The same thing is true in business. Every year, companies' great expectations fall apart under pressure, and a few underdogs go all the way.
What makes the crucial difference? In sports and in business, it pays to set goals, develop a strategy, and practice. What's interesting is that most National Football League (NFL) and other sports teams do a better job than businesses do in key areas of leadership and management.
During a break in the action this week, brush up on these five principles drawn from sports for a winning approach to your business:
Practice isn't optional.
In sports, it's rare to come across a play in a game that you've never seen in practice. In football, most teams spend five days a week preparing for just one game. The goal is to fail in practice and iron out mistakes before game day.
In business, practice is often shortchanged. It's pretty unusual for a team to run through a presentation three or more times before pitching a new client. And, how many people take the time for a debriefing after important meetings?
The next time your team faces a difficult situation, spend some time training for the encounter. It's guaranteed to pay off.
Coaches can't play.
In business, leaders and managers often step in to handle difficult situations. That never happens in sports. Since coaches can't get in the game, they have to lead from the sidelines--which builds important skills. Coaches need to communicate strategy and let players handle execution--and so do you.
Too often in business, people do the exact opposite. New managers, in particular, often simply fix mistakes or handle small tasks rather than take the time to coach their direct reports. In the short term, that just seems easier. But if managers can keep themselves "out of the game," they can build stronger, more effective teams for the long run.
Everyone uses a playbook.
Many companies lack defined systems and processes. With no clear "playbook" for how the company likes things done, team members end up running in different directions.
This absolutely would not fly on a sports team. Executive coach Jack Daly uses the example of a new player showing up to play on a college team. Imagine him telling the coach, "I don't need the playbook. I've got my own style." That player would earn himself a really nice spot on the bench.
Nevertheless, businesses tolerate this kind of behavior all the time. Team members simply do what works for them, and the results are very hit or miss. How much better would your business be if everyone followed a cohesive process, one that's been proven to get results?
Having a playbook makes it possible to keep up momentum when people are out sick, on vacation or leave the company.
No position is forever.
In sports, players have a finite contract that covers employment duration and compensation, which is then renegotiated based on current market value and past performance.
In business, there is an assumption that employment will go on indefinitely and that compensation only goes up Rarely does anyone evaluate whether a team member is still in the right role, at the right level compensation, or if a change needs to be made.
Sports teams do a much better job of unemotionally embracing the concept of current value to the team.
Objectives are clear.
Imagine playing or watching a game and having no idea how to win. In sports, the rules of the game are very clear, as is the score. In many organizations, however, employees really have no idea where the company is headed, how they are being measured or the rules that apply.
When employees are given transparent information about the company, including its financials, goals (quarterly, annual, five-year, etc.) and how their position fits into the bigger picture, they are more empowered, focused, outcome-driven and are able to find greater meaning in their work.
There's not a lot of ambiguity in sports: Everyone knows what's expected and what's needed to win, so perhaps it's not that surprising that sports teams do a better job of keeping their eye on the ball than most businesses.
Take a few pages from the sports playbook--emphasizing regular practice and focusing on goals to consistently ensure that the right player is in the right spot at the right time at your company. These winning strategies can help you come out on top.