Leadership: Play Silly Games, Win Silly Prizes

Once you are given management responsibility, you have to focus on the core principles of the unit. You have to learn the people and the mission. Your effectiveness as a manager hinges on being able to lead the team.


If your style of leadership is, in any way about playing games with those you lead, you will lose before you start.

Play silly games, win silly prizes. –  Anonymous

I once worked for a boss who refused to rate any employee better than what he had been rated. He wasn’t a very good manager, so his annual performance ratings were pretty weak. There were three of us, direct reports to this clown. After two review cycles of being handed poor results too, we banded together and vowed to take him down. How?

It wasn’t that hard. In meetings with more senior managers, we quietly but effectively deferred questions by saying things like “here’s my answer, blah, blah, blah, but Jim, what do you think?” He never had good answers. He would stumble and fumble, but our expertise was heard by those above us. There was no doubt he was being shown for the ineffective manager he truly was.

His gamy way of treating us at review time got blown up. What do I mean by being gamy? There are several ways this very unproductive leadership style comes across:

Type 1

You constantly ask for answers but never use the information. Making your team respond to countless questions then never showing any sign of using the answers for any good is just plain gaming. Why would you do that? Just to pester the crew? That’s silly. It’s a huge waste of intellectual and emotional capital.

Type 2

Asking questions when you already know the answer. I had an employee once who tried to game me. After walking away from a meeting this employee stopped me and asked me a question. It was somewhat technical in nature. I was glad to explain the answer and show him how to calculate a solution. He said “I already knew that. I just wanted to see if the ‘big dog’ knew how too.” My response? “How do you think I got to be the big dog?”

By the way, he got fired a few weeks later for pulling a similar stunt with a client who knew our CEO.

Type 3

Being a gamesman at work is manipulation. Being the one who pours on the guilt or the ridicule is a bad position to be in. We’ve all known someone who is manipulative. They tweak the story just enough to infer that doing anything contrary to their point of view would be disloyal on your part.

These gamesmen find ways to shift the spotlight away from their faults and place the blazing light on you. Dealing with them is a roller coaster ride.

You get what you deserve

When a team is impacted by a manager with a gaming mindset, it soon will retaliate. Frustration and hostility will bubble up. The manager will be set up to fail. Refer back to my story.

Need a coach

If there is any chance your attempt at being gamy is due to your own insecurity, come clean and get serious. The team doesn’t deserve it.

Gamesmanship loses the war. As a leader who perpetuates games at work, you lose all credibility. Please STOP!

[reminder]In what ways have you seen bosses who play games at work?[/reminder]




Navigating the 3C’s of Leadership for the Millennial

While there are many great qualities a leader may possess, I believe there are three leadership skills young leaders should consider. This tripod of leadership skill development can serve as the foundation to which young leaders can navigate the role of “leader.”


Leaders need to be competent within their area of responsibility. They do not need to be subject matter experts, but they must be able to have a conversation with those in their care that are and illustrate it up the chain-of-command. Competence is a leadership skill that creates credibility.

I urge young leaders stepping into new leadership roles to be quick to listen, learn, and soak in knowledge from others more established in the organization. Establish and build relationship equity by kindly learning from the experience of others. In a short time, you will go from “newbie” to be known as the hard worker who became, “competent.”

Once you have earned the street credit by being competent, people understand you “get it”, but can they trust you?


Character develops the trust required to be an effective leader. Character is more than integrity and playing by the rules. It is following through with the exact core competencies you expect of your team. It is more than showing up on time prepared, not lying, cheating, stealing. It is being the principle-driven individual that inspires others to greater things.

Competence gets you in the game but character keeps you there. Both require time to acquire credibility and trust, but a mistake that compromises your character can deplete all the trust you gained. This can happen in no-time. A leader’s character establishes a accountability and can make or break a leader’s legacy.


A leader’s natural ability to lead, to influence, your “charisma,” is in vain without competence and character. However, once you have credibility and trust, people are more likely to accept that big beautiful personality of yours. This last leadership skill is last on the list because certain personalities can skew the view of team members, especially when they do not know what you are talking about and you can’t be trusted.

Leaders that channel their charisma to inspire, cast vision, and encourage, can lead organizations forward because when their followers can trust your character and competence.

Putting it into context

There is a recommended timeline for new, first time managers to use. It can also be used for any executive moving into a new role, new function, or new post. The timeline is 3–6–9.

First 3 Months

The first 3 months as the young leader negotiates the opportunity, they should be focused on demonstrating competence and character. Learning diligently while being extremely professional by showing early, leaving late, asking appropriate questions, taking notes, learning names, & having a teachable spirit. In that 3 month period, refrain from the colorful personality injections of jokes, off-topic wasting of time conversations, unless the setting is structured to intentionally facilitate it. Essentially, do not let your ego or personality write checks that your competence or character can’t cash—this prevents the mistake of some random personality conflict inhibiting the leadership opportunity.

