As a New England Patriots fan, it pained me to read this week’s Sports Illustrated cover story about the New York Giants’ season. But it helped me to understand how the Giants recovered from their mid-season stumbles to finish the season with six straight wins and a Super Bowl trophy.
It seems that Coach Coughlin and Charles Way, the director of player personnel, invited ex-military pilots from Afterburner Inc. (a corporate training program) to sit down for a series of sessions with the team while they were struggling through a series of injuries and execution problems.
The players learned how pilots flying dangerous missions would build trust and teamwork among each other – with candid communication sessions after each mission – in which each pilot confessed their mistakes and asked for help in doing better.
Soon thereafter, the captains of the Giants’ offense and defense were conducting “players only” meetings. The leaders spoke first, stating their shortcomings and setting goals for self-improvement, and the rest of the team followed suit.
One linebacker was quoted as saying that “it was not about calling people out” but rather it was “an opportunity to see everybody hold themselves accountable.”
Kudos to the Giants’ leadership for setting this example and for following the example of others. They could have taken the view that fighter pilots could not possible know anything useful to professional football players. This is the kind of insular thinking that prevails in some lesser organizations.
But not so among winners. Teams of surgeons at the best hospitals have called in NASCAR pit crews to improve speed and eliminate mistakes, business teams within global companies have called in symphony conductors and great sports coaches to improve teamwork, and some highly successful law firms have called in executives from the hospitality industry to improve client service.
In each case, the great teams have demonstrated how champions excel by striving for constant improvement and communicating candidly about the places they can improve most.