Since his arrival, Coach Bill Belichick's winning percentage is a staggering 74 percent-- the second best of all time. He has won more Super Bowls (five) than any other head coach.
Much of the team's success has to do with strategy and adjustments. There are many business lessons to glean from his winning formula. Here are the top six:
1. Gaining momentum at a pivotal part of the game
Belichick sparked a trend in the NFL and elsewhere by deferring when winning the coin toss. Those that defer (giving the ball to the other team first) win about 60 percent of the time in the NFL.
With regularity, the Patriots score on their last position of the first half, then regain the ball to start the second half. With more information than they would have at the beginning of the game, the Patriots seize momentum by scoring back-to-back.
Business lesson: It's critical to gather pertinent data so you can make fact-based decisions at critical times in your company's life cycle. Small companies often lack good information on metrics like cost or inventory. Seek out better access to analytics for yourself and customers.
2. Preparing like no other
Belichick is known for his obsession with film study.
In 2014, the Patriots won the Super Bowl on a last-minute interception by Malcolm Butler. In the documentary Do Your Job, assistant Ernie Adams explained how the Patriots had practiced against that exact situation over and over.
Butler, who was a rookie at the time, had been beat in practice on the play every time. But in a live situation, he "jumped the route" and made the play because he'd been coached on exactly what to do.
Business lesson: Spend as much time planning as you do reacting. One of my clients prepared a set of communications for when the new tax law passed-- and when it did, the client was perceived as a "first mover" who delivered information at the time people wanted it.
3. Being humble
Interview after interview, Belichick deflects all praise onto the players. He has said that "players win games and coaches lose them." While appearing stern on the sideline, his encouragement of the players can be heard in audio after big wins.
After Super Bowl XLVIII, receiver Julian Edelman said, "You gave me the best year of my life," to which Belichick responded, "You guys won it, it is a players' game." Edelman replied, "I would do anything for you, Coach."
Business lesson: Give positive reinforcement for a job well done. I try to practice a rule of providing three compliments for every time I correct an employee.
3. Staying cool under pressure
Quarterback Tom Brady and his teammates are rarely rattled. They consistently talk about "situational football", which in business translates to "situational awareness."
The Patriots came back to score 25 points in the fourth quarter and overtime last year, extending their legacy as the comeback kids. This comes down to preparing for various scenarios so players (or employees) know what to expect and can adapt to changing conditions.
Business lesson: Preparation fosters confidence. I recently had an experience with a client who doubted they could execute on a project-- but after planning the milestones and deliverables in detail, they realized they could successfully meet their objectives.
4. Getting the most out of the players
Famously, Belichick's "Do your job" mantra demands complete selflessness from his players. With the mics on after Super Bowl wins, macho football players can be heard telling each other "I love you, man."
Business lesson: Constantly reinforce culture and create a chemistry that will drive performance. In my case, I always try to encourage relationship-building among my employees.
5. Creating alignment in management
There was discussion this year about a supposed dispute between Belichick and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, which the two quickly dismissed.
Kraft and Belichick have long shared a common vision. In 2014, when Deflategate consumed the news, Kraft held a press conference and demanded the NFL apologize to Belichick and the players. They won the Super Bowl that year.
Business Lesson: Much like Kraft had Belichick's back, make sure you support your team's decisions with the outside world (such as vendors and customers).
6. Developing leaders
Eight former Belichick disciples are now NFL coaches. Belichick is a master at replicating himself in others.
Business lesson: Dedicate most of your time to developing leaders. One of my clients has a business with about 60 employees. He does all the interviewing and hiring himself, because he considers developing the next generation of leaders pivotal to his success.