At 6 Months

At 6 months deep, young leaders should have a grasp on roles and rules, and should have taken copious notes on their environment to effectively form educated opinions. However, before implementing all of those great “improvement ideas,” I suggest pulling an Abe Lincoln and just writing them out. Then place them in the top shelf of your nice new desk. As you are learning the job role, it would be easy to shoot from the hip and want to innovate some fresh idea. The 6 month period allows leaders to avoid the mistakes of being too quick to act, with a shallow knowledge base. Waiting allows time to reveal the core process of the work unit which may be seasonal or shifting.

At 9 Months

At 9 months, you guessed it, you can go into labor and start to birth your ideas into life. Start the conversations with the experts, use the established relationships to suggest improvement, and convey your personal passion via the charisma that hands off energy that will inspire it back to you.

The tech-savvy millennial leader may face leadership challenges through team members that cannot understand their generation’s “entitled” views. However, you can use this 3–6–9 technique to avoid being labeled “entitled” or “impatient.”

Contributing thoughts from Lacy Gunnoe U.S. Air Force Officer, Instructor/Evaluator Pilot. Professor at Samford University.


Are you really a “people person”?

When was the last time you heard someone say “I am a people person”? Candidates for various management jobs often describe themselves as a people person. What is that exactly?

I have a friend who is an HR professional. He tells me the response they use is “Oh good. If you are a people person, we can pay you five people a week. Will that be OK?”

But seriously folks. Most of us know where that concept came from. Originally when someone said they were a “people person” it meant they could deal with others in a positive way. It also likely meant they liked doing it. It was supposed to indicate a sincerity for interaction, the ability to relate, a consensus builder. Do you think people really do that anymore?

I fear the truth is we have lost some of the drive, desire, and ability to truly relate with people. Of course some of us are really good at it. But I don’t see where we teach that anymore. Instead, it seems young people are being encouraged to get better with computers and automated interfaces, but they do not get the same encouragement when faced with facing a live specimen.

When have you heard about training for one on one communication? What about simple social graces like waiting outside a conference room right before the meeting starts. Instead of making small talk, faces are buried on smart phones or tablets. Leaders can build more rapport with their team in those short moments outside the meeting than they do inside the meeting once the official discussion has started.

Social media is not really that social at all.

One indication: A recent Pew Research survey of adults in the U.S. found that 71% use Facebook at least occasionally, and 45% of Facebook users check the site several times a day.

That sounds like people are becoming more sociable. But some people think the opposite is happening. The problem, they say, is that we spend so much time maintaining superficial connections online that we aren’t dedicating enough time or effort to cultivating deeper real-life relationships. Too much chatter, too little real conversation.

Others counter that online social networks supplement face-to-face sociability, they don’t replace it. These people argue that we can expand our social horizons online, deepening our connections to the world around us, and at the same time take advantage of technology to make our closest relationships even closer.

Larry Rosen, a professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, says technology is distracting us from our real-world relationships. Keith N. Hampton, who holds the Professorship in Communication and Public Policy at Rutgers University’s School of Communication and Information, argues that technology is enriching those relationships and the rest of our social lives.

Let’s rally together and do something different. If you struggle with making new friends, try baby steps first. Try simply saying hello to someone at the grocery store. Wave to a neighbor you haven’t spoken to in a while.

A second issue is the difference between connecting and communicating. While we may have hundreds of Facebook friends—people we never would have met otherwise, with whom we can share many new things—do they really provide the kind of human interaction that is so essential to our emotional health?

Psychologists define social capital, or the benefit we derive from social interactions, in two ways: bonding and the more superficial bridging. Research shows that virtual-world friends provide mostly bridging social capital, while real-world friends provide bonding social capital.

Larry Rosen states

“For instance, in one study we found that while empathy can be dispensed in the virtual world, it is only one-sixth as effective in making the recipient feel socially supported compared with empathy proffered in the real world. A hug feels six times more supportive than an emoji.”

To be a true people person, the number of friends or connections on social media has nothing to do with the people you can influence with your day-to-day behavior. Can you add value? Can you emote empathy and support for someone in need of encouragement during a tough time? Are you genuine?

The next time a friend or co-worker expresses something personal, decide whether you are truly a people person. Or will you simply brush it aside so you can get back to posting on Twitter or Facebook.

Let’s try to be a real “people person”.

Building Trust – Why It Matters

Team Trust

In any relationship, trust is a key element. Without it, things don’t last very long. With trust you can withstand most anything. Managers at every level of an organization must seek first to build a foundation of trust within their circle of influence.

