Sunday, August 25, 2013

The 6 Things I Notice GREAT Football Teams (and LEAN Companies) Do

Awhile ago, I had the pleasure of re-connecting with one of my college football teammates and tri-captains, Rich Mannello. I took the Chemist/Technical Director/Senior Leadership route, Rich took the build a college football program from scratch route. He built King's College (Wilkes-Barre, PA) from a Junior Varsity program, to a conference champion and NCAA final 16 team. He stepped down a couple of years ago so he could spend time with his family (something college football coaches don't get to do). His son will be a freshman football player this Fall, and frankly, he just couldn't miss it. Rich has taken the role of Business Development Manager at Pulverman Manufacturing in Dallas, PA, a world-class metal fabricator that provides flexible manufacturing and creative solutions. Of course, I had to ask the obvious question. "Do you miss coaching football?"  His reply made me think.....he said, "I'm doing the exact same thing."

This got me thinking about my OWN "avocation", officiating college football. Over the past 25+ years, I have had the opportunity to witness first hand how hundreds (maybe thousands) of football teams operate. Poor teams, mediocre teams, good teams and GREAT teams. What follows is a list of the 6 things that GREAT teams all seem to do:

1. Respect for people-I notice that the GREAT teams, as a rule, are not screamers and yellers. They don't fight amongst themselves when things aren't going well. They don't argue with us (the officials) ever. They help their opponents off the ground (then the next play they put them right back there). The leader (the Head Coach) never seems rattled, always under control, and consequently, his team performs that way. Show me a company where the leadership is erratic or knee-jerk, and I'll show you a team that performs exactly that way.
2. Everything matters-the GREAT teams do the little things well, and the little things seem to be important. It seems to matter very much HOW things are done. A visit to The Disney Institute taught me that every weed  picked, every fence painted, every piece of trash picked up and every bathroom spotless IS important. The same is true for the GREAT football teams-how they take the field, how they warm up, how they break the huddle, how they hustle back to the huddle-it all matters. As in business, do the little things well and success follows. Companies usually don't fail due to one big thing, usually it's not paying attention to many little things.
3. Everyone is accountable to themselves-they don't blame us (the officials), the weather, the grass being too long, the short week of practice, the long flight, etc. It is so easy to find scapegoats when the results are not good, it is much harder to look in the mirror. The scapegoat makes us feel like we're off the hook. If an employee makes a costly error, it is easy to look past the thought that maybe "I just didn't train (or coach) them well enough.
4. Keep things simple-the GREAT teams just seem to do a handful of things very, very well. they know what they're good at, and just keep doing it. The BAD teams seem to do a thousand things half fast. Because they keep things simple. the GREAT teams seldom get behind in the count. Teams that find themselves 2nd down and 15, 3rd down and 22 are usually suffering self-inflicted wounds. As a business, what do we do great? What do we do mediocre? I am a fan of businesses who understand what they do better than anyone else (and they charge more for it). GREAT teams are very patient and "takes what the defense gives them". They don't take unnecessary chances because they are comfortable in knowing that how they do things works. Poor teams swap out their senior mangers and executives, or rely on acquiring others or cutting prices. GREAT teams just work at getting better at what they do. 
5. Do not focus on the scoreboard-the GREAT teams focus on getting everybody in the right place when the football is snapped, at everyone knowing exactly where they need to be and who they need to block. They focus on the NEXT snap, not the next series, and definitely not the score. If we stay focused on our processes (getting better and faster), the scoreboard will take care of itself.

6. They make adjustments and continue to improve. The team you see in August is not the team you see in December. This is the most fascinating thing GREAT teams do. They just don't stay the same. A GREAT team may struggle early in a "down year", but by the middle of the season, they've learned from their mistakes and implemented countermeasures. GREAT teams learn from mistakes and only pay tuition once for that learning. Not-so-great teams seem to make the same defects every week!

Well, enjoy the upcoming football season, my friend Rich was right (it IS the same thing), and $1 if you tell me who is in the picture (without cheating).

1 comment:

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