Champions, Once Again.
Do you know what’s better than success? Sustained success!
The New England Patriots won the Super Bowl in a dramatic, game ending interception against the Seattle Seahawks. Four Super Bowls titles in six Super Bowl appearances. Eleven AFC Championship titles. Brady has three MVP awards. Belichick-Brady have the most wins of any duo, surpassing Shula-Marino. The new records go on and on. As an executive coach and avid sports fan, I often draw on sports for inspiration.
What’s my main take away from the debacle of Deflategate to the primal festivity of Boston welcoming our heroes back to the village in unbridled jubilance? Richard Sherman, we’re doing it the Patriots’ Way:
Let the Rings Do the Talking
Boston Parade, 2015
Yes, there was the saucy Boston attitude best seen in the hilarious I am the Locker Room Guy.
I could go on with the curse of Ginx-elle now broken or the New Masculinity showcased by Brady (ferocious on the field, and affectionate with the family). Yet, it is the Patriots’ Way to let their game day play do all the talking. So here’s my top take aways.
#1 DISTRACTION. Delete distraction by focusing on what matters most, and what you can influence most. Like other fans, I was nailed to the media watching every step of Deflategate unfold.
11 of 12 balls under 2 PSI after winning the AFC Championship.
Sounds pretty bad.
Resounding blame directed at Belichick and Brady reached cyber-hysteria fervor. Cheaters! Cheaters! Calls from sportscasters to eject the Patriots from the Super Bowl. Appeals to Bob Kraft to summarily fire Belichick. Rounds of former quarterbacks and marquee players pointing their fingers. Roger Goodell investigating the organization with a set of external attorneys–hired guns. All of this excoriating distraction with less than two weeks to prepare for the biggest game of the season and for some players the biggest game of their life! The very integrity of a cherished American game was shaken to its foundation. (We won’t mention the other cherished American ideal that underwent a collective blind spot: innocent until proven guilty). Talk about distraction to the stratosphere!
I am a long-time admirer of Tom Brady. Yes for his dedicated training ethic, zealous preparation, obsession with excellence, and his unbelievable talent on the field. Also, I see in Tom Brady a great model of a leader who exudes EQ, or emotional intelligence. Name a player who didn’t want to play with him, for him? What impressed me most, however, was to see how this brilliant quarterback, all-around Good Guy with that smile and GQ looks, faced universal condemnation and threats to his “legacy”. Even the Boston sports writers were early turn coats pleading mea culpa on scant facts.
Knowing that the Super Bowl was a little more than a week away, Brady addressed the issue in his press conference. In his follow-up interview, Brady said,
“I moved past it because it’s not serving me.”
”I think what’s serving me is to try to prepare for the game ahead, and I’ll deal with whatever happens later.”
#2 Focus On What Matters, and What You Can Control. Brady’s ability to redirect his attention to what truly mattered is exemplary. By shifting from adversity to a laser focus on what he does well, Brady engaged his pursuit of the Big Game. By disengaging his ego from the assaults on his legacy, Brady affirmed the importance of doing your job for the team. It wasn’t about him. It was all about helping his team win. It wasn’t about his stats or records, it was all about winning the Super Bowl. Brady more than anyone knows that you need a team to do that. No ego here.
Sounds easy? It isn’t.
Think about your worst adversity or calamity at work or in your personal life. How did you handle it? How did you react? Did you take it personally? Did you act resourcefully or effectively? Did you still have an inspired team afterwards?
For most people, crisis brings out our deepest fears, hot emotions, and worst decisions. Our character flaws pop right to the surface. Relationships can be broken, and team spirit demoralized. To remain calm in the eye of the storm, to believe in yourself, to remain optimistic, to persevere, to engage your strengths, to focus on what you can influence, to proactively act on your goals while the house is burning down, well now, that is really something. I suspect Brady’s character and years of consistent training and discipline helped him shift from adversity to championship play. His choice. His intention. His will. His desire to win and to use the distraction as motivation is truly exemplary leadership.
#3 Use Your Emotions To Your Advantage, Not Disadvantage. Brady’s pre-game rally cry speaks for itself as a great motivator. He elevates the emotional charge of the moment and makes it meaningful. The players are motivated and inspired to play for honor, for respect. As one comment highlighted, “I’d run through brick walls for that guy.” Will your team and direct reports do the same for you?
Brady focused on what he does best. He focused on what he could influence and let go of the rest. Past legacies don’t matter. Blown plays and blown games don’t matter. Cyber-pumped controversies don’t matter. The only thing that matters is what you do on the field today. Brady is masterful at that play. No asterisk.
What kind of leader are you? What are your challenges? What are your triumphs?
Please leave a reply and share your stories!