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Kenneth W. Keller: What you can learn from the Super Bowl

Posted: February 11, 2009 11:03 p.m.
Updated: February 12, 2009 4:55 a.m.
The recent Super Bowl between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals was an excellent example of how executing will win or lose a game.

The Steelers won because when they needed to: Behind in the score as the game clock was running out of time, they scored a touchdown and won the game with just seconds left.

In business, it is the same thing: Failure to execute will cause an organization to fail to achieve the objectives which it has set.

Now is the time for every single leader, manager and employee to turn away from all the outside distractions (external and internal) that lead away from doing their jobs. Distractions are causing people to fail to execute.

There were two weeks between the two championship games and the Super Bowl. Day after day, the media pounded on the Arizona Cardinals football team, and there were many questions about whether the team "deserved" to be playing the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Cardinals had not had many winning seasons. They had never played in a Super Bowl before, though some of the players had. The players were young, apparently, per the experts and not anywhere as talented as those on the Steelers.

The quality ownership of the team was questioned. The fact that the franchise had moved from Chicago to St. Louis to Phoenix was considered by some that the organization was unstable, when compared with the Steelers, who had been founded and become the fabric of Western Pennsylvania.

Many people believed what they were reading, hearing and seeing: The Arizona Cardinals didn't stand a chance to win the game. The more the negative news there was, the more people believed it, except those coaches and players wearing the red-and-white uniforms.

The coaches, in their own way, told the players to stop feeding the negativity, to believe in themselves and their team. Do the job you are here to do.

That is how games are won. That is how individuals and teams succeed.

The same advice can and should be given to every manager and employee at your company: do the job you are being paid to do.

At this point in the business cycle, all that really matters in a business is three things:

  • Have the customer place an order.

  • Serve the customer, fill the order and provide the service in the manner the customer wants.

  • Collect the money from the customer for the service or product.

In a tough economy, these three tasks are the essence of business. The rest is for better times.

If your employees don't know exactly what they are being paid to do, you need to change that situation.

Many of them believe that it is to collect a paycheck. Sit down with the each employee, one on one and be prepared to tell every one of them, "Here is how you can help the company right now."

If you have employees that you think understand what they are supposed to be doing, have a quick conversation with each of them and say, "I need for you to do these three things better to help the company achieve our goals."

Tell your employees to listen. Let their silence be deafening.

Have them write down what you tell them. Ask them not to argue or push back. If an employee asks for clarification, give it. Have each employee read it back to you so that you are certain that they are clear about what they need to be doing or doing better.

And so it was with the Cardinals last Sunday night. They avoided two weeks of negativity from the so-called experts, who predicted a boring, blowout victory by the Steelers.

Instead the Cardinals stepped up to the challenge and played a very tough game against a team that was favored to win.

It was a loss on the scoreboard, perhaps, but a clear victory over every opponent who wasn't playing on the field against them.

Keller is President of Renaissance Executive Forums, which brings business owners together in facilitated peer advisory boards. His column represents his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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