The world is craving a new story about leadership and business, one that underscores the way people trust and contribute to each other. Without trust, the chances for a long-term success are diminished. Those who recognize the importance of building business and leadership foundation on trust are likely to find themselves doing what is right and what is good for stakeholders in the long run. ~Lolly Daskal

In business, trust operates at many levels. A company’s customers or clients must obtain a level of trust in the product or serve before agreeing to buy. Achieving this dynamic can work in either of two ways. First, the prospective customer gets to know the representatives of the company. If they learn to like these people, over time, a trust builds. Once that trust is established, the decision to buy is easier (not automatic, just easier).

On the other hand, a product or service gets a reputation for reliability and performance. Trust grows, clients consume. Sometimes the public never really knows the people behind the product, they just know they trust the brand. Think about Google or Apple. Most of us never get to know an individual Googler or an Apple genius in person, right? Yet we trust the brand to bring us the service we crave.

Team Work

We all know it takes teams to build a brand. Within those teams, the highest performing ones have their own levels of trust. Therefore, while we may never know the people behind the product we like and trust, they make it happen nonetheless.

That brings us to the leadership that drives those teams. There is a six part model that clearly does a breakdown of the primary elements for building high trust team who will perform at higher levels that team without such trust.

Team Trust
Team Trust

Following this process, you can find ways to build trust within your team, growing the depth of the trust relationship. Once trust is established, there is no limit on the things your team can produce.

Here are the 6 steps to building trust within your team

1. The People –  Trust begins with each employee answering their own key question “Do I even want to be on this team?” Jim Collins in “[easyazon_link keywords=”Good to Great” locale=”US” tag=”thredoth-20″]Good to Great[/easyazon_link]” calls it getting the right people on the bus. Clearly your hiring decisions impact the potential for a positive answer to this question. If you hired the wrong person, they may quickly question whether they even want to be on the team. Yet even with the best hiring decisions you can make, the individual must answer this question for themselves once they land. After orientation, there is a buy-in period that is inevitable. Trust cannot begin until everyone on the team is positive that “yes, I want to be here”.

2. The Purpose –  Team trust requires agreement with what the team is trying to accomplish. In “[easyazon_link keywords=”Tribes” locale=”US” tag=”thredoth-20″]Tribes[/easyazon_link]”, Seth Godin talks about the nature of a tribe as being aligned with a central purpose. Every work team is its own tribe. The purpose must be aligned.

Businesses build operating units for a purpose. Teams within those units operate as a contributor to the overall success of the organization. Trust grows from the alignment with team purpose, and, again, individual understanding of that purpose. A leader has to build understanding. If the purpose is not clearly articulated to everyone, then trust lags.

3. The Plan –  How will the team get this done? Many of us are planners, others are followers. Either way, knowing about the existence of the plan makes the way forward more achievable. Belief in the plan also builds trust.

Even when employee buy-in (#1) happens and a clear purpose is understood (#2), the plan is critical for establishing trust. The plan helps the team understand steps, goals, and means to get their work accomplished.

4. The Practice –  Is what we are going to do consistent with the plan. Are skills sets accounted for? Are resources made available? Said another way, have we eliminated any notion of being set-up to fail?

Policies, procedures, and practice makes the way clear for high trust performance. If rules and regulations become a hindrance, the trust erodes. The confidence for being able to perform is put in doubt.

5. The Performance –  Once we begin working, is our performance going to be measured in ways that are accurate, meaningful, and valuable. Measuring performance offers proper feedback for fine tuning the purpose, plan, and practice. Therefore, adequate performance measurement is vital.

Employees who never receive coaching about their performance cannot be expected to give trust and higher performance. This is why more modern tools like Big 5 Performance Management make such a big difference. Rather than waiting on tired and untimely reports like the old fashioned annual reviews, Big 5 offers real-time feedback that can be communicated and coached every month.

6. The Payoff – Success begets success. Momentum is like the big flywheel. It takes time to start turning, but once it is in motion, it is hard to stop. Teams who celebrate success can taste it. Realizing that all of the effort used for steps 1 thru 5 result in success builds higher trust within the team. The payoff instills a desire for more effort and more momentum.

Trust Reward

The end result is a high trust team environment. Once the tribe establishes this bond of trust, there are few things that can deter their ongoing success.

The manager/leader who sets the tone for building this kind of trust will themselves reap the rewards for higher performance from the team.

In upcoming articles, I will dive deeper into each step. In addition, I will be offering practical tools the leader can use to perfect each step.

[reminder]If you have an experience operating within a high trust team environment, please share your story here.[/reminder]

Or, if you want to start NOW with improving your team’s level of trust, call me for speaking, coaching, or facilitation of a team exercise.

Need a coach


Personal Growth: Making It Stick

Big Event

We’ve all been there before; a seminar, a speaker, or a program. WOW what a message! I believe that. I want to do that. That’s it! I’m going to use this to make some big changes and do big things.

