Friday, February 18, 2011

Business Lessons Learned from the Super Bowl Game: Why Green Bay Packers Beat Pittsburgh Steelers

For my friends outside USA, you may not think or call American football as “football” as the players don’t really kick the ball with their feet in the game except for the kicker. So bear with me for now. I won’ bore you.

Other than Olympic Games, the annual SuperBowl is probably the largest or craziest sports game for professional athletes, business, entertaining and commercial, not to mention the office pool in betting the game.

There are great stories in the history of sports and competition that we all can learn lessons for our game of life.

Vince Lombardi, the great head coach of the Green Bay Packers in the 1960s, whose name is given to the Super Bowl trophy, famously said, “Some people try to find things in this game that don’t exist but football is only two things – blocking and tackling.”

And most of the time, his wisdom holds true. Most of the time, consistent execution of the fundamentals will help you win at business, just as in football. The sales funnel — lead generation, lead qualification, and lead conversion — is the business equivalent of blocking and tackling. Master their execution and your business will thrive…no matter what your competition is doing.

But sometimes, blocking and tackling just isn’t enough. When you get to the very top level of competition — the Super Bowl of your industry — everyone blocks and tackles well. In fact, in the recent Super Bowl, the Pittsburgh offensive line actually protected their quarterback better than the Packers did.

So why did the Packers beat the Steelers?

According to Frank Tadych at the blog:
No doubt the three turnovers played the role of catalyst for the Steelers’ loss, leading directly to 21 points for the Packers. This stat shows the importance of the turnover battle: teams with a positive turnover differential are 33-3 all-time in the Super Bowl. The Packers were +3 against the Steelers and +6 during the 2010 playoffs.

Now ordinarily, poor blocking by the offensive line can make the quarterback feel rushed, and this is often the cause of interceptions. Similarly, in business, tight cash flow can cause you to make bad decisions by chasing a quick back and giving concessions to get the business that end up being costly in the long run.

But like I said, poor blocking wasn’t the problem Sunday. The problem was turnovers… at least two of which were unforced errors on the part of Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger. His receivers knew it:

“You can’t turn the ball over,” wide receiver Hines Ward said. “You can’t do it on this stage of the game for the Super Bowl. They were a better team today. They executed. We turned the ball over, they scored points off our turnovers, and it’s disappointing.” (Sports Illustrated)

And even he knew it:

“There’s a lot of what ifs. There’s a lot of throws I’d like to have back,” Roethlisberger said. “We turned the ball over. A lot of that is my fault.”

Superior blocking and tackling will win football games — it may even get you to the finals. But if your quarterback, the leader of your team, isn’t 100% focused — if they’re making bad decisions — at the top level of competition, that loses championships.

The same is true in business and in life. The fundamentals will get you there, but when the going gets tough — whether it be due to competition, economic factors, or other factors outside your direct control, how well you “read the play” and are able to quickly make the right decision, consistently, will determine your success.

There are three key ingredients to being at the top of your game mentally, whether in football, in business or in your life:
Attitude – You have to not just “think”, but know that you deserve success and are capable of attaining it. And while your conscious mind may want it, until you retrain your subconscious to support it, you won’t carry that same confidence into every decision throughout your day.

Discipline – As Vince Lombardi once said, “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” Creating a vision board one time, saying a few affirmations and meditating occasionally doesn’t cut it. 80% of the effort doesn’t produce 80% of the results — more like 20%. Consistency is key. Set and measure goals daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually.

Coaching – There’s a reason every football team has a coach. Not just a coach, but coaches. Even if you know what you need to work on, an outside set of eyes can provide additional ideas, expertise, and most importantly, feedback that you can’t achieve on your own. I broaden the definition of coach here to include professionals such as life coach, business coach, mentor, personal trainer, nutrition coach, sports coach. Whatever area you want to work on, you can find an expert who can help you improve your game.

Until next time, train smart and expect results.

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