Hi, Rick Crossland with A Player Advantage here. I have a very interesting topic today that I think is going to challenge you. That topic is: 10 Reasons Sports Teams Are Better Run Than Most Businesses.
So if you think of it, we have a real affinity for sports culturally on a worldwide level. We love to see the competition, we love to see the winning. And what we’ll do today is take you through 10 high-level points pretty quickly to challenge your thinking on why your may want to run your business more like a sports team.
The reason for doing this is there’s a lot of opportunities to look at concretely how a sports team is actually better run than the average business, and what you could do to improve your business team.
Let’s start here.
#1 – Talent Development
The first one is talent development. Talent wins, right? As the great football coach Woody Hayes said, “We win with people.”
Unfortunately, in many businesses, we treat people like commodities, and we’re not doing the talent development of bringing people up, and looking at people and where they fit in, and how that organization works. The first place where sports teams are run better than most businesses is in talent development.
I want you to think about what your average head coach, maybe an NCAA coach, even a professional coach is doing–all the things they’re doing regarding talent development. And we’ll get a little bit deeper on that. In short, most businesses don’t get nearly as passionate about talent development as sports teams do.
#2 – Coaching
Of course, that ties right into coaching because coaching is the fundamental tool that you have to develop your talent. When you think about rising up that existing team, getting those A Players to an even higher level is your best coaching move. And also importantly, getting all your B’s to become A Players.
Occasionally you can get the C all the way up, but in many cases, it’s moving the C to a place where they can be an A Player somewhere else. That’s coaching, which is your fundamental tool in talent development.
And what’s great is there’s a current notion that coaching is the highest form of leadership. So an exciting area where you can become better as a leader, and become a better coach for your people.
#3 – Recruiting
The third one is recruiting. If you look at the NCAA coaches here, you have these famous coaches who are going across the country — literally in living rooms — recruiting their candidates.
In my work with CEO’s and other executive leaders most of them could get a lot better at not only becoming the CEO, but also the chief talent officer, and recruit as hard as you see those NCAA coaches, or even some professional coaches–who are going to colleges to recruit for the NFL ranks. “They are berserk about great talent” as the great author Tom Peters says.
#4 – Playbooks
The fourth point is sports teams have playbooks. So they systematize their teams. In contrast, if you look at the average business, they do not have documented systems in place.
However, the great businesses do have playbooks. They have ways to sell products. They have ways to market products. And they have certainly have in-depth systems to produce consistent products and services. In addition, how their people say things, how they respond to customer concerns, etc. is all put out in playbooks.
Now even considering the better businesses, if you look at them versus sports teams, the sports teams have even much more detailed playbooks.
Nine times out of ten, building a better playbook in your business–systems, and processes– always yields results!
And a quick tip here in this age of technology, do not put a computer system in until you’ve proven it out with pencil and paper.
#5 – Practice
The fifth one is practice. Obviously, teams have plays, and look at all the practicing they are doing to make those plays run perfectly. Look at your sales force, for instance; it’s hard to get them to either role play or to practice their craft, much less read books on sales. Sports players at any level, even high school, are doing far more to practice than our average employees.
#6 – Execution
The next one is execution. Execution, of course, is a by-product of great playbooks and great practice, which yields much better execution. On the sports fields when execution goes wrong, it’s very clear to see, and there’s accountability that happens with that.
The foundation of great execution is coaching, playbooks, and practice. Again, sports teams at high schools, college, and pro levels are doing this to a far greater degree than the average business.
#7 – Accountability
Which brings us again, and I touched on this briefly before–the seventh point is accountability.
Think of a basketball game and some player misses an assignment and the ball sails out of bounds–very clearly an accountability example!
I often think, why is it okay in sports if the coach huddles the team up, and person by person, player by player, there’s accountability and transparency? For some reason, that’s not considered polite at most businesses. But that open accountability is very interesting and effective. This is something to consider while you are building your culture, why is it okay for sports teams to hold people, player by player accountable, but it’s considered impolite in a business setting?
