Three Communication Lessons from the Gridiron

Shocking endings.  They can happen anywhere…movies, relationships, and the workplace.  For one SEC football team, sadly, they experienced it on the ball field:  it was a shocking loss after a misunderstood win.

How did it happen?   Click here for the full story.

Here’s the recap:  Tennessee was madly celebrating an apparent 14-10 upset of 12th-ranked LSU after an errant snap denied the Tigers a chance to score from the 1-yard line as time expired.  However, a flag on the play revealed a different ending.  In the midst of the chaos of player substitutions, the Volunteers had 13 players on the field when the final replay began.  For the UT football team, what began as a coveted win quickly became a devastating loss.

So what happened?

Several sport commentators have speculated on the chronology of the game’s final moments.  But regardless of the details, the result is the same.  UT lost and LSU won.

So what caused the last minute shuffle of players that resulted in this loss?  While we don’t know what UT’s coaching staff was communicating to players, we do know the wires were crossed.  And therein lies the lesson.

For any organization, communication is the greatest need and challenge.  While your company may not be on the gridiron, you are on your own playing field and it’s important to ensure you don’t “lose” at a critical time.

Consider these three important principles:
#1  The big picture and details are equally important.
Everyone is wired one way or another but it takes both to see the whole.  Leaders must communicate the big picture – the vision and direction of where the team is going.  It’s what inspires people to get on board and be a part of the journey.  That big picture doesn’t answer the how and when questions of the process.  That’s the purpose of the details.  You need someone managing and communicating those.  It the secret agent that ensures the team arrives at the intended destination.

#2  Communicate early and often.
The greatest improvement area in EVERY organization is communication.  Leaders, remember the three most important words in your tool kit:  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.  You think you have been clear.  You think you’ve said “it” enough.  But you haven’t.  Continuously remind the team of the goal and how we/they are doing toward progress.  You will NEVER be accused of communicated too much.

#3  You must prepare for the unexpected.
You business has two things in common with every other business out there:  1) it involves people and 2) “life” will sometimes happen that will derail you momentarily.  While it’s impossible to know every twist and turn the team may experience (and let’s face it, that’s part of the fun), you can improve the effectiveness of the team by learning from past mistakes. When the unexpected occurs (lost sale, missed project deadline, public embarrassment), how do you respond so it can be prevented in the future?  Develop the discipline of stopping the clock after an unplanned outcome and debrief it so the team learns from it and prevents it in the future.  As a leader, it’s the best preventive planning you can do.

Now back to sports.  No doubt, Tennessee’s team has watched those final seconds of Saturday’s game over and over.  What’s done is done.  And LSU has one more win in their column as the result.  How will recover?  Tune it to their match against Georgia on October 9th to find out.

2 thoughts on “Three Communication Lessons from the Gridiron

  1. Premature celebrations can be both embarassing and costly. Product recalls resulting from inadequate testing or naming political running mates without proper vetting come to mind.


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