Autumn is in the air, and in the northeast, this is evident by cooler days, deciduous trees with red and orange leaves, pumpkin spice everything and football. Whether you are a fan of the gridiron, fantasy football or Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown as part of what binds them together; football offers lessons that can be used in life and at the office.
Every player on the team has a role whether they play or warm the bench. Teams win and lose together when everyone does their part. One cannot win a football game by trying to do it all one’s self. Players also need to be selfless and step in where needed when another player is injured or not available. Players who have large egos and want to be in the spotlight are not team players. They and employees need to focus on doing great work. Team players are not complainers; a player may feel justified in complaining when injured, but a better tactic would be to focus on healing and how soon one can get back in the game. Attitude is everything. Regardless of your role or place on the totem pole, someone else’s job depends on your completing your assigned tasks. The same is true in the office—everyone needs to do their jobs in order for everyone to be successful and may need to roll up their sleeves and help as needed.
The players on the football are required to attend practice, often early in the morning, and maintain good grades, which may require them to make sacrifices such as substituting time in the gym or library for time with friends or time as a couch potato. Moreover, the player with the discipline to work hard, be productive, deliver high-quality work and are determined to win gain the coach’s attention and trust. The same is true in the office where effective managers know which employees can be asked to take on tasks and greater responsibility and reward those who go beyond their scope of duties.
Leadership is more about helping others to succeed than it is about being the king or queen of the field. While the coach is the de facto leader of a team, individual members are likely to emerge as leaders. The first step in becoming a leader is to know what a leader does. Study how other leaders inspire, motivate, keep others on task, and know when to stand up for something and when to listen to the coach. Leaders push others to push themselves to achieve success. Leaders also help the team to focus on the bigger picture. Yes, it is fun and rewarding to win a game or to score the big account, but no one wins every time. In those situations, leaders need to look at the bigger picture and what could have been done differently in terms of preparation and play and the same is true in closing a business deal or completing a project on time and under budget.
Take pride in your accomplishments and in those of others. Take pride in seeing through from start to finish. You may not win the game or gain the blue-ribbon account, but one can learn from failure, fix the issues and focus on winning the next time. When teams do win, they need to celebrate the success of every team member and how they all worked together. We’ve all seen the football hero being carried by teammates or Gatorade poured over the coach, all great moves that may not be suitable in the office. The point is to celebrate successes together as a team and to recognize the office MVP.
Being part of a football team or any sports team offers great examples for the office. One learns skills such as goal setting, perseverance, and other life skills that are useful in the work setting to help individuals and the team to thrive.
Note: This blog originally appeared on October 10, 2018.