Five Business Lessons From The Five Time Super Bowl Champs

For those who watched Super Bowl LI last night you may have seen the single most impressive one-game victory in sports history. It will be hard to find a comparable come from behind victory on such a grand stage.

But should we be surprised? Bill Belichick and Tom Brady must own every meaningful Super Bowl record. Much has been written about the most successful Coach-QB tandem in NFL history, trying to pinpoint their secret to success. I am not a football expert. I’m a casual fan but I do know a thing or two about successful organizations and Robert Kraft has built an organization that is the envy of all sports and should be one to be emulated by non-sports business as well.

Since 1994 when Bob Kraft laid out $175 million for the team the value has climbed to $3.4 billion[1]. A return of almost 2,000%. Since Belichick was hired in 2000 the Patriots have outdistanced the value growth of the rest of the NFL by almost 200%. Any business would aspire to have those numbers for their shareholders. And after yesterday these numbers must be higher.

 

I have written about the importance of leadership and good organizations in the past and many others have written about the Patriots and leadership. Here are my five lessons from the five time Champs.

Lesson 1 – Understanding clearly the roles and responsibilities of the leadership team.

When Tom Brady was recently asked how he and Bill Belichick have avoided major disagreements in the sixteen years together his reply was “we have discussions but in the end, he’s the coach and I’m the player”.

I have worked with organizations where senior management is never fully on board with their role and responsibilities. This leads to infighting, poor messaging and a leadership team working at cross purposes with each other. Limping from one internal drama to another these companies ultimately fail.

Organizations should emulate the Patriots ability to clearly define each player’s role and responsibility. And if you can’t do what is expected then you are gone. No time for drama.

Lesson 2 – Having mutual respect and confidence in those around you.

“I know what they expect of me and they trust me to do my job.”- Tom Brady.

Winning organizations are ones that have built strong leadership teams that trust and respect each other. In addition to understanding roles and boundaries it is critical to have trust in your teammates and especially your leadership. I worked with a client where the entire leadership team had no faith in the company CEO. I sat in on a meeting and noticed two things. The CEO often answered my questions to his team, and after the meeting the team headed out together without the CEO. The lack of confidence that exists in both directions between the leadership team and the CEO is undermining the company’s success.

In last night’s game there was no one on the Patriots bench who didn’t believe in Brady. And Tom Brady knew his team would execute the plays that Belichick was calling. The team played the full game – they didn’t give up when they were down 25 points – they kept playing, putting in the hard work and expecting the next play to be better. Trust and respect for each other’s ability to get the job done in a difficult situation was what led to victory.

Lesson 3 – Have good boundaries inside the organization.

“He (Tom) doesn’t need to be personal friends with the coach. He’s got more personal friends than he needs. He just needs to have a coach, have the organization going in the right direction.” Tom Brady Sr.

Friends and business often make for really bad companions. Successful leaders will have empathy for their team but do not need to be their pals. It is hard to tell your close buddy that their job performance is hurting the company.

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Lesson 4 – Team Work On and Off the Field

When you think of the New England Patriots you think of the team – there are star players but it is the whole team that is the focus. When congratulated as the best coach for winning a record 5th Super Bowl, Belichick replied, “It’s all about these players.”[2] In Tom Brady’s post-game interview, he answered questions about plays with the words “us”, “our”, “we” – it was all about the team play.[3]

The team gives back to the community – through the Patriot’s Charitable Foundation and personal initiatives, everyone in the organization from the Owner Robert Kraft on down are encouraged to make a difference in the New England region and beyond. Current players, staff and alumni, friends and family all come to together to help many non-profits and charitable causes.  

Lesson 5 – Having depth of talent in the organization.

No matter the roster, the Pats have kept plugging out winners, and Randy Moss has a good idea why. “I just see a team that still buys into what Bill Belichick is selling,” Moss said. “You look at a coach, and it’s very rare where you see a coach stay for so long and be so effective. Just looking at Bill Belichick, the model of do your job still sends volumes throughout the league[4].”

Belichick has amazing winning statistics but not every year has been easy. In 2005 the Patriots won 11 games and claimed their third straight division title by using their depth – 45 different players started that year, a record for an NFL division champion. In 2008 the Patriots had a 11-5 season record without their star Quarter Back Tom Brady and we saw it again at the start of this season as the team won with Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett at Quarter Back while Tom Brady served his suspension.

Every company needs to have a continuous recruitment and training program to ensure continuity of excellence. In the sports world, a dynasty is often considered a five-year run. What the Patriots have complied is on a level with the Celtics in basketball, the Canadiens in hockey and the Yankees in baseball. Organizations that have over long periods of time delivered championships. What makes the Patriots run even more remarkable is that it has been accomplished by the same core leadership, Brady, Belichick and Bob.

So why not take a page out of the playbook. Evaluate your own business and see how you are performing in the five areas where the Patriots have shown can lead to sustained success.

Congratulations Patriots Fans!

Darrell Pardy

[1] Cork Gaines – Business Insider Sport http://www.businessinsider.com/robert-kraft-new-england-patriots-2017-1

[2] http://www.patriots.com/video/2017/02/05/belichick-its-all-about-these-players

[3] http://www.patriots.com/video/2017/02/06/tom-brady-was-exactly-how-we-didnt-plan-it

[4] http://nesn.com/2016/12/randy-moss-gushes-about-his-patriots-tenure-tom-brady-bill-belichick/