations.
Now be honest, if your business was a football team, how well would your team be performing? Are you taking the proper preparation steps necessary for success? Or are you just making gut decisions? While everything ultimately comes down to execution of the players, as the coach you still have the responsibility of putting your business in the best position for success.
Now, back on defense…it’s time to go win this game.