Six Seconds to Win

You can’t give 100% effort 100% of the time.

College football games are won by giving maximum focus and effort six seconds at a time.

I watched James Franklin, head coach of Penn State football, say the average play in football takes 6 seconds. You give your best for six seconds. (Written from memory. Not an exact quote.)

Slow and steady is a losing strategy. Everyone knows the tortoise wouldn’t really win. 

You can’t give 100% all day long. Realistically, you might be able to sustain 70% or 80% effort for an entire day.

Success includes short sprints in a long race.

Management lessons from football:

#1. Coaches don’t play.

Successful managers watch how work is done. Success isn’t simply getting things done.

  1. Whose performance is ticking up? Why?
  2. Whose performance is slipping? Why?
  3. When are players at their best?
    • Review the performance of team members.
    • What was happening during peak performance?
    • How might you duplicate peak-performance-environments?

It’s common for business managers to coach and play in the game. Don’t get lost in work. Schedule time to work on the way work gets done. 

#2. Coaches make and work a plan.

Coach Franklin said last year Penn State started slow. They spent the offseason focusing on being a fast starting team. They turned a weakness into a strength.

Penn State has outscored opponents 104-0 in first quarter play this year.

Successful managers don’t simply react. What’s your articulated plan for success?

#3. Coaches constantly adapt.

In a changing world you adapt or die.

  1. Halftime is a pre-scheduled time to adapt.Schedule adapt-meetings designed to challenge or disrupt common practices and refocus on long-term goals.
  2. Call timeout. Don’t ignore poor performance. Declare it.
    • Bring up disappointment.
    • Don’t berate or belittle.
    • Refocus on the big picture.
    • Express confidence.
    • Shift responsibilities.
    • Provide training.
  3. Put new players in the game. Find the winning combination.

What management lessons do you see in football? Other sports?

How might managers employ a sprinting mindset, even while staying focused on the marathon.