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One More, Once More––Leadership lessons from Super Bowl LI

Professional sports is a mystery to people who are not fanatics. It’s sometimes hard for outsiders to understand what all the emotion and hype is all about. First of all, professional athletes dedicate their lives to be the best at their craft. They provide visible examples for how to perform at the highest level––no matter what we do. Professional sports teams must exemplary organizations to survive in a highly competitive entertainment industry. Whenever a team makes a championship run, there are lessons we can take into our daily lives as leaders. When a team pulls off the type of historic victory the New England Patriots just did––we’ll be mining those lessons for years. Lets revisit the Patriot theme throughout this championship run––and take a close look at how this theme contributed to their record breaking Super Bowl comeback… “One More.”

Throughout the playoffs the Pats kept this mantra going. One more game. One more week of practice. One more hour of training––all to accomplish their ultimate goal of one more championship. The theme of “One More” was a vision statement. When a leader––or a group of leaders can create an engaging and clearly focused vision of what the mission is, it becomes a powerful motivating and binding force for the entire organization. “One More” was also a strategy. This strategy played out wonderfully during Super Bowl LI. People who really know football saw it. Despite what seemed like an insurmountable deficit, the Pats did not panic. They lived their them of “One More.” One more play. One more first down. One more throw, one more catch––one more block, one more yard. Put enough “one mores” together and you produce amazing results.

Now to the locker room… In the glorious mythology of football lore, there is the iconic story of the “locker room speech.” You’ve seen it in the movies. One of the team leaders throws a helmet across the room and starts ranting about how the team is not doing its job––how “we’ve got to step up” and “claim our destiny.” The coach then piles on, usually with a passionate stream of expletives meant to rally the team to new and previously unimaginable levels of excellence. I’ve been in enough locker rooms to tell you that yes––this does sometimes happen. But once the initial outburst settles, a football team at halftime goes to work. When the Pats retreated for halftime I told everyone in the room that there would be no yelling or screaming in that locker room. I knew what Bill Belichick would be doing, and post-game interviews gave us a clear view of his leadership style and the team dynamic. They went to work. They analyzed their first half performance and made adjustments. They supported one another by keeping everyone focused on their “One More” theme. Belichick turned command over to his unit and position coaches so they could all adjust their strategies, tactics and personnel. When Tom Brady was asked what they were thinking about as they came out for the second half he said, “I wasn’t thinking much. I was thinking, we just gotta score.”

Every organization, every team––every leader faces adversity at some point. I don’t want to rain on your parade, but you’re not always going to finish the comeback. By staying calm, by focusing on the job in front of you and doing what you can right here and right now––you’ve got your best shot. You could see this in the pace of the game. Brady didn’t start throwing bombs. They weren’t wasting energy sprinting to every new snap. They worked briskly––with urgency––but with absolutely no panic. Mistakes were made along the way––and they got some breaks. Again, that’s how it works for all of us. But when you maintain your focus you don’t rest on the breaks and you don’t obsess over the mistakes. You just pick up and keep going–– “One More.” That’s how the Patriots won Super Bowl LI. That’s how they overcame the biggest deficit in Super Bowl history. That’s why we’re celebrating them today. If you’re not a sports loyalist––I’m not going to try to talk you into it. I do believe you’re missing something––so at least for this day you might be able to share in what we all feel as devoted fans. And in one more word––and it’s a concept we can all aspire to it’s simply this: Excellence.

Here's a great look inside the head space of one of the Pats' key players…

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