I would argue, the more transparent we get and the more that we make accountability transparent, the better your business will become. By the way, you’ll have a purer culture, one that people take accountability in and step up. When you’re producing results, and you’re doing your assignment, it feels fantastic because you are getting those results. Getting results drives the human spirit like nothing else. Think about how to improve the accountability in your business. It’s a very interesting topic we’ll come back to.
#8 – Toughness & Resilience
The next one on that is toughness and resilience. We don’t always win in sports. In many sports like Major League Baseball, you might only win half the time. And some of those sports failures are dramatic, like getting blown out in a 20-point game. But those players are resilient. They’re tough. They dust themselves off. They have to get back in the arena.
I’d be curious on your thoughts, but in corporations these days a lot of us are sensitive. If you look at somebody funny, you’ve got issues! As opposed to that tough sports person and giving athletes candid feedback so they can do better.
It happens in sports all the time. There is the pain, the trials and tribulations of sports. Business is not easy! If it were everyone would do it! That toughness and resilience are two traits that are critical in becoming an A Player.
#9 – Discipline
Which leads us to discipline, and it also leads to practice which we mentioned before. You think of a high school football player for instance. In August, they’re doing two-a-day practices in 90-degree weather, literally a gut-wrenching level of work. These are high school students we’re talking about!
That level of discipline is at such a higher plane than the disciplines of sales, the disciplines of great execution on the production floor. And again, it’s just a challenge to you, what if we improve that discipline in our business, how great would your business become?
#10 – Scorekeeping
Which leads us to the final tenth point, which is scorekeeping. Obviously, across the globe, it’s not just an American phenomenon, whether it be World Cup soccer, skiing, or anything, in sports not only are we keeping the score but there are rich statistics that document a player’s performance, and a team’s performance — far greater than the average business.
I would challenge you to improve your scorekeeping just like a sports team does and look at those key drivers — look at those lead measures that drive lag measures. First downs in football leading to touchdowns for instance, and understanding all those, and dig into the facts and data.
The numbers don’t lie! Get your team focused on what the score is both on a lead measure perspective and a lag measure basis.
I’m Rick Crossland, this topic today was to challenge your thought process. I’d be curious to get your thoughts. The way we recommend that you run a business is to install a culture very much like a sports team and those ten principles we just talked about. I can guarantee that when you apply those in the business, you’re going to improve your business!
Keep your thoughts coming, and let’s keep growing those great businesses!
You missed what I think is the #1 by far. Something I’ve thought about for years: within accountability, sports teams and individual coaches and athletes are accountable to fans and the media. They HAVE fans watching every move. When something isn’t going well, the world knows immediately.
How would we all behave and how would our performance be if we did our job in front of millions of live spectators every day?
great article – really like the linkage between sports and business. The after game review and learning no matter the position is a huge advantage.
Competition seems like it could be another.
Rick, I am the head of coaching for the Great Game of Business. One of our coaches sent me your video presentation on the “10 reasons why sports teams are run better than most businesses.” Really enjoyed it. So many points align with what we preach, especially #2, 4, 6, 7, 9 & 10. I have forwarded it to several members of our team. Thank you.
This is great! Keep em coming. Love the scoreboard example, if it’s measured, it’s managed (well mostly anyway!).
Nice view of a control type of management – having all “players” fearing that they let the manager down. Let the pendulum swing a bit towards having faith in the team to uncover the best way.
Thanks Matt, I agree! An amplification of point #7! More eyes on results amplifies performance. Keep Scaling–Rick
Scott, Thanks for your kind comment!
Philip, excellent work!
Darin, thanks for those kind comments. Nice to make your connection at the Great Game of Business!
Thanks Mike, Glad you enjoyed! More to come! Keep Scaling
Hello Martin, thank you for your thoughts. I find if the systems and playbooks with accountability are set by the leader/coach then the A Players can perform freely within the boundaries of the playing field. Keep Scaling-Rick