Teamwork Lessons from the NFL

Teamwork Lessons from the NFL

With the NFL season upon us, players and coaches are focusing on the ultimate goal, a Super Bowl championship.

By analyzing past Super Bowl winners, it is clear that great players are just one component of a championship team. As stated by the late, great Vince Lombardi, “The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined efforts of each individual.” High caliber teams have great players, but it is more than great players that make a great team.

Unlike most sports, football has a stoppage after each and every play for a team huddle. Verne Harnish discusses the importance of team huddles in his bestselling book, “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits.” With the help of the coaching staff on the side line, the current situation is analyzed, decisions are made, and those decisions are communicated to the 11-person team on the field. This all takes place in under one minute. From this point the team members need to trust the coach and rely on each other to carry out their task during the next play. If one person on the team fails to successfully implement their task, it is likely that the entire team will fail on that play. By the same token, one person can raise the quality of performance by the contribution he makes.

There are team dynamics and skills that are visible to the spectator as they watch the game, such as trust, leadership, communication, commitment to the team and planning. However, there are team dynamics behind the scenes that can make or break a team. It only takes one player with a negative attitude to bring down the rest of the team. One person’s drama on the field, in the locker room or even in their personal lives can have a detrimental effect on the team.

The same holds true for teams within corporations. Once drama starts, it easily impacts the culture of the team. As a leader on the field or within a company, it is important to find ways to minimize drama so the team can focus on winning.

The individualism and virtuosity witnessed in the incredible athleticism in the NFL is fun, to watch but it does not put a player above the team or above society. Personal excellence should be in the service of the team. As Vince Lombardi aptly said, “…individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”

As you watch your favorite team on the field, pay attention to the team as a whole as opposed to only focusing on the player with the ball. You can learn a lot about teamwork as you cheer your team to victory.