7 Ways To Lead Your Team Like A Pro Football Coach

May 2, 2013


Teams are finicky.  It’s often difficult to figure them out.  Personally, I’m not a huge sports fan, but if I was going to pick a favorite, it would be football.  The team aspect is fascinating; there is much to learn by peeking under the hood here…

Whether it’s winners or losers, the idea that a team’s coach, who doesn’t even take the field, has some ability to make the team win or lose, is pretty amazing.  This is such a good correlation to what we do in the business world, yet we rarely compare the two.

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), when coaches in the pro football world don’t perform, they fire them.  Likewise, when a player isn’t working out, they trade them or let them go.  It’s pretty simple.

The good part about this is that everything is performance based.  You are always getting the best performance from your players and your coaches.  The bad part is that this can put everyone in a state of fear and certainly doesn’t do anything for team loyalty.

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Now, I’ve never experienced something like this in the real world.  Maybe if the performance is really bad, they might fire someone.  However, leadership isn’t normally the first to go in this circumstance.  It’s usually painful to watch and can go on for many years.

We could go really deep here and continue examining the correlations, but I think that would be futile.  I’m guessing that CEO’s and team owners can “drip” the same personality traits onto their organizations in either reality, but I’m just not sure.

Instead, let’s look at some of the raw basics that do work best in the team / coach dynamic:

  1. Realize that your team will take on your good and bad traits.  Know your own flaws before you start pointing out theirs.
  2. Every team needs discipline.  Draw a line in the sand when it comes to certain principles.  Keep them simple and easy to understand.
  3. Always have a mission.  What team functions well without a solid mission?  This is YOUR mission, if you choose to accept it.
  4. Learning, growth, and training are not optional.  You are either growing or shrinking.  This goes for YOU and your team.
  5. Only select the best and keep them.  Of course, you may have to prune back occasionally, but work towards building prestige and loyalty.
  6. Put the team first.  Serve them well.  Give them more than they deserve.
  7. Build a community.  Don’t look at these people like chess pieces.  The more they count on each other, the more you can expect from them as a whole.

Obviously, this isn’t everything.  But it’s a pretty solid base!  The best part is that I believe that this would work for any team (football, business, etc).  The biggest challenge here is seeing yourself for who you are, especially your short-comings.  Don’t like your team, look in the mirror first!

Question: Are there any other lessons we can learn from football teams / coaches?