Lessons from an unlikely source #1: Football
During a conversation with Lonny Butcher, one of our webinar speakers, we got to talking about the lessons learned from The Wizard of Oz, especially in the HR world. (Lonny had just finished a webinar about that very subject.) He talked about how the Scarecrow’s desire for a brain, the Tinman for a heart, and the Lion for courage all represented the characteristics of a successful HR professional, and how lessons like that can be found all over.
Well, I thought to myself, there can’t be office/workplace/HR lessons learned from ALL over, right? Certainly some things are just what they are: an apple is an apple, an orange is an orange — they don’t represent other things. So off I went to my afternoon gig as a high school football coach. And immediately, things started jumping out at me.
Lonny was right.
So, this is the first in a series of posts where I find lessons from unlikely sources (or, at least, sources that I might not have considered at first).
When we look back at football’s history, we remember more players than teams. Perhaps the most famous team in history is the ’72 Miami Dolphins, the only undefeated team in NFL history. But we can list of hundreds of individual players that have left their mark: Marino, Elway, Montana, and on and on it goes.
But the team aspect of football, and the way we, the audience, watch it, is littered with little absolutes — laws, almost — that turn each team into a winner or a loser. The average audience rarely notices these things, because the average football-watcher is watching the ball — where it goes, our attention goes with it. Some of us recognize that the beauty of the sport is that every kind of offense (the guys trying to score touchdowns) is designed to be run to success against every kind of defense (the guys trying to tackle).
Even if you can’t tell what’s going on in that play diagram, all you need to see is this: the black circle is the guy that gets the ball, and if all the white circles block all the letters, the black circle scores a touchdown, and the entire offense on the field looks awesome. And that play is designed, like every other play in football, to be successful against any kind of defense. But what happens if every white circle blocks the letter they’re supposed to except for one? And the letter that was left unblocked makes the tackle, and the offense doesn’t score?
Watch this play, for example:
In the first three seconds of the video, you can see #43 in white, Troy Polamalu, walking up closer to the ball on the left side of your screen. This is called a blitz — he’s not supposed to be that close; he’s supposed to be back very, very far. Obviously he’s up to something. Now, the big guys in purple are trained to recognize this, and block it appropriately so nothing bad happens. Every one of them blocks a guy as the play starts, except one. Notice, everyone else in purple seems to be doing their job, and doing it well. But someone misses the guy who is arguably the best defensive player in the NFL, and, well, you see what happens.
So what happens in the office when everyone does their job, but one person makes a mistake? Say you work at a newspaper, and you’re the copyeditor. Your job is to take the story given to you by the writer, proofread it, edit it accordingly, and pass it off to the editor-in-chief. Everyone here has a common goal: get a quality story in the paper by tomorrow morning. Obviously, if the writer doesn’t do his job, there’s no story. If you don’t do your job, the story gets thrown in the paper probably with spelling errors, in the wrong format, commas and quotations strewn all over the place like toys in a preschool classroom. (Or an even simpler result: it doesn’t get published.) If the E-I-C doesn’t do their job, well, your newspaper doesn’t run properly or even at all.
Think about it like this: those big guys in purple, that field is their office. They have a job: block the guys in the other color so the runningback can run without being tackled or the quarterback can throw without Troy Polamalu jumping on his back. If even one guy doesn’t do his job, the entire offense can’t function.
So how can this be avoided? Well, this helps:
And while you don’t have all-pro, future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis there to stare you down, and perhaps some of the jargon he uses in that speech doesn’t quite line up, and maybe you don’t have to be big or strong or fast to make your living, there’s still some useful motivation:
“I prepare so no one can take what is mine: my heart, my mind. To be the best and stay there? Sweat is necessary.”
- Always find ways to improve yourself. As you improve, your personal value rises. And as you become more and more vital to the company’s goal, you earn the pride to say, “See? I was a part of that.” And no one can take that away from you.
“I’m older; of course I’m older. That’s the beauty of it. Sixteen years plus. Different level of wisdom, different level of understanding, different level of punishment.”
- As you continue to do your job, you encounter different obstacles, some that turn out for the best, some the worst. But those experiences pack your artillery so you’re better prepared for the future. You understand things differently, you see and perceive things differently, you succeed and fail differently. As Ray says, that’s the beauty of it. You’re a different creature than you were last week, yesterday, 5 minutes ago. Learn from it.
“Do whatever you have to do to make sure you chase your legacy every second of your life.”
- Reminds me of Alexia Vernon’s August webinar. The statement speaks for itself. Ray asked in another speech, “If tomorrow wasn’t promised, what would you give for today?” Those sorts of questions work for every minute of life, even the ones we spend working.
So, while it’s safe to leave the other 95% of football to tackling and screaming and running and bleeding and tackling again, take lessons from it this season. Watch your favorite teams, and take note of the importance of teamwork from every position on the field. Then, take it back to your office and
score a TOUCHDOWN TACKLE the competition be the QUARTERBACK
start leaving your legacy.