Learning from Super Bowl Winners

Dear Ken Keller,

I like to play and watch sports, and I do my best to learn and put into practice from what I see and do. My company has a group of individuals who are good people and work hard, but they don’t play as a team as often as I need them to. I don’t think this issue is unique to me, my company or my industry but I could use some input so my people work more together.

Ed B.

Dear Ed:

Thanks for your email. You did not say which sports you like so I am going to use examples from two sports to address your issue.

Golf is a solitary sport. There are some events that emphasize the role of the foursome, but, by and large the better the individual player is, the more money they will earn in a tournament in a year or over the span of their career.

Even four people out on a Saturday afternoon who bet on various things (closest to the pin, longest drive, lowest net score, fewest putts) earn based on their personal skills and ability.

In golf, the scores are visible, and the players are ranked from lowest score to highest. The “Leaders Board” is there for everyone to see. This makes things highly competitive.

You may have a situation like this in your company, particularly if you have inside and outside salespeople on the payroll or working for you on commission.

The individual playing golf is self-sufficient and does not require assistance to play the game. There is not a team of people hitting the ball and getting it into on to the green and in the cup.

Those on your sales team are not only competing with others in sales, they are competing for time and attention with those inside the company whom they need follow through help from to complete the sale or do post-sales activities.

The behind-the-scenes people have other demands and priorities over whom to serve and when.
While you may want to have one team focused on winning, in reality you probably have several teams, each with a different definition of winning. Some of these teams may not have any idea what winning is for them.

Your challenge (or opportunity) is to clearly understand how your internal teams define winning and strategically create one definition for all employees so that everyone understands and works towards a single goal.

Key to this is that the company needs a scorecard that everyone can look at to see if the company is winning or not.

My suggestion to you is that you do some research and find out how the NFL teams that won Super Bowls divide the winnings among those on the team who participated throughout the season.

You will find that all the players earn shares (or portions thereof) from the team financial award, and that shares are also distributed to those who played supporting roles throughout the season.

When people know what winning is, and they have a scoreboard to look at, and understand what they get when the team wins, they respond. The others just watch the clock until it is time to go home.