Last night, the New England Patriots beat the Houston Texans 27-0 with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. What is surprising to some is that Brissett is an unknown third-team rookier quarterback only playing because the star starting quarterback, Tom Brady, is suspended for four games and his back-up Jimmy Garoppolo was injured last week. What the victory so poignantly shows is that companies and teams succeed by building a good system and not letting inevitable hardships derail them.
Over two years ago, I wrote about the Next Man Up philosophy, how rather than dwelling on adversity just keep moving (not surprisingly, it was also about the Patriots). The core is that successful companies and teams focus on their goal and do not let short-term issues serve as a reason to fail.
At its core, this philosophy is about staying focused on what you need to do to succeed, not why you might fail. It would have been easy for Patriots Coach Bill Belichick during the week to say they would “try their best” but without their top quarterbacks it will be difficult. Instead, Belichick’s message was his job is to beat the Texans, it has always been to beat the Texans and that is what he will prepare the team to do.
Companies and individuals often look for reasons why a project will not succeed or already has failed. I remember at E3 after 9/11, hearing from multiple game development companies that they ran into problems or their games did not succeed because of 9/11. The truth was they would not have succeeded regardless and most of these companies failed to ever succeed.
There will always be reasons that can rationalize why you are not successful: someone left the team, competitors are not pricing fairly, regulations have changed, blah blah blah. The reality is things never go as they are planned, there will always be unforeseen obstacles and hurdles. Good companies, good coaches and good leaders, however, do not care about the excuses and focus on the goal and how they will succeed given the circumstances. They do not make excuses when they fail, they learn from them (and avoid them).
What is also interesting in the Patriots success last night (and pretty much the last ten years) is that it was not at all driven by a great motivational speech. As well as not making excuses, Belichick did not extoll his team to play at 110% or do it for Brady. Instead, it was business as usual. We have a job to do, the variables have changed as they always do, but we will go out and do it. That is exactly what the Patriots did last night.
The press, and many people, love the charismatic, macho, inspirational leader. Rex Ryan (former New York Jet and current Buffalo Bill American Football coach) had a rabid following because he was so enthusiastic and his players loved him. Elon Musk has more fans than any businessman I have ever seen. Yet it is the Bill Belichek’s, Jeff Bezos’ and Bill Gates’ that deliver results year in and year out, and neither of them could be deemed charismatic. In fact, they are often successful because the team and the company are at the forefront, rather than their individual star.
It’s above the individual
Related to the coach not being the center of attention, the Patriots show that success is about not elevating any individual above the team or company. While the Patriots have had many great players, they have fostered a team first mentality. Even Tom Brady, New England’s injured starting quarterback who some consider the greatest quarterback of all time, celebrated on Facebook the Patriots win last night even though it theoretically could have impacted his greatness by showing the Patriots win with or without him.
This strategy also makes it easier to deal with an employee who leaves or a player that gets injured. Again, to use the Patriots example, they have now won all three games that Tom Brady has missed due to his suspension. By contrast, when the Indianapolis Colts (a traditional Super Bowl contender at that time) in 2011 lost quarterback Peyton Manning to an injury for the season, they ended up winning only two out of 16 games. In the business world, there is also almost always turnover. If you tie your success to one individual, you are much less flexible in your ability to deal with future situations.
It’s about the process
What it comes down to is building a good process to achieve your ultimate goal, whether that is hitting revenue targets or winning football matches. If you have a system that can weather external shocks you will achieve this goal rather than spending your team in a bar rationalizing why you failed and your competitors succeeded.
- New England’s 27-0 victory over Houston Thursday night with a third string rookie quarterback exemplifies the concept of how a good system will help any team or company succeed regardless of the circumstances.
- Good companies and teams succeed by not making excuses (either before or after the fact) but simply focusing on succeeding knowing that circumstances will sometimes be against them.
- They also succeed by ensuring they build a system not centered on an individual but one that allows for success regardless of changes to the team.