“On a (football) team, it’s not the strength of the individual players, but it is the strength of the unit and how they all function together.”
Whether you like them or not, it is hard to deny that the New England Patriots have cracked the success code. In the 2016 season alone the Patriots scored nearly twice as many touchdowns and nearly 30% more field goals than their opponents. Are they simply a better team when compared to others? Is their success a matter of luck? Is it the coach or the quarterback? These five quotes from coach Bill Belichick illustrate a winning leadership philosophy.
Leaders can learn four important lessons from this winning team:
- The Value and Philosophy of Family
- Self Reflection and Insights
- Using All Talents Wisely
“For a team to accomplish their goal, everybody’s got to give up a little bit of their individuality.”
A winning team consists of individual players who believe they are part of a whole and not individual members supported by all others. Humility seems to be a key success ingredient for the Patriots. Although there may be a perception that Tom Brady is the superstar, his leadership and support role is apparent. Humility is a valuable leadership characteristic because it is other-centered versus self-centered. It is a leaders responsibility to help their team members shine and succeed. Consider the antithesis of humility – egocentric or narcissist personality types and the team performance implications. The egocentric leader needs praises and thinks of themselves first before others. The consequence can destroy a teams morale and cohesiveness. The egocentric leader sends a clear message to all team members, “It’s every person for themselves”. At work, the employee culture always takes its direction from the leader in order to survive and prosper. Team members begin to watch out for themselves only, at the expense of the greater good of the team.
“There are no shortcuts to building a team. You build the foundation brick by brick.”
It Takes a Family
Patriot’s players consistently describe their team as a family. On the field this means that the left arm knows what the right arm is doing. It means that they have a deep emotional connection and caring for each other, even when it involves tough love. The value of family has significant meaning for the Patriots and for every leader. Ask yourself, “What does family give me in my life”? The answer to this question usually includes the following:
- Always there for each other no matter what happens
Not all families are perfect but respondents to the question above usually say that they can count on their family to be there for them. Consider this philosophy operating in your team. What would it feel like if each associate on your team considered their team members as “family”? As a leader, what messages do you send to your team when you declare a family philosophy? Consider these team dynamics in operation at work:
As a member of this (team) family:
- We will always help each other no matter what happens.
- When our (team) family members are in trouble, we are there to help. If we lose a family member, we do not denigrate them.
- No one family member is more important than another.
- We do not cause harm to any member of our family.
Too often teams get into trouble because of unresolved conflict and unhealthy upward mobility aspirations. It is up to the leader to hold every family (team) member responsible for adhering to the family philosophy.
“I think that we'll continue to try to look at ourselves in the mirror and see where we can do a better job, maybe where we can improve the process.”
Self-Reflection and Insights.
Self-reflection and insights (SRI) are critical leadership capabilities. In any given situation, the leader should always look in the mirror. Ask two questions after important employee, client, and manager interactions:
- Did I achieve my intended outcome?
- How did I contribute to the result, good bad or ugly?
- What will I do differently next time?
- Are there any misinterpretations of my behavior that must be clarified with others immediately?
- What can I learn about myself from this interaction?
Self-reflection, a constant look into the mirror, is a never-ending growth process for leaders. Belichick is constantly examining past team interaction for learning, and insights so that the team is always upgrading its performance. When leaders demonstrate SRI, they set the tone for all team members to do the same. Without it, the leader and team members are playing Russian roulette with their results.
Using All Talents Wisely
“I think a smart person can learn…some guys can learn electronics, some of us can’t. Some people can learn something else, some of us can’t….we’re all wired differently.”
Belichick’s message here is about using all talents wisely. No two people are alike and it is the leaders responsibility to work with each team member to figure out what they love to do, what they avoid doing and why and how to leverage their talents for the benefit of the individual and the whole team.
A common leadership practice is the use of “Go To” resources. There is nothing wrong with having “Go To” people but there are risks. The ‘Go To” resources are usually compared to the “Do Not Go To” resources which can result in factions and resentment. Leaders must ask themselves a few questions about the “Go To” cohort:
- Do my “Go To” folks work like me, act and, think like me?
- Is there anything I can do to make all team members “Go To” resources?
- Is there anything about my relationship with the “Do Not Go To” resources that I can change resulting in more positive performance for the whole team?
The Patriots and their Coach, Bill Belichick, can teach us a few things about the power of a family philosophy, humility and constantly learning and growing. Leadership is a complicated function because human beings are complex. There are no easy answers or recipes for effective leadership. We must consistently peer into a mirror for self-reflection and insight, maintain humility and the desire to constantly learn and grow. Your work family depends on you for the best leadership, guidance and direction possible.
 Stan Slap, 2015, Under the Hood. New York: Penguin Books
 Stan Slap, 2008, Bury My Heart in Conference Room B. New York: Penguin Books
Special thanks to contributing author, Arlene Bogosian, Relationship Manager, RVB Associates, Inc.