Big Event
Big Event

Then we go home and life resumes. We let ‘normal’ get in the way. Old habits and old routines return. No change.

If you want to take your life or your work to a new level, you have to make some changes. Yes, we all hate change, right? Get over it.

The great Mark Twain quipped:

[shareable cite=”Mark Twain”]True education comes when we unlearn things.[/shareable]

To unlearn things, you do need those outside influences; carefully selected opportunities for growth. In adult life, it is not always easy to find the right opportunities.

No, that’s not true. See I tricked you there. Opportunities are EVERYWHERE. You’re just not tuned in right. Old patterns of thinking is what puts us on a track for sameness, no change. Change starts with changing your thinking.

Making It Stick

In order to make lasting change happen, we need to stay close to the fire. Whatever that influence was that inspired you to make some changes, you need to stay close to that fire. Program, book, person,  whatever. Stay with it. Repeat it. Dig deeper.

Use the initial inspiration of the idea to take another step. Then another. Then another.

Find same-as ideas to expand the thinking. Authors who write about leadership growth often cite their sources. Explore those references too. Expand your library. Remember, changing your thinking drives change. Let’s face it. When you find truly great motivators, teachers, and mentors, it is very likely they “grew up” their capacity by following other people first.

Every great leader I have ever known is quick to acknowledge an influence by some other great person who took the time to teach and mentor; significant influence.


If you want to find your next idea for growth, ask people around you the right questions. How did they learn? Who was their inspiration? Who mentored them?

From this you will see the pattern emerge; sources of great information to excite your growth.

If you are looking for ways to achieve personal and professional growth, call me to arrange a free consultation.

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[reminder]When was the last time you invested in making a big change in your life or your career?[/reminder]


Managing “Up” the Organization

Toxic people at work

Managing up the organization is a great catch phrase. It gives comfort to those who feel their boss is less than a good one. I’ve seldom heard this concept used in relation to having a good boss.

Managing Up the Organization
Managing Up the Organization

Working for a good boss, you merely do your job. You hope your effort is rewarded appropriately (which it likely will be since you believe the person to be a good boss).

The “managing up” concept frequently appears when the immediate manager is not so good. I find a serious conundrum when trying to coach these principles to a junior executive who is having trouble with their boss.

The better idea may be to forget “managing” your boss since that really will never happen. There are reasons he/she is your boss, whether you can accept them or not. The organization has made a choice to align the structure the way it is with the people who are there for the moment. It is unlikely this person will respond in any way other than hostile to any attempt you make to manage them. Your effort may actually backfire, causing you to be tagged as a rebel or malcontent.

I submit that the better concept is to manage yourself; get hold of your own expectations and values. Then begin crafting a strategy to build the relationship with this challenging boss. It’s often an all-hands on deck call to action. By that I mean you must muster all of the skills and abilities you possess to build the bridge and get to the other side.

As Mike Myatt writes in his column:

“Here’s the thing – the best way to be looked upon favorably by those you report to is not through various charades and other forms of skulduggery, but by simply doing your job and serving them well.

Good leaders want you to succeed. They welcome a sincere challenge of their instruction so long as the question comes in the form of finding ways to make a better team. They get that.

Bad managers take offense at the occasional question. They see such action as a threat to their role. While they may never respond directly, they simmer and boil over your effort to “one up them”. Regardless of how well intended your message may be, they may still see it as a threat. There is no good way for you to know the difference.

When it comes to dealing with a boss you feel needs to be managed, here are some suggestions.

  1. Engage –  Be present in the moment. Do not let prior disappointments cloud today’s topics. Soldier on! Keep doing what you believe is the right thing.
  2. Be open –  Take your shots at sharing the plan, vision, practice, and standard you have set for your own team. Seek ways to align those things with the values the boss is laying out. If the boss has failed to share such information, then yes, you have a bad boss, but you must lead the effort to find alignment. Leading is far different from managing. Exert your own brand of leadership for the moment when alignment is missing.
  3. Show loyalty – Never let the boss have a reason to believe you are not loyal. Reinforce the ways you support the goals of the department. You should never be a ‘suck up’ about this, but you can be clear in your communication. If the trust you are giving is violated too many times, then you have no choice but to seek another role or another job elsewhere.
  4. Give advice –  Ask for permission to offer another opinion before doing so. If your input is rejected on a routine basis, then see #3 above.

The most common theme in worker/boss relationships where the employee feels a need to manage up is the absence of meaningful communication; solid, two-way flow of information and understanding.

Yes, bad managers fail with communication regularly. As the person reporting to such a boss, I go back to the gold standard: do your job. This is why I love the Big Five Performance system. As an employee, Big 5 gives you a regular monthly method for focusing on the 5 things you plan to accomplish in the new month and the 5 things you achieved last month. Give this simple, one page (sometimes half page), bulleted list report to your boss. Ask them for feedback.

