going “backwards” when you’re deep in the playoffs

June 17, 2008 at 12:02 am | Posted in Business, Professional Development | Leave a comment
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A recent comment on one of my posts got me thinking about an old lesson I learned many years ago…

If you make it to the championship in high school football, from the time the first practice started, you’ve likely been at it for 18-20 weeks straight . Each week you advance in the post season, it gets very tempting to add more and more new stuff for the next opponent. If you’re not careful, you can soon outcoach yourself. Putting in too many new things, chasing that next magic play, or tweaking your schemes beyond your fundamental core abilities are all traps to watch out for.

What I learned from an old coaching mentor of mine was: “When you get deep in the playoffs, take a day and go backwards. Go back to the basics.” He was advocating running a practice like it was the first week of the season. Focus on the fundamentals. Get the intensity back. Return to the vision and hunger you had when the season started. I was amazed at how well it worked for us coaches and for the players.

I think we can do the same in business. As our companies mature, and markets get tough, and innovation is required, and growth gets more challenging, and we’re always pushing the envelope… that may be a good time to take a few days to go back to our basics–whatever they may be. Am I doing all of the little things right? Am I following a cohesive vision? Am I letting others know, clearly, what we need to do to succeed? Am I doing the things I would train another to do if they took my role?

It is so easy for me to stray from the little things that I know make a difference. Revisiting them every so often is a way to make sure I don’t stray too far.

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