A common theme floats through the bleachers of any youth sports event

A common theme floats through the bleachers of any youth sports event. This theme embodies the essential elements of teamwork that are crucial to every business in America. Every manager has the task of assembling teams of people and leading them in a successful direction. Obviously, this sounds much easier than it is, but why?

Ask the parents of young athletes what they think of the coaching and leadership of their sons or daughters team. Most will offer a positive remark about the team and the coach. The unspoken is often at the heart of the matter and deals with the only participant they truly care about; their child. Parents reserve the right to hold lofty opinions of their offspring’s athletic prowess and ability to impact the team. They sense that coaches try hard, but rarely see the true athletic genius of their child. Those of you who’ve spent countless hours on cold, aluminum bleachers can relate to this message.

The problem lies mostly in the message that kids receive at home. They listen and give their team and coach their best effort in practice only to hear a parent tell them how underappreciated and misused they really are on the field of play. Many of these athletes then return to practice wondering themselves why they are not the center of attention or the leading scorer. The results can be devastating for the young person. Unsure of their real value and role on the team they can lose interest, pull others down, or quit. Because the window of athletic participation is short lived for all kids, we often miss the mark as parents and coaches. Youth coaches have a unique opportunity to develop not only the team but each young person’s life. The beauty of sports in our world today is that the playing field can be a powerful teacher of life’s lessons to come.

In business, just as in youth sports, the football model holds true. Imagine yourself as a football coach for a second. The goal is to establish a vision, set goals, provide roles for participants, and design a path to success. Not until you get each of the players to buy into the game plan will you move ahead in the right direction. So where does the football analogy come in?

As the coach you must decide who will fill all of the positions on the field. Much like fielding a business team or office staff, the head coach must find and develop the best center, quarterback, receiver, and place kicker. What qualifications are needed in each position? How do you entice players to accept less glamorous roles on the team? Do you have quality people in your organization that can properly fill and execute these positions or do you need to recruit them? What strategy do you use when a player will not accept the role you present? Would you know how to put the best possible team on the field if you were the coach? The role of a business leader is much the same.

To crystallize this process, a great coach or leader will instill the value and greatness of each person on the team within their specific role. Truthfully, almost every kid grows up wanting to be the quarterback or receiver. What would a team look like with 11 quarterbacks and no one to snap the ball or block for them? As players fit and fill roles on the team they buy into the importance of what each bring to the table. They gain strength and confidence by doing their job well. Without their role being filled in an important way, the team does not execute to its capabilities. When more than one player fails to accept or execute their role, the team begins to deteriorate from the inside. On the outside, losses fill the schedule instead of wins. My advice for every business leader is to take a look into the genius of the great coaches in sports. You can find them at the elementary, high school, college, and pro levels. How and why do they make these tough personnel decisions on a daily basis, year after year. You’ll find that each are masters at defining roles and establishing the importance of each role. As each part of the team is assembled and developed through practice and hard work, the inner workings of a successful team are in place. Take a page from the football playbook and create your own winning team.

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