The Super Bowl has been played, a winner decided, and the NFL season has come to an end. When I look back on the season, one story stands out in my mind. Amid the story-lines of concussions, injuries, and rising rookie quarterbacks, this season was unique in that one team was forced to begin and end its season without the influence of its head coach. The Saints struggled all season because of the consequences that were doled out by Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner.
If you have ever wondered about the necessity of a coach, go back and take a good look at this particular story. There were superstar level players on the Saints’ team this year. Most of them were there during the last couple of years when they were the defending Super Bowl champs (2010) and making another playoff run (2011). What changed to make such a good team move from Super Bowl contenders to a season where losses outnumbered wins? The talent level didn’t change much. I would argue the playbook didn’t even change much. Purists will say that more changed than just the head coach, but the reality is that the most influential change was Sean Payton’s vacancy as head coach.
What lessons can we learn from this?
One of the first things we can learn from this is that no matter how much talent we have on our teams and in our organizations, our team members will struggle without a coach. A coach brings not only a sense of structure, but also an element of encouragement and the ability to help each member reach beyond their current status, striving for new levels of success.
A coach helps team members work in symmetry with each other. Every member of our teams will bring varying levels of talent to the table. A coach finds a way to have the weaknesses in one area be supported by the appropriate strengths in other areas. The team can act as one while many parts are individually in motion.
Another thing a coach brings is the boldness to call in line attitudes and actions that can ultimately hurt the team. While this may be the least favorite role of the coach, it is a necessary one. The unity of the team can only be found when the divisive members either buy-in with a new perspective or leave the team.
Odds are that you are both a team member in one area of your life and a coach in another. The implications of a coach-less situation are right in front of us to study, learn from, and put into practice.
What are some of the things you have learned about the influence that leaders have on team members?