Sports are about players making plays. Coaches and managers can breakdown film, scheme, and motivate all they want. But, when the game is on the line, execution is all that matters. As the ole coach said, “It’s not about the X’s and O’s, it’s about the Jimmy’s and Joe’s.” This truth was on full display this weekend in two, wholly unrelated sports: college football and … golf.
On Saturday, the Georgia Bulldogs hosted the Tennessee Volunteers “between the hedges” in Athens, Georgia, and the last 30 seconds was likely the wildest ending to a sports contest you’ll ever see. If you didn’t see the game, and have been under a rock all weekend, Georgia threw a 50-yd touchdown pass with 10 seconds left to take the lead, only to have Tennessee throw a 50-yd “Hail Mary” with no time on the clock to win the game. The ending defies all attempts at written description. Do yourself a favor and click the link above, and watch all the videos. (Full disclosure: I am a Tennessee fan. A hopeless, oft heartbroken, Tennessee fan.)
For all the excitement on the gridiron, the story begins and ends with the man who caught the game-winning pass for the Vols, Juan Jennings. Jennings came to Tennessee in 2015 as a 4-star recruit as a dual-threat quarterback out of Murfreesboro, TN. Jennings was also a two-sport athlete, earning looks from several schools for hoops after he was name MVP of the basketball state tournament in his junior year. Jennings was a promising prospect at QB, with a solid arm and superior running ability. But, Coach Jones and the UT staff had other ideas, converting Jennings into a wide receiver shortly after he stepped on the practice field in Knoxville. To his credit, however, rather than pout or request a transfer, Jennings took the challenge to become the best wide receiver he could be. Boy, has that decision paid off! Just last week, Jennings burned future NFL draft pick Jalen Tabor for the go-ahead touchdown against the Florida Gators. And now, he basks in the glory of catching the pass that kept Tennessee in the driver’s seat for winning the SEC East. For Jennings, it’s an inspiring story of trust and commitment. For the coaches, it’s a story of knowing your players and putting them in the best position to succeed.
A similar story of placement and execution played out on the links on Sunday, as America recaptured the Ryder Cup over Europe, winning by the biggest margin in over 30 years. Fittingly, the final, cup-clenching point was earned by Captain’s pick Ryan Moore, whom USA Team Captain Davis Love, III chose over Bubba Watson, the 7th-ranked player in the world. The potentially controversial pick proved fruitful, as Moore earned Team USA 2.5 points over the weekend, including a win over European veteran Lee Westwood.
The wisdom of these coaches and captains can be replicated every day in your workforce. Your first goal as a manager or business owner is to identify an individual with the will to succeed on their own. No matter how good a business person you are, if your team members are not committed to advancing themselves, its unlikely they will see the benefit in contributing to your goals, either. Second, focus on the facts. Too often in hiring employers will ask questions that don’t pertain to the needs of the job. Take Jennings, for example. While he may have desired to be a quarterback, the facts pointed the coaches to another position (i.e., tall, jumps well, good hands, great speed = wide receiver!) Focusing on tangible and intangible qualities that have the ability to affect the outcome of a play (or an assignment) will streamline your hiring process. Plus, not straying off into topics that don’t matter will eliminate the possibility of asking irrelevant questions that can expose your Company to liability. Finally, check references. Players have ready-made reference sheets in the form of wins, losses, and personal stats. Your applicants and employees wont be as easy to evaluate. The best thing is to call on those who have previously worked with them. Typically, the employee will provide you with a list of references. If that list seems suspect, or if the people you call don’t have anything good to say about a candidate, that should be a sure sign he/she likely wont be a great contributor to your goals, either.
Taking time to build a team with the right kind of talent in the right places can help put your Company in a position to succeed.