The Super Bowl & Strategic Execution Failure

I love football and always have. I especially loved it while my home team, the New England Patriots, dominated the league. But I still love it, even when the Chiefs and 49ers are in the Super Bowl and my team is home watching.

Few sports are as strategic as football, and while we can learn a little bit about business-level strategic execution by watching a football game, we can learn a great deal about strategic execution when we look at the NFL as a business.

Strategic execution begins with Core Values. Core Values are the behaviors that define your culture. They are clear statements of how you expect every person in your organization to act, regardless of their role.

The NFL has done a great job of articulating their Core Values. But in one significant way, they have failed to live up to them.

Good Talk

Here’s what I mean by doing a great job of articulating Core Values, so that everyone at the NFL can understand them.

Their first Core Value is “Our Responsibility.” That’s vague, but not to worry. They explain exactly what they mean: “Every member of the NFL community embraces our unique leadership role in society, and assumes the trust, character, and responsibility that comes with that role.”

Aren’t you glad they put that first?

Think of all the kids and teenagers who look up to football players as role models. The NFL knows this, and so, right off the bat, they let every employee know that they take their leadership role in society very seriously. They set out to be a good example for those kids.

Failing to Walk the Talk

And while a lot of players, coaches, umpires, medics, trainers, and other employees are certainly excellent role models, the NFL itself fails to live up to this Core Value in one significant way.

If you read through all of their Core Values, you will notice that something is missing: There is nothing in there about caring for the players’ safety. This is probably because everyone knows that football players risk injury.

But over time, innovations in training and conditioning have made football a more dangerous game than it once was. We now know that repeated blows to the head, at the level of intensity found on the football field, can cause chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. CTE is not an injury. It’s a life-long affliction.

Now, you rarely edit your Core Values. But sometimes, as your company changes and as your market changes, you might need to add to them.

The NFL needs to add something about player safety to their Core Values. Player safety needs to be part of their strategic execution, because, without it, they not only violate their own Core Values, they put the game’s special role in American society at risk.

Think of the kids. They need to know that the NFL cares about the players as much as they do. They need to know that when they go on the field in high school or college, player safety is important—for all the players, including your opponents.

Walking the Talk Again

What’s great about the NFL’s Core Values is that when they make this change, as I’m sure they will at some point, they will actually be following another one of their Core Values: “Integrity.”

What does “Integrity” mean to the NFL? Well, it means, “…We accept responsibility when we get things wrong and then we work to make them right.”

They didn’t get anything “wrong,” exactly, but they certainly need to make things right. In business, you might come across times like this, too, especially as you become more successful and as your influence grows.

Remember, Strategic Execution requires a solid team.  And your team’s underpinnings are your company’s Core Values.

When you review your Strategic Plan, look at your Core Values critically to make sure they are complete and in line with your business today.

Want to learn more? Come to our next Core Values webinar. — And enjoy the game!