If the boss aligns/agrees with what you submit, then you have some degree of harmony. If they don’t agree, then hopefully it creates a moment to connect, coach, and discuss the matters that are out of alignment. If the manager won’t respond at all, then refer again to #3 above.

Using a simple tool like Big 5 creates the catalyst for open, nonthreatening communication about what is going on. Plus it provides the added benefit of documenting what you have been doing. If there is ever a question of performance, you have a collection of actionable items that were either agreed or endorsed before you began them.

[offer-box href=”https://dougthorpe.com/call” linktext=”For more information about Big 5 Performance – Click Here” securecheckout=”false”]

As communication improves, trust grows. As trust grows, you begin to see the imperfections melt away. I’m not being naive about this. I have worked it this way myself with several of those to whom I have had to report. Most situations worked out quite nicely. Yet there was the reality that I chose door number three (above) on a couple of occasions.

While you may never really manage up the organization, you can do things to build a better relationship with the superior who may need such handling.


The Ultimate In Leadership Is Coaching Your Team

Learning Styles Debunked

The best leaders are coaches for their followers. Leaders who have amassed big followings impact their people by providing inspiration through coaching.

Yes, there is the charismatic leader who mobilizes huge crowds, but the leaders who really make a difference are those who coach their followers to great achievement. They invest time and energy in helping others grow and prosper.

One aspect of how to coach your team is about understanding their learning style. For decades there have been educational theories floated about that say people learn by three primary ways:

Auditory –  hearing what is said, something conducive to lecture-type learning

Tactile –  touching, feeling or experiencing their way through the subject matter

Visual –  pictures and diagrams to teach the information

Learning Styles Debunked
Learning Styles Debunked

While these three methods have been prevalent learning modes taught to aspiring teachers and educators, there is new science that suggests they are simply not true. Here is a video presented by Dr. Tesia Marshik where she explains the reasons to debunk the traditional three learning styles. According to Dr. Marshik,

“When something is so pervasive it doesn’t even occur to people to challenge it. We need to be willing to critically reflect on beliefs even if they are commonly believed. Another reason why this persists is quite frankly: The idea of learning styles is sexy. It sounds good. It feels good. Saying that people have different learning styles is another way of acknowledging that people are different, and differences are important, especially when it comes to the classroom. But me saying that learning styles don’t exist is not saying people are the same. People do differ in many important ways; learning styles just isn’t one of them, and just because some ideas sound really good, just because we really want something to be true, doesn’t make it so….

As she points out, there are two key reasons why these myths should be busted.

Waste of Time

They are a colossal waste of valuable resources placed on learning systems, leaders, and coaches i.e. if you have to figure out what style each of your students uses, then you are wasting time when you could be doing something far more productive for those whom you have been charged with coaching/teaching.

The whole fact that learning styles doesn’t matter, to some extent should be a relief. Because it is one less thing that leaders have to worry about. At the very least, we can’t afford to be wasting our time and resources trying to promote learning styles when there is no evidence that it actually helps learning. Especially when there are research-supported strategies, things that we know we can do, that actually do impact learning.

Placing Labels

Learning styles label people in ways that create limiting thoughts. If someone has been programmed to believe they are a visual learner (or any of the three), they immediately tune out an instructor who may not be presenting that way. The label becomes a convenient excuse as in “I don’t learn that way.” Labeling yourself as a (specific type of) learner or labeling an employee as a learner can not only be misleading, but it can be dangerous. If you as a leader think that you have a particular learning style and that you only learn in one way, that might prevent you from trying other strategies that could otherwise help you learn the information better.

Likewise if you as a student believe that you have a particular learning style, that could cause you to shut down or lose interest when a coach isn’t coaching in a way that is consistent with your preferred style. That might actually perpetuate your failure but it’s not because you couldn’t learn that way; it’s because you gave up and you stopped trying. This whole idea that learning styles don’t exist in many ways should be further good news. It means all of us are capable of learning in a variety of ways. We are not as limited as sometimes we think we are.

Given that I am big proponent of eliminating labels within work teams, I like the idea that we can get rid of this body of work that says people learn in only one of three ways.

Need a coach

Group Think

Work teams are too diverse. Investing effort in grouping employees by learning styles would cramp any leaders effort to grow his team. No, the better alternative is to individually get to know those with whom you are working. Offer various experiences with learning; mix it up. Keeping things fresh and energized is a far better way to keep everyone’s attention.

[reminder]How do you handle the traditional view of learning styles when trying to coach your teams?[/reminder]

Citation: Various quotes and content quoted from Dr. Marshik’s writings found here.

Super Bowl Goes Business School

This year’s 51st installment of the NFL Super Bowl (American football) was a spectacular case study of principles you should/could learn in the best business schools.

