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Leadership Lessons From The Super Bowl

Over 100 million people will watch the big game this year.

Take a moment to let that sink in.

To put it in perspective only 13 countries have a population greater than 100 million.

But we aren’t here to talk about TV audiences or population density – but rather the big game itself.  The game has become as synonymous with great food and fun parties as the game itself.  We can learn much from the Superbowl and its business model.  Businesses can learn about marketing, branding, and spectacle.  From the build up of hype, to the storied players who have taken the field, to the half time reveries – it is a master class in marketing.

But that’s not why we are here either.

As with many sports – particularly team sports – there are lessons that abound on the field of play every week that show us ways to lead our teams more effectively.

When it comes to winning in a globally competitive marketplace and building fierce loyalty among Consumers, everything must begin with leadership that drives results.

The best ideas, intentions, and plans mean nothing if they cannon be executed consistently and correctly.

So let’s take a peak inside the helmets of leaders on the field and see what we can learn.

These are 5 things you can learn from watching the Super Bowl:

  1. Take Advantage of the Lucky Bounce:  Whether you romanticize luck as karma or just enjoy it when you end up in an otherwise empty row on a plane, we all know sometimes things just go our way.  Is there a reason why the snap goes awry or clock management goes sideways for the other team?  Not really.  But whether you see luck as happenstance or some culmination of living a good life, you have to be ready to take advantage of it.  We’ve all ended up at the right bar at the right time talking to the right person by chance – whether they ended helping you get a new job, pitching the big idea, or dating you, luck only gets you so far.  You have to be ready to take advantage of the opportunity in front of you.  If you aren’t ready with your elevator pitch, winning smile, or to run that lost ball back for a touch down, you will squander the opportunity.  My advise is this:  Always be ready for the loose ball or the lucky bounce – they don’t come everyday but they can change your life.  Leading and winning in business is hard enough, and those who win are often the ones who were ready and optimistic rather than wondering why they never win.

  2. Take Time to Enjoy Success:  We rarely take enough time to be in the moment.  Whether we skip celebrating successes or owning failures, we spend too much time around what happened last week and what is coming tomorrow.  I can tell you that this is where I live my life most days, and its exhausting.  So when you get a moment to celebrate with your team, then do it.  Those NFL teams that made it to the big game did two things along the way.  First, they took time to celebrate the successes they had along the way and learn from the struggles that challenged them.  They also never let the current successes make them lazy the next day.  After they celebrated their wins, they packed up what could help them win the next time and took it with them to the next game.  But they didn’t rest – they continued to train hard and prepare each week.

  3. Don’t Give Your Competition Bulletin Board Material:  Most coaches hate it when their teams say something disparaging about the team they are playing in the media.  I think it is because most winners don’t have time to bad mouth others, but also, it inspires the competition to “play up” for the game.  When someone says something negative about a team it often ends up on the locker room bulletin board as a rallying cry to knock them senseless the next game.  Make sure that your team acts like professionals at all times.

  4. Shield Your Team:  There will invariably be hiccups on the road to success.  Whether you are a football team that has had a bad week or a division not performing to its potential.  To that end, you may have to shield your teams from the universe at certain times.  That isn’t to say that you should soft-pedal the hard truth, but can make sure that what the team hears is the constructive feedback it needs to improve and become more successful.  There will be those who grand stand and threaten when times are tough – and that is seldom conducive to a team finding its legs and making progress on execution.

  5. Practice, Train, and Then Trust Your Team:  As we discussed in last week’s article: Is Your Training Awful, there are many ways to prepare your team to be successful.  The best NFL teams don’t neglect the details and practice all the little things that need to happen for a winning strategy.  Those teams that fail on the basics are sitting home this weekend watching the game just like everyone else.  That said, your teams need to be trained properly on their jobs and the expectations for excellence.  From there those learnings need to be tested and practiced.  Then you have trust your team to do the right things at the right times – this is the hardest part, but as you can’t be everywhere you must cultivate a team you can trust on your “game day” to be in position at the appropriate times to win.

So enjoy the game.  Enjoy your fiends.  Enjoy a relaxing day.  But keep an eye open for all the amazing leadership qualities that make these two teams successful and work to translate them into your business.

And enjoy the half time show and the ads – even if you are not a football fan, there is something on Sunday for everyone.

Have a powerful, Customer focused Day! Tony

Tony Johnson Customer Experience Leader

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