Don Paglia | Marriage and Family Counseling. Constellations Workshops

Business Articles

Sports permeate our organizational language with metaphors spilling over into the everyday business-speak. Whether we’re going out to “beat the other guys” or we say we “struck out” or “hit a home run” or “we’re pumped up” and going to “give it our best shot” we speak this language as though we’re in the major leagues.

Our favorite teams inspire us. We are moved by teamwork and revel when team effort results in some magical final buzzer win. Our fascination with sports and team play speaks to something deep within us. Team play after all, is what any business leader wants for his or her company. It’s what any leader dreams his or her company to be.

What can we take from the sports arena and extend into the business and corporate life as metaphor for leadership? Here are a few thoughts.

Create a winning environment. Begin by addressing what true leadership is and isn’t. Leadership has less to do with managing things than creating the environment where each player can shine, where each team member can be at his or her best game.

Leaders take stands. True leaders stand for something but they don’t stop there. They go about getting agreement from others, enrolling them in such a way that others also take it on as their own. Whether it’s winning the division title or gaining 30 percent of the market share, leaders generate a conversation that has each player focused on being one’s best. The lofty word for this “vision”.

Tap into each player’s contribution. At the beginning, vision is only a possibility. As the idea becomes more attractive to others the real work begins, and so does the fun. Leaders know this and set about drawing upon vision to enlist each player in the company.

Tapping the greatness of each player is what this vision-conversation is designed to achieve. The leader of a sports team or a business needs to believe that each person needs to make his or her unique contribution. The best way to have a winning team is to create a culture where everyone is a leader.

Presuming greatness of each player and focusing on strength. Excellent coaches focus on strength rather than weakness. The coddling of complaining athletes appalled, not too long ago, a professional football coach. In response he said,.”When I coach, if receivers complain that the quarterback throws the ball too-hard, I don’t go to the quarterback and tell him to let up. I tell him to throw it as hard as he can, and then tell the receivers they had better hang on to his passes if they want to hang on to this team.”

“If those who “cover punts complain that the punter kicks it too far, I don’t go to the punter and tell him not to kick it so far. I tell the punter to kick it as far as he can, and I’ll try to find players who can get down the field and cover his kicks. And if blockers say that they have trouble keeping up with a running back because he is too fast or too slippery, I get on his blockers to keep up with his agility”

CEO and leadership. The great ones focus on their own functioning. When the New York Yankees aren’t shining, I’ll bet that Joe Torre sits down, probably with his bench coach and faithful sounding board (insert: consultant) Don Zimmer and reflects on what it is that Torre may or may not be doing that is preventing his players from shining.

Joe figures it out and takes an appropriate action, whether shifting the lineup or repositioning a player. For team players, this action empowers rather than diminishes their contribution.

Commitment without attachment. Great coaches are as different from one another as possible. But one sure thing they have in common is they are two-headed about the game.

They go out each time totally committed to winning the game, even if they don’t always win. and win or lose they go home and come back the next day equally committed to play again.

Donald J. Paglia of Connecticut Consulting and Training assists business leaders clarify their personal and business vision, and regain balance to effectively lead.