Please indulge me this moment to explore what I mean. I accept that there are some of you out there who hate sports analogies. To those, my apologies, but this one is too big to ignore.

Super Duo at Super Bowl
Super Duo at Super Bowl

The New England Patriots took on the Atlanta Falcons. Each team’s back story is compelling in it’s own right, but I’ll save that for another post. Suffice it to say the headline here was whether Patriots duo of Bill Belichick (coach) and Tom Brady (quarterback) could pull off a record setting 5th Super Bowl win.

As the game began, it was clear the Falcons had upset in mind. They came out on fire. It seemed nothing was beyond their reach. The Patriots on the other hand, looked flat and confused. Despite their tenured experience being on this stage, they were the ones who first looked like amateurs. Then the tide turned.

Belichick and the Patriots erased a 25-point deficit in arguably the greatest Super Bowl of all time Sunday night, for the fifth title in the legendary head coach’s New England tenure.

Read more at: http://nesn.com/2017/02/even-bill-belichick-had-to-make-sure-patriots-super-bowl-win-wasnt-a-dream/

Belichick and the Patriots erased a 25-point deficit in arguably the greatest Super Bowl of all time Sunday night, for the fifth title in the legendary head coach’s New England tenure.

Read more at: http://nesn.com/2017/02/even-bill-belichick-had-to-make-sure-patriots-super-bowl-win-wasnt-a-dream/

Belichick and the Patriots erased a 25-point deficit in arguably the greatest Super Bowl of all time Sunday night, for the fifth title in the legendary head coach’s New England tenure.

Read more at: http://nesn.com/2017/02/even-bill-belichick-had-to-make-sure-patriots-super-bowl-win-wasnt-a-dream/

Belichick and the Patriots erased a 25-point deficit in arguably the greatest Super Bowl of all time Sunday night, for the fifth title in the legendary head coach’s New England tenure.

Read more at: http://nesn.com/2017/02/even-bill-belichick-had-to-make-sure-patriots-super-bowl-win-wasnt-a-dream/

Belichick and the Patriots erased a 25-point deficit in arguably the greatest Super Bowl of all time Sunday night, for the fifth title in the legendary head coach’s New England tenure.

Read more at: http://nesn.com/2017/02/even-bill-belichick-had-to-make-sure-patriots-super-bowl-win-wasnt-a-dream/

Belichick and the Patriots erased a 25–point deficit in arguably the greatest Super Bowl of all time, for the 5th  title in the legendary head coach’s New England tenure.

Business School Principles

Here are the key things that should be taken from this lesson is business management, leadership, and execution. Then I’ll discuss the details.

  • Planning
  • Preparation
  • People
  • Coaching
  • Execution
  • Heart


Every great business effort includes planning. You make start-up plans, annual plans, quarterly plans, project plans and plans of all kinds. Whether you have a particular method of planning, the presence of the planning discipline is critical.

[shareable]Failing to plan is planning to fail[/shareable]

The Falcons had their plan that relied upon the league leading scoring team’s ability to score at will. They knew they could run and pass with great confidence. They began with a mix of those tools being implemented to start the game.

The Patriots had their plan which usually involves key ways to attack whatever weaknesses Belichick believed he saw in the opponents abilities.

As the game opened, the first quarter was scoreless, with both teams looking more like prize fighters than football players. Then the game exploded with the avalanche of points scored by Atlanta, 21 to be exact before New England was able to put points on the board.

Clearly something was wrong with the Patriot’s plan. As reality set in, there was a need to adjust the plan in mid-course. This is where Belichick does his best work. More on this in the execution section below.


In football preparation is broken into two fundamental parts.

First, there is the basic training and practicing where conditioning, blocking and tackling get done. Players and coaches work on strengths and abilities to fine tune an athlete’s preparation individually. As a team, the squads break up and work on their play calling and execution.

Practice allows plays to be run time and time again until all the players know exactly what they should be doing on each play. They learn each other’s roles so they can harmonize on the team, supporting each other, whether blocking on one play or handling the ball on another play.

There preparation is about repetition so that much of what has to be done is conditioned into the person’s mind and body.

The second part is game preparation. Depending upon the master plan that has been developed for the actual game, the preparation gets tuned to rehearse how that game plan will be used. It might be as simple as some plays are deemed vital to the plan so they get run time and time again in preparation for that week’s game. Other plays are not practiced quite as much.

Just by virtue of making it to the Super Bowl, it can be said both of these teams knew how to prepare for performance at a high level.


The magnitude of organizational effectiveness as demonstrated by Super Bowl contenders is amazing. Front office, coaches, players, and support staff all carry huge weight in making a franchise achieve Super bowl sized greatness.

Yet when the the whistle blows and play begins, the spotlight is on the players and the coaches. The guys actually running the plays on the field make the difference. Having the right person in the right position, running the right play according to the right plan all comes down to the selection of talent.


