Winning: Let Your Employees Call a Play

Let’s face it – we like everything football. And we’ve also noticed that many things that make a football team successful can carry over to running a successful business.

One great example of this occurred in the fourth quarter of the San Francisco 49ers’ win over the Atlanta Falcons to clinch the playoffs. QB Colin Kaepernick changed the play (called an audible) that was called from the sidelines to score a touchdown from the one-yard line.

Normally this is not a big deal, but it shows a big difference in philosophy between the current 49ers head coach, Jim Harbaugh, and his former head coach, Mike Ditka, when he was QB with the Chicago bears.  Jim Harbaugh was not allowed to call an audible when he played for Mike Ditka. Ditka was the “boss” and thought he made better decisions than his players. This is how Ditka wrapped up his philosophy  – “When the player knows more than the coach, you have a problem. I’m not going to put the careers of 47 guys in the hands of somebody who thinks he knows more than I know.”

Would you want to work for Jim Harbaugh or Mike Ditka? Without hesitation, we believe the better choice is Jim Harbaugh. The lesson is simple – front line employees know the customers and can make better field decisions given the right tools and training. This one is hard to prove and measure, but we believe that employees will always fall back to the core values you reinforce daily. Their “buy in” will be higher because they know exactly what you stand for in business.

Head coach and real winner Jim Harbaugh sums it up best: “I think when a player (employee) feels strongly about something, we tend to agree with them unless we have evidence to the contrary. As a former player (employee), I realize that when you put your opinion (decisions) on the line like that that you also make it work (taking care of customers) and they did again last night.”

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