Why I love the NFL? Vision and Role Clarity.

Why do I love the NFL? It is a great mixture of world class athletes, intense and emotional competition, vision and strategy, precise execution, fan interaction, and big business.  For example:

It’s emotional. Only one team wins the big prize annually. The Vince Lombardi Super Bowl trophy is adorned; grown men have tears in their eyes while they embrace that trophy like their own child, after winning the Super Bowl.  For teams who don’t follow the rules, they get penalized. Teams lose players to short and long term injuries, which can be devastating to the player, the entire team, the fans and the owner’s bottom line.  Players are locked out. Referees are too. Owners balk, and then agree. Egos abound!

It’s consistent. During the fall and early winter, the games are all day every Sunday and Monday evening.  And now every Thursday. Although lifestyles are very busy, millions of fans routinely make time to watch this #1 sport in America.

It embraces strategy. The owners are willing to invest a lot of money into players, coaches, fans, and facilities, to get a higher return on their investment.  During the games, the teams have gameplans (strategies) on how to prepare, compete, and win. Countless hours are spent in the film rooms AND on the field prepping for the competition as well as honing the team’s strengths and weaknesses.

It’s about leadership.  Each small group on every NFL team has a coach. Sure, there is a head coach.  But there are also running back and linebacker coaches.  There are owners and general managers. If all of these leaders are executing with precision to the strategy, it can be magical.

It’s all about execution. The team that executes with precision, wins. Execution is difficult to do, but easy to identify when it is done right. Whether it is scoring with 12 seconds to go in the first half to take a lead in to halftime or defending a goal line stance during the last two minutes, you know execution when you see it.

It’s about change. It is interesting how quickly a team can come together, even though EVERY team roster changes annually. Audibles are utilized and implemented within seconds after the offense reviews the defense stance.   Each player has to perform and adjust as the game develops.

It’s about role clarity. It is fascinating to see how each player clearly knows his role on each play. A wide receiver runs his route, with timing and yardage completely in sync with his quarterback’s release of a throw.  The offensive lineman block to protect the quarterback and to help gain yardage for the running back. The special teams help block for the punt returner. The athletic trainer and doctors know when to administer what treatment for injuries and pain.

It’s hi-tech. The stadiums are electric with big screen replays of nearly every play. Fantasy football allows the fan to build and manage his own team, anytime, anywhere. Nearly every game can be viewed ubiquitously, whether on a mobile device, laptop, via the internet or satellite TV. Games can be watched later in either full or 30 minute versions.

It gets people together. In the fall of 2011, 23 of the top 25 shows viewed were NFL games. And in many cases, these NFL games are watched in groups of fans who are eating, talking, and drinking together. Tailgating starts on early Sunday mornings in the stadium parking lots and goes well beyond the end of the game.   Camping in the woods and parks has now moved to asphalt parking lots near stadiums.

It’s about patience.  The teams who consistently perform at the highest levels are the teams with lack of turnover. For example, the NY Giants have remained committed to Tom Coughlin even though the NY press wants to fire him annually. Coughlin’s answer? Two Super Bowls in five years. The Pittsburgh Steelers have been in the hunt for decades, with the same family leading the franchise and purposefully selecting coaches who embrace their values. The Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers were truly dominating in the 1970s’s and 1980’s, respectively, with steady ownership, coaches, and quarterbacks.  The New England Patriots have an owner in Robert Kraft and coach in Bill Belichick that trust one another and demonstrate excellence year after year.  The Green Bay Packers fans are the most loyal in the business, as they own the team. That is not going to change.

It’s BIG business.  Billions of dollars in television rights across five networks (NBC, FOX, CBS, ESPN, and NFL Network) and stadiums worth hundreds of million dollars grab the attention of fans, hopes and dreams of children, and other businesses who want to be a part of the NFL picture to broaden their brand.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that high-performing teams on the court/field and in business have the ability to perform at a very high level because each and every person on the team clearly knows the vision and their role, and executes it with precision.  In today’s business world, role clarity and execution are becoming more and more important, as the room for error is so slim due to increased governance, regulations,  shareholder and customer expectations.  Is your team operating at a level that meets your vision? If not, identifying your vision and further clarifying roles might be the first steps to address.  The NFL demonstrates this every week, on five different TV networks, with 32 teams owned by 32 different men in 32 different locations, with 53 players, who all know their role. Complexity in business can be overcome by a clear vision and role clarity. The NFL is a living and successful example.