For the Green Bay Packers, 1997 was a season to remember, with an ending they’d like to forget. They came into Super Bowl XXXII as the defending champions and a two-touchdown favorite against the Denver Broncos. The Pack was back again and the expectation of a fourth Green Bay Super Bowl victory hung in the San Diego air that Sunday afternoon. Roughly four hours later, however, those expectations had come crashing back to earth with Broncos linebacker John Mobley’s knockdown of Brett Favre’s final 4th down pass. The Broncos were champions and Packers and their fans were left to wonder what happened.
Along with General Manager Ron Wolf, Packers’ Head Coach Mike Holmgren had a huge hand in transforming the Green Bay franchise from an irrelevant afterthought to a Super Bowl champion. In the weeks before the game, speculation grew that Holmgren was considering a jump to the Seattle Seahawks, to pursue a dual role of Head Coach and General Manager. It’s very possible that his focus was more on the job he wanted than the one he had.
Favre himself may have caused some to lose focus on winning. Some speculated that to try to secure Super Bowl MVP honors for Favre, which had eluded him despite an excellent performance in their Super Bowl victory the previous year, the Packers’ offensive game plan and in-game strategy ignored flaws in Denver’s defense that could have been exploited. True or not, these theories illustrate inattention to the very thing that any team needs as its ultimate focus: RESULTS.
Everyone on the team trusts one another? Great. Your team meetings are full of passionate debate about important issues? Super. Everyone’s bought in to clear objectives? Awesome. Team members kindly and supportively hold each other accountable? Gold star. Nothing got done last quarter? Fail. As the leader, it’s paramount to consistently keep your team focused on producing results. Everything else that goes into building a cohesive team is meaningless if the end output of the team is coming up short.
Just as NFL teams need the scoreboard to know where they stand in a game, you should have a scoreboard of your team’s key objectives. If you don’t, strongly consider creating one. Nothing works better to focus your team than a visual display of how well they’re doing what they’re there to do. The team exists to produce results and it’s easy to get lost in a sea of distractions and feel-good sentiment if there’s nothing to objectively show how you’re doing.
Even the best teams are made up of individuals whose personal needs, hopes, and desires can and do overshadow their focus on the team and its goals. The objective isn’t to expect team members to be mindless robots devoid of any individual goals or ambitions. Everyone likes to be recognized for their contributions and rightfully so. But when team goals are short-changed in favor of individual personal satisfaction, it’s time to reevaluate the team.
As a leader, keeping a finger on the pulse of each team member is integral to maintaining the whole team health. Everyone goes through struggles and periods where personal circumstances prevent them from being at their best. If you’ve built a truly strong team, the best thing you can do is to encourage team members to share, at their discretion, why they’re struggling and acknowledge their humanity. Even if there’s not much you or anyone on the team can do for them, at least that person knows that they’ve been heard. Work can be shifted around; hopefully, other team members can pick up the slack.
How much different could Super Bowl XXXII have turned out if Wolf and Holmgren could have been more open with each other about how to create the opportunity for Holmgren to increase his responsibility in personnel decisions, or even groom to take over the GM role at some point? Or if while acknowledging Favre’s ambition to be game MVP, more thought would have gone into putting every effort into winning the game first? Remember, only Chuck Howley ever won the award without his team winning the game.
You don’t want to be left wondering, “what if?”. By keeping your team focused on the scoreboard, all the members can feel like an MVP.
This is the final part in my 5 part series on Team Dynamics. You can review the others here:
Part 1, Trust: The Foundation for Team Success
Part 2, Conflict: A Key to Making the Right Call
Part 3, Commitment: Even When Your Number Isn’t Called
Part 4, Accountability: It Takes The Whole Team
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