No one has proven an ability to plug-and-play better than Bill Belichick. Players get hurt. Players come and go. Yet Belichick has developed his own system for player evaluation and selection that is unmatched. The names on the backs of the jerseys change each year, but the success of the organization does not.

Belichick didn’t wait for halftime to begin coaching and making adjustments when he saw the original game plan was not working. He was quickly moving around the sidelines, talking to players, drawing diagrams, and talking to his assistants. He knew changes had to be made and he was making them without waiting for the break.

Time was critical and he didn’t want to wait for the intermission to make his moves.


Both teams were trying to execute their schemes and plans. Players were playing hard, coaches were coaching. Yet one team (the Patriots) was able to execute just a little more perfectly the whole time period of the 60 minute game and into overtime. The other team (Atlanta) suffered a few mental mistakes in the final stages that allowed New England to tie the game, sending it to overtime.

When New England won the coin toss to start overtime, the final outcome could be sudden death if they could score a touchdown.

Here, their mental and physical toughness shined through. They never quit trying. I’m not saying the Falcons quit, because they didn’t, but their effort fell just a few steps short of New England.


For all the technical knowledge about management and leadership, I find heart still wins the day. Heart is not something they usually teach in business school, I know they didn’t at mine. Heart is something you figure out along the way or you get shown how it works by those around you. People who do all of the things above and yet lose heart usually don’t prevail.

The people that stay true to their core, believe in themselves and one another are able to overcome insurmountable odds (like a 25 point football deficit) to win. Julian Edelman, a receiver with the Patriots, made an amazing catch that required intense concentration while arms and legs were flying all around him.

His own training, preparation, skill, and focus combined with his totally committed heart to win allowed him to make that play. It was a critical moment in the game when the Patriots needed to sustain momentum to tie the game before pushing it into overtime. If Edelman had missed that catch, there is no way to know if the Patriots could have kept their drive alive.

Edelman Catch

In 1995 the Houston Rockets were another sports team who overcame improbable odds to win its second NBA championship. When the best of seven series was over and the Rockets had won, their coach Rudy Tomjanovich famously said:

[shareable]Never underestimate the heart of a champion.[/shareable]

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You can love or hate sports metaphors. But this year’s Super Bowl is one of the best business schools I’ve heard from in a long time. It was crammed full of meaningful lessons and examples that business titans everywhere can embrace.

You may not win a big fat championship ring or get a bonus check for your athletic skill, but applying some of these lessons will get you over whatever your next goal line may look like.

Right, Wrong, and Different

Problem resolution is a big deal at work, at home, and in your community. Usually there are two sides to whatever argument you may find; the proverbial “two sides to every coin”.

The problem with problem solving is that someone always thinks their side is the “right” answer, while the other side is “wrong”.

Right v.Wrong

One of the best coaching tips I ever received from my mentors was: [shareable]“there doesn’t have to be a right or wrong, things are just different”[/shareable].

When you eliminate the adversarial aspect of right v. wrong, you open up the door for compromise and collaboration. If I declare your idea is just different, then maybe we can talk through the sticking points and come out on the other side with a clear solution.

In turn, if you agree to look at my idea as different without dismissing it or vehemently opposing it, then you too might be able to accept the idea.

Without a doubt there are, from time to time, core values that should not be compromised. But in the realm of the workplace, usually everyone is on board with the primary core values, or else they wouldn’t work there for long.

So most disputes are over things like territory, responsibility, recognition, relationship, trust, and money. The list looks something like this:

  1. Who gets credit for the accomplishment?

  2. Who’s fault was the failure or missed deadline?

  3. Why did they say this or that?

  4. I deserve more respect/credit for the work done here.

  5. Step #3 should be placed before #2 in this work flow.

  6. etc., etc.

You get the picture. Fill in the blanks with your own most recent skirmish with a boss or co-worker.

How would it have looked if you first said, wait, there is no right or wrong here? Obviously we are thinking differently. How can we talk about this topic and see each other’s position before we simply start a fight over the outcome.

Again, taking absolute positions like right or wrong makes one party the winner and the other the loser. If the two of you have to endure a long term relationship, winning and losing isn’t the most productive way to build success as a team.

However, celebrating differences and using those to gain understanding can serve to grow a team’s chemistry. Not everyone’s ideas or beliefs can win out all the time. Yet time and time again, people on a work team will accept new direction as long as their own opinions were heard and respected. This is to say they were given a fair consideration before the decision was finalized.

Leaders should take a strong look at the way they deal with perceived conflicts with those who report to them. Differences in views can be administered with a more open look as “different” instead of stating right v. wrong.


The age-old dispute between management and employee is rooted in this right versus wrong mentality. Traditional perception is that management is always right and the employees are always wrong. What a horrible work environment.

