The New England Patriots’ Tom Brady and Bill Belichick just won a record-breaking fifth Superbowl together. In doing so, they cemented their legacy as the greatest player and coach tandem in NFL history and, arguably, in all of sports.
In an NFL era defined by parity, their success over 17 years is worth examining for business leaders. After all, Brady is not the most physically gifted quarterback, and the Patriots have turned over more than 57 percent of their roster in the last two seasons alone.
Fact is, being successful in sports, in business and in life requires many of the same traits. As the CEO of Peak Sales Recruiting, we help world-class companies build their ‘teams’ and there are many correlations between how great business leaders run their companies, how great coaches run their sports teams, and how a great quarterback like Brady leads his players.
Here are four tips to become the Brady and Belichick of business:
1. Culture Trumps Raw Talent: Belichick knows that maintaining the culture within the Patriots’ locker room is critical to winning championships. He is famous for prioritizing a player’s fit within the team and alignment with core values possessed by the Patriots organization over raw skill and talent. This is a critical lesson that business leaders can apply to their hiring practice – hiring the best person on paper will not necessarily produce “wins” if their culture fit hasn’t been measured. In fact, the result of poor culture fit due to turnover can cost an organization between 50-60 percent of the person’s annual salary, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
2. Never Give Up On Yourself: The Patriots held the lead for exactly 0:00. With eight minutes and 30 seconds left in the third quarter, they were
down 28-3 against the most potent offense in the NFL. Yet, they found a way to win. Most business leaders have experienced similar hardships – take Thomas Edison as an example. He failed more than 1,000 times before inventing a viable electric light bulb. But when asked about it, Edison famously replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” Anybody can lead during prosperous times; it’s when tough times hit that an executive’s true colors and leadership abilities are put on display. The ability to persevere during these times is what makes good leaders great, and mediocre companies highly profitable.
3. Be Financially Sound: This season, Brady was the fifth highest paid player in the NFL and Belichick was the third highest paid coach. When you consider their winning pedigree, they could have each demanded to be the highest paid in the league for their respective roles. But because the Patriots organization engaged in sound financial planning and organizational design, they not only had the funds necessary to retain both stars, but recruit and build the best possible team around them. Business leaders can apply this discipline and restraint when building their teams by not overspending on a candidate that simply meets the mandatory minimum and fills a vacant seat. Instead, save the Porsches for the A-players, because they’ll have earned you a Learjet.?
4. Reward Team Play: Following the game and MVP trophy, Brady said that teammate James White deserved to be the MVP. Though an overused cliché, I would be remiss not to point out that the Patriots have a culture of “we” not a culture of “me.” While most companies boast of a corporate culture that rewards teamwork, many only reward individual performers come promotion and bonus time. While recognizing individual contributions is critical to keeping employee morale high, rewarding your best teams, not just your star players, is the best way to foster teamwork. Michael Schrage, a research fellow at MIT Sloan School’s Center for Digital Business, recommends leaders embrace the five 5 As if they really want to facilitate a transformation in teamwork incentives: Acknowledge, Attribute, Assign, Award, Assess/Analyze.
About the Author
Eliot Burdett is an author, sales recruiting expert and the co-founder and CEO of Peak Sales Recruiting, a leading B2B sales recruiting company launched in 2006. Under his direction, the company leads the industry with a success rate 50 percent higher than the industry average, working with a wide-range of clients including boutique, mid-size and world-class companies including P&G, Gartner, Deloitte, Merck, Western Union and others.
Eliot has more than 30 years of success building companies, recruiting, and managing high performance sales teams, is a top 40 Under 40 winner, and has been widely featured in top publications including the New York Times, Fortune, Forbes, Inc., Reuters, Yahoo!, CIO, the American Management Association and HR.com. Eliot co-authored Sales Recruiting 2.0, How to Find Top Performing Sales People, Fast.
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