By this time, you already know that the NFL's New England Patriots led by coach Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady, won their record-setting 5th Super Bowl last week. What isn't lost on most fans of the game is that the Patriots came back from a 25 point deficit to beat their opponents, the venerable Atlanta Falcons.
Since I've used this column to write lots on the leadership prowess of Bill Belichick (the best coach in NFL history in my opinion), the lack of leadership vision by NFL Commissioner Goodell and the debacle of what we all affectionately know as "Deflate-gate," there's no need for me to retread on those themes. However, what is worth some exploration is the business lessons that can be gleaned from the Falcon's devastating defeat.
Clearly, the Falcons seemed to be unable to overcome their 25 point lead! What happens inside organizations that can't handle success? What can leaders, within these kinds of businesses, do to prevent the predictable collapse that comes in businesses that can't seem to manage unbridled success?
Understanding The Jonah Complex
In psychology, if one fears success, they are said to suffer from the "Jonah Complex." It stems from an overarching concern that the perceived consequences of achievement may prove to be impossible to manage once a desired success is attained. The individual suffering from the Jonah Complex may fear that they are undeserving, will be perceived as arrogant by their peers or will be unable to live-up to future expectations that may come with success.
Organizations can suffer from the Jonah Complex, too!
If your company culture is one that is not recognized as being best in class, fails to celebrate success or sets the bar too low, it is possible that your organization could be inherently suffering from the Jonah Complex - your people don't feel like they deserve to win.
Now, I'm not suggesting that the Atlanta Falcons are suffering from the Jonah Complex. But, it's clearly possible that when the going got a bit tough near the end of last week's game, the fear of success set in.
What to Do About It
Here are 4 ideas for helping your organization overcome the fear of success:
1. Show them what success looks like through storytelling. We've been told stories as a tool for learning big concepts since we were born. Use storytelling to paint a vivid picture of what success looks like. Craft and share a story that your people can visualize and relate to. Help them see themselves being successful on that world stage. Tell that story early and often. I bet the Falcons were told that winning the Super Bowl was their only goal. Though, I wonder if each player was helped to understand what that looked like and how they could be successful, as individuals, if that lofty goal was achieved.
2. Demystify the "big" achievement. Explain what success feels like and what the expectations will be (and won't be) when success is achieved. Lather on the details with as much content as you can muster. Show that success is something that can be accomplished and that it be something that one can live with once it is attained. Did some players fear that they couldn't live up to expectations, if they became Super Bowl champs?
3. Develop an achievement plan. Explain the steps needed to achieve the vision and provide details on what each staff member must do to facilitate the accomplishment of it. I'm sure that the Falcons had great game plans and practiced feverishly all season long - that hard work is what got them into the Super Bowl! But, was the necessary mental toughness needed to win instilled? Were the players taught how to execute under adversity? Was that practiced enough?
4. Celebrate "little wins" along the way. The simple act of recognizing incremental achievement reinforces desired behaviors and reemphasizes the ultimate goal, the achievement of awesome success. Sure, I would suspect that the Falcons celebrated each victory during the season. But, did they recognize a player's "little wins" along the way. Did they celebrate a corner back's sack during practice? Did the full back get recognized when he finally made that difficult backside cutoff block (that he'd been missing all week long in practice)? Celebrating these "little wins" all go into creating a culture that is not afraid to win big.
To close, there are lots for a business leader to take away from the Patriots astonishing win and even more to learn from the Falcon's devastating loss in last week's Super Bowl. I hope that these ideas can be used to make your organization a winning one. Don't be afraid to reach-out to me directly, if you'd like to explore the topic further.