I love sports.  I especially love the big games – the playoffs and the championship events.  How ‘bout them Redbirds!  The Yankees pulled it off after a season of dead heat with the Orioles.  More good games to come!  And, I love the “more to the story” details the sportscasters share.  I love hearing that something I just saw has never been done, or not since 1943.

I love to play games and I so appreciate when someone is on top of theirs.  If you have ever skied, you understand how amazing Lindsey Vonn is.  If you have ever played tennis, your job drops when Roger Federer hits a backhand shot.  It’s that swing, that turn, that arc, that moment of perfection…and time stands still.  Goosebumps.  Joy!  Every now and then you watch one, and it’s enough to keep you interested until the next one.

I see so many parallels between sports and business. Every now and then, you are in the zone.  You have a lovely communication with a client.  You make a simple presentation and the customer says, “Yes!  When can you start?”  You take a wrench to a pipe and give it just the right turn.  Score!

As a business owner or manager, your job is to help the people on your team be successful.  Like a coach!  So, huddle up.  I’ll share my favorite sports lessons.  You are welcome to add them to your locker room speeches and in-the-field pep talks.

  1. Keep Score.  Imagine the World Series.  Now imagine that there is a petition being passed around the stands.  The petition states that, in the interest of making sure no one’s feelings get hurt, we are not going to keep score.  Everyone is trying, so everyone is a winner.  Let’s give everyone a trophy!  Hmmm.  Who would sign that petition?  The players?  The fans?  Of course not.  Sports pros like to know how they measure up.  So do business professionals.  That means keeping score.  In business, a weekly update of the financial reports is essential.  A daily update of sales statistics let’s you know if you are hitting goal.
  2. Focus on the Statistics.  But only the few things that make the all the difference.  Endless statistics may be interesting, but not essential.  Leave the minute details to the diehard fans.  Players and coaches focus on a few main statistics.  Total and individual score.  Misses and hits.  Conversion.  Wins and losses.
  3. Close is Not Enough. If your goal for sales for your service department is $1,000,000 and you have 4 service techs, your goal per tech is $250,000.  Break that down to monthly, weekly and daily goals.  Hold your service techs accountable for minimum standards of performance, including sales performance.  You, as the coach, are responsible for helping them learn the skills – technical, operational, sales and communication skills – that will help them be successful.  Play and keep score.  If the goal to reach the bonus for the month is $20,084, then don’t give a bonus to the tech who comes in at $20,050.  Games are won and lost by inches.  That’s how it goes.  If you are paying attention, that shouldn’t happen more than once in a player’s or a service tech’s life.
  4. You Can’t Coach from the Locker Room.  It’s game day.  The players run out on to the football field.  And the coach?  Is he in the locker room waiting for the statistician’s input?  I don’t think so.  He is on the field, watching his players play.  He is observing behaviors and making suggestions (ok, yelling “suggestions.”)  The statistics can tell you what happened.  They can’t tell you how it happened.  For that, you need to be on the field.  Our stadium is the customer’s home.  As the coach, you need to grab your clipboard and ride along with the service techs.  Watch your team members play. Watch your team members play. Keep track of their game using performance appraisal tools. Applaud a good sale or nice troubleshooting process.  Provide “suggestions” when things don’t go so well.
  5. You Can’ t Win Every Game.  Nobody wins every play, every game, every day.  As a coach, pay attention to the team members.  Help them prepare with training and role play.  Coach them on written procedures and hold them accountable for solid standards of performance.  Pay attention when they return from the playing field at the end of the day.  Notice when a tech brings home his highest sales invoice ever.  Acknowledge that it just, well, hurts to have a bad day.  When a great hitter misses an easy pitch, her coach understands that it can happen.  “Shake it off.  Hit the next one.”  If there is a behavioral trend, or a problem with her technique, her coach may say, “Let’s try adjusting your stance.”  Try it out on 100 practice pitches and see if that helps.  In baseball, you may make the Hall of Fame if you hit 4 out of 10 times you are at bat.  Even the very best service techs don’t have a 100% closing rate.
  6. Team Chemistry is a WIN.  You create a team by helping each member do their individual job so that – together – you play well enough to win.  Are you having “attitude” problems at your company?  Skip the “attitude lecture.”  Instead, work with each person to develop their unique set of skills.  If someone doesn’t have the basic capacity to do their job, you must move them to another position or let them go.  It’s demoralizing to enable someone to lose day after day.  Help people get good.  Help them win.  Their attitudes will be just fine.
  7. Leadership.  A good manager helps team members achieve and exceed minimum standards of performance.  A great leader, a great coach, understands the powerful, positive impact success can have on every aspect of their lives.

Batter up!  My prediction for the World Series: The Cards Repeat!

PS…Not everyone like sports, or sports analogies.  So, come up with some other ways to communicate these business lessons.  Find out what your team members like to do, and what their hobbies are.  There are great analogies to be found in the garden, on the dance floor, in motorcycles, and in works of art and literature.  Discover something that each individual employee knows and likes…then leverage that understanding!