Will you be a Titan in 2017?
Overcoming adversity for the perfect season? Not so far-fetched…
The new year is just around the corner, and while many may be focusing on closing out this year, some of us are already thinking about what our game will look like in 2017. I say game, because there are so many parallels that can be drawn between business and sports, especially football. Just the other night I was watching one of my favorite sports movies, “Remember the Titans,” the true tale of a 1970s Virginia high school football team’s first season as a racially integrated unit. I found so many lessons that are applicable to any business as I watched Coach Boone and his team, the Titans, create a flawless season.
How about you and your team? Will 2017 be the year you rule the trades as titans? Perhaps these five lessons I took away from the movie will help you to do just that.
Define the win
Upon assuming the role as head coach, Coach Boone had a clear vision of what success looked like. He didn’t have his eye solely on unifying the divided team or winning a couple of games, but envisioned achieving the big win, the state championship. How about you? What does your “win” look like for 2017?
Have you identified what revenue, gross profit and net profit you have to achieve in order to call it a win? Have you clarified what key plays will need to be executed to ensure success? Is it reducing your call backs, increasing average ticket, increasing your marketing spend, focusing on building your maintenance contract base, or generating more turnovers for replacement opportunities?
You’ve got to clearly define your win if you ever hope to achieve it. When I was still in operations, one way we defined our win was to meet as a leadership team a couple of months prior to the beginning of the year and sketch out the plan for that year. We would take a moment to reflect on the progress made during the current year, and we would also look at what didn’t go so well and what lessons we learned. Taking this approach of reflecting back and planning forward helped us to identify what some of our key plays needed to be for the following year.
We made sure we left that planning meeting with our top three to five objectives identified, as well as the key plays we needed to execute within the first quarter to stay on track. We also agreed on the key metrics by which we would measure success on both an annual and quarterly basis.
Have you had such a planning meeting to define your win? If not, when could you meet with your leadership team to get started?
Unify your team
Coach Boone knew in order to achieve the win, he would have to first unify his team and get them all working toward the same goal. He knew that to do this he would first have to get them to learn about one another, so they could then begin trusting one another. He challenged them to spend time every day learning about a teammate: their likes, dislikes and their family. He even held them responsible for doing so, by ratcheting up the number of practices per day until they chose to act on his instructions. All of this was because he knew if they didn’t come together, they would be destroyed.
How unified is your team? Do they have a clear vision of what the win looks like and are they working together to achieve it? Or are there internal politics and individual agendas that are dividing the team? If upon reflection you see an opportunity for improvement in 2017, consider these tips to strengthen your team:
1. Align everyone around the win—start by clearly communicating what success looks like for the team in 2017 and give regular updates on progress towards achieving it.
2. Explain the “me” in team—take a moment to meet with each one of your teammates and help them to understand how they individually contribute to the win. This means identifying the key results and behaviors they’re personally responsible for. Then, share what winning will mean for them individually and as part of the team.
3. Be interested—set the tone for being personally interested in your people. As the saying goes, “Attitude reflects leadership,” and so does just about everything else in your company. If you lead the way in getting to personally know your teammates, that will pave the way for them to reach out and learn about one another. Consider sprinkling in five- to 10 minutes for one person to share a brief summary of the significant events in their life every time the team comes together for a meeting; you’ll be amazed at what you’ll learn about one another and how it will affect your perception in a positive way.
Remember Coach Boone’s words, that it’s a “team effort to achieve perfection,” so be intentional in creating a unified team.
Train to perfection
Coach Boone shared that the team would “practice to the limits, until they get it right.” Training and skill practice is a critical part of winning. The Titans didn’t use fancy plays or deception to become a winning team, they just executed six basic plays at a level of near perfection. How are your team’s skills when it comes to executing plays? Have they had the appropriate amount of training and practice to perform at their peak? If not, consider implementing the following development ideas:
1. Train weekly—success truly is in mastery of the basic. Take the time to plan a weekly meeting that provides a refresher on how to execute a piece of the service call flawlessly, and then carve out time to practice during every meeting.
2. Coach weekly—take a moment once a week to review each technician’s performance and identify what areas need some tweaking. Help each teammate to create their own action item for what they will work on improving and follow up the next week.
3. Total immersion training event—consider sending your techs to a total immersion training event such as Nexstar’s three-day Service System retreat. I’ve found that sometimes it’s hard to be a prophet in your own town, so hearing a reinforcing message from an outside source could mean all the difference for your techs.
Make decisions for the team, not the individual
At my former company, we referred to our leadership team as Team One. This was because before all else, our department, our personal interest, Team One always came first. I will admit that this is sometimes easier said than done.
In “Remember the Titans,” such a moment came to the surface when one character was putting his friendship with a teammate above the success of the team, and not only was it holding back the team’s ability to succeed, but the lack of fairness was stifling individual desire to perform.
Could that be happening at your shop? Is there a player on your team who is your friend, or who has been around forever, or who is a big revenue producer; but at the end of the day you know they are toxic and have to go? Will you be like Bertier and choose something other than Team One, or will you make your decisions for the good of the team? Hopefully you’ll recognize sometimes you’ve just got to cut somebody loose.
Do a victory dance
Harness the power of little wins, and celebrate often to renew the spirit of your team. Such moments of fun and celebration are critical to maintaining the energy and momentum of a winning team. I remember we had several celebrations throughout the year to bring the team closer together and re-energize one another.
Sometimes we would smoke a whole pig as our kick-off to summer, and all the techs would hang around the smoker and get to know one another late into the night. Other times, we would go on fishing trips or host family event days with bounce houses and games for the kids. At the end of the day, it wasn’t just all about the win, but it was also about being part of an amazing team, which sometimes can be an even more powerful motivator than winning itself.
So will you be a Titan in 2017? The choice is yours. And if you should ever find yourself in need of a little extra motivation, you might consider grabbing a copy of “Remember the Titans,” putting some popcorn in the microwave, and seeing what other lessons you can take away from a diverse group of guys who came together to execute a perfect season.