Employee Engagement: The Tom Brady Affect

As we sat in our living rooms on Super Bowl Sunday, we all felt the effects of the Patriots winning the game with the Falcons. As the final quarter of the game came upon us, we all wondered, could Tom Brady pull off a fifth win? After an already improbable comeback, Brady scored in the final minutes of the game, we cheered, and then he did what we hoped he would do…he held up two fingers, signaling that he’d go for the last two points to win the game. Could he really pull off another win, an unbelievable come back from the brink of disaster?

Both teams had a strategy and a plan. Clearly, the Falcon’s defense had a plan to make Brady’s life miserable, to get into his head, make him uncomfortable, sack him and wear him down. By the end of the first half, the Falcon’s did indeed make Brady uncomfortable. Tom looked worried, and so did his team. How could this happen, weren’t the Patriots favored to win? On the Falcon’s side, they were enthusiastic, jovial, confident – maybe overly so, but they knew that they were beating their competition. By the beginning of the second half of the game, it was clear that the Falcons would be winning the Super Bowl…or would they?

As many die-hard fans were riveted to the game, it was interesting to look for other clues. How was the management for both teams accepting the perceived fate of the game? Were they questioning the strategy for the game? Had the staff, data and technology and that was used failed them? Had they not prepared enough prior to the game? Were the communications during the game, clear enough that everyone knew what their job was and how to execute on their job? Were the players engaged in the game, doing their jobs?

As the last two minutes of the game unfolded, there was a shift in the behaviors for both teams. The Patriots badly wanted the win and they exuded confidence. It wasn’t clear if the Falcons looked defeated or lost in the belief that they couldn’t lose.

We all know the end of this story. How did Tom pull the team together to ensure victory? One of the Patriot’s most quoted mantras is “do your job”. While it is easy to say that clearly defining each individual’s role on the team and making sure each person is doing their job is the pathway to victory, there is more to a winning team than that. Each person has to believe in the strategy, and goals set before them. Preparation, skills and hard work; determine if the team has the ability to achieve the goals. Finally, each person must believe in and trust the teammates around them.

Combined, these concepts motivate each individual to perform. Once individuals are properly motivated, they reach the state that we like to call “engaged”.

Do you see where this article is heading? As leaders in organizations, how can you assure that your team is engaged? How can you assure that a winning strategy has been built and that everyone knows their role?

When facing a critical or strategic initiative, ensuring that employees are engaged is paramount to success. In considering the Falcon’s loss, it appeared that an overly confidant state led to the loss; basically, they took their eyes off the proverbial ball and let it drop right out of their hands. We all thought that they couldn’t lose – clearly they did too. Has this happened in your organization before? In that situation, did your team have the right strategy and goals? Preparation, skills and hard work? Belief in their teammates? Were they truly motivated and engaged?

Has your organization pulled off an improbable victory? Succeeded against all odds? How did your organization do it? Don’t just think about what your team did. Ask why. Why did your team win? Was it a case of extraordinary leadership (hint: it usually isn’t)? Or, did you get all the blocking and tackling right, combined with making sure your team was properly motivated?

This year’s Super Bowl is a fascinating story in how planning for a big win needs to factor in how employees engage in the strategy. For the Patriots, in the end, Tom Brady stayed focused, level-headed and what was clear, was that his level of engagement prevailed.

© 2017. All Rights Reserved

Sue Bergamo is a former Boston area CIO and a Technology Strategist at Microsoft. In her spare time, she provides business and technical advice to companies. 

Mark Somol is an entrepreneur, former venture capitalist, and co-founder of Zeal, a company focused on employee engagement and organizational culture. He can be reached at mark@zeal.technology or at www.zeal.technology.

*The content within this article are the opinions of the author and are not sponsored by Microsoft.

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