More modern, servant based leadership is open to looking at the differences among the work team. As decisions need to be made, having an open dialogue about the problem and the potential solutions serves to eliminate the adversarial relationships that undermine teams.

Now, not every decision can be run through a process of getting inputs from all sides. A leader has to stand at the center of the matter and make the call. What can happen though is to see a dispute arise and deal with it using this “it’s not right or wrong, it’s just different” mindset.

Let me encourage you to try this the next time a co-worker, spouse, significant other or colleague raises an issue that feels like a conflict of opinion. Be the leader in the situation and call for consideration as “just different”, then see how it resolves.

I’m going to bet you will have a more peaceful and receptive party on the other side of the table.

[reminder]Leave a comment and share the last time you used an alternative approach to conflict resolution.[/reminder]

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Workforce Planning 101; Measuring Your Talent Pool

Talent Assessment

As a leader, finding and motivating great talent is a challenge. If you already have a team performing at a high level, how do you sustain that as people move around? Is there a secret sauce you’ve found for selecting your team? What if you could map both a personality and a behavior mindset pattern that ties to your top performers?

If you had such a pattern map, you could select new recruits based on that match. Sounds great, right? Well it’s not some new Hollywood movie. It’s here and now.

Talent Assessment
Talent Assessment

Science and technology have significantly influenced what we now know about leadership and management. In terms of assessing what makes a good team tick, we can do a great deal to define the attributes to look for in new employees while we are going through the hiring process.

Several years ago, I was introduced to just such a model. I asked my team to each take an assessment. There was a series of questions and examples of various thoughts for the candidate to weigh in on. The assessment checked areas like cognitive reasoning, learning capacity, sociability, manageability, and other areas.

When the results were tabulated, I identified my highest performers, not based on this survey, but based on factual experience I had by having them on the team. Then we compared my list of top performers to their responses for the items on the assessment. Sure enough, a very distinct pattern emerged.

Of course there were highs and lows in a range of the applicable attributes, but a pattern existed nonetheless. Now I was equipped with a benchmark from which I could compare future job applicants. By having a new candidate take the same assessment, I could determine whether this person fit the success pattern.

If they were a fit, the odds of making a “good hire” were increased significantly. Much to my excitement, the theory worked. Once we began applying the new measurement, our selection process and the subsequent success of the employees we hired improved dramatically. Team performance grew steadily.


Using the assessment tools is never about scoring. There are no right and wrong answers. People are different. Any aspect of numbering or metrics is purely used to place each person on a scale of attributes that help determine fit in the job. Think of the scale as simply as hot versus cold. Certain attributes make someone a hot fit (got to have them) for the job as opposed to being a cold fit.

Here’s the Why

The logic in this approach makes very good common sense. You wouldn’t hire a bunch of engineers to do heavy lifting on a freight dock. Nor would you put a team of welders in a library to stack books. The contrast is not just about physical or academic/technical profiles. No, it’s about core personality attributes as well. The mindset the person brings with them into the job determines as much about job success as the technical skills they have. Training can help once a new person joins the team, but innate mindsets cannot be trained. Therefore, being able to identify and make selections based upon proven patterns for success sets the stage for better outcome.

To be accurately matched for a job based on personal demeanor and temperament can mean as much as the technical ability to perform the job.

Using tools like these assessments provides executives at all levels greater confidence in their ability to understand what makes a team tick. Once you achieve a level of success, you can strive to scale the team by deploying these assessment models on a regular basis, particularly for new hires and employee movement within the organization.

Functional changes across various departments can be factored into the scale as well. To the extent every department has its own key measure(s) of success attributes, employees considering an internal move can be evaluated on the measurable patterns established for each department.

An employee who is a rock star on one team may not be so strong in another. Having the tools to assist with placement and deployment can significantly improve a company’s ability to maximize their talent.

Putting It to Work

I rely on these assessment tools to help companies identify job matches with existing staff as well as establish methods for improving hiring selection practices. Executives and business owners who are not familiar with these tools can find great value in having their teams take the assessments for the first time.

When I go into an organization and they submit to performing these assessments, there has never been a time when something of great value was not revealed. Taking the assessment is easy and does not take a long time. Results are available immediately. Now, you might need a trained professional to help you understand what the results tell you, but once you’ve been through the basics, the core meaning can be easily interpreted.

It is not uncommon for HR departments to take on the role of becoming the repository of the assessment findings so that later personnel actions like internal promotion and transfer (hiring from within) can be managed using the data from the assessment. Again, the results of these assessments are not “the final answer”, but they will provide incredible insight for making more informed personnel decisions including initial hiring decisions.

Whether dealing with new hires, high potentials, employee retention, or employee development, using the new tools that are readily available today can make a big difference.

If this still sounds too vague for you, simply think of these assessments as ways to get an indication of “can do”, “will do” and “want to”.

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