Are You Running Your Organization Like a Pro Football Team? The Top 10 Business Lessons Learned from Watching the NFL Playoffs

Nearly 50 percent of Americans are NFL fans, and with the play-off games upon us, millions of people will be in the stadium or glued to their TVs hoping this is the year their team goes all the way.

We can receive more than just entertainment from watching the NFL Playoffs. By observing the strategy behind pro football, we can learn some valuable lessons to use in our own business playbook.

Here are The Top 10 Lessons to take from the gridiron to the boardroom:

  1. Get Buy-in: It hasn’t been a great year for the Green Bay Packers, but that doesn’t keep their fans away. More than 116,000 people are on the waiting list for their season tickets. No matter where they play in the league, stands are filled with green and gold. How did the Packers create this strong fan base? Easy. They got buy-in. The Packers are the only team owned by the public. Their fans are invested, literally, in the team. When you get buy-in from employees and make them feel like they have ownership of an idea, a project or even a company, you create loyal employees.
  2. Balance: One player does not win a championship, no matter how good he is. Look at Tony Romo, Warren Moon, Barry Sanders, and Dan Marino. All are amazing athletes whose fingers are still missing Super Bowl rings. Football is a team sport, so is business. To have a successful team or company, each person must perform his or her best. One-stand out alone cannot carry the load for a winning team.
  3. Different Management Styles Work: People are different and so are leaders. Observe Bruce Arians vs. Bill Belichick vs. Mike McCarthy. They all manage differently, yet all have led their teams to success. The important thing isn’t the way you manage, it’s that your team respects the way you manage and respects you.
  4. ROI: After each game, the coaches and players analyze tapes and look at what went right and what went wrong. They also set a strategy for the next team they face. NFL teams are constantly looking at the ROI of what they do and how they can tweak it and make it better the next time around. A smart company measures the ROI of its all its projects and programs.
  5. Leverage Your Brand: The NFL has a strong brand and they know how to capitalize on it. Of course there are ticket and merchandise sales, but in recent years, the NFL has create new days of football (Sunday and Thursday night games), as well as the NFL RedZone, fantasy football leagues, NFL Sunday Ticket and more. A smart company is always looking for new revenue streams, while at the same time, upholding a strong brand image.
  6. Resiliency Wins: Week-to-week in the NFL, teams lose games, players get injured, and big play calls can go against you. The winning organizations are the ones that rise above it and find a way to put more notches in the win column. Entrepreneurship is often one step forward and two steps back. The successful entrepreneur knows that one loss does not make a season.
  7. Training Day: NFL players are the cream of the football crop, yet there are weeks of training camp and practices during the season to prepare for the next big game. Smart businesses similarly invest in their people through educational development. The better trained employees are, the greater the likelihood that they can “score” a big win for their team.
  8. Calculated Risk: Remember that time your favorite NFL team went for it on fourth down, made the play and ended up winning the game? That was an in-the-moment, calculated risk. Sometimes in business, we can over-analyze a decision. When that happens, it’s time to check in with your gut and decide if it’s time to roll the dice. If it works, you’ll be rewarded with a successful outcome. If not, assess why it didn’t work, and determine what needs to be adjusted.
  9. The Buck Stops Here: At the end of the day, the coach takes the brunt of the blame for losing a game. A good coach does it without excuses. As the leader of your team or company, you’re ultimately accountable for the plans, programs and strategies. Celebrate your wins, but be prepared to own your losses too.
  10. Eye on the Prize: Every player in the NFL knows the goal they’re working towards: victoriously hoisting the Vince Lombardi trophy on Super Bowl Sunday. In business, your team should know the goals they’re working toward and those will be measured. Help them visualize what success looks like, and provide the support they need to achieve it.
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