Boardroom Lessons from Super Bowl XLVII
To be honest, when it comes to football, I'm no Sunday afternoon, or Monday morning quarterback. But, like many, I do enjoy watching the Super Bowl because it can sometimes help sharpen my observation skills (including boards), and there are usually some good lessons and takeaways. Super Bowl XLVII had more of its share. Board could learn a few things by studying how Seattle and Denver managed their respective strengths, gaps, and weaknesses on the field, and what resulted from their efforts and fumbles too.
Focus and a cohesive team:
Throughout the game, the media focused on Manning's performance, and they were quite quick to find him a convenient scapegoat for the team's, less than inspiring showing. But where was the rest of the team? The Broncos were looking for direction from, what appeared to be a dazed quarterback. On the other side of the ball, every member of the Seahawks had come to play - and that they did! their rout of Denver was a tribute to how well they communicated and how skillfully they executed as a team. Every position contributed equally. No one team member, whether behind or on the bench, outshone the other. they knew what they were there to do, understood the game plan/strategy, and got the job done. I don't remember seeing Russell Wilson in the spotlight as much as Manning was throughout the game.
Seattle used their bench brilliantly -- substituting one player for another to the best possible advantage. To me, the comparisons between strong teams and boards were obvious: a CEO (quarterback), no matter how talented, can lead a company where it has to go only when he or she has the right talent to execute and is in sync with, and supported fully by, an engaged and committed board -- that also has the right talent and lineup. Succession planning for the CEO, the C-Suite and the Board could benefit from the lessons found in Sunday's game. You have to have your first-string players in their proper positions (directors, CEO and executive team), and have a well-vetted, capable bench that can step up and do its job(s) at a moment's notice, and when the heat is on. How can you function as a team and make the best of unanticipated situations, good and bad, with holes in your lineup?
Strategy and execution lessons on the field:
Business today is done at two speeds: non-stop and accelerating. When a board has to face the tough questions about performance of the company for the investors, or that of its own members, it needs to see beyond the CEO (quarterback) to the team as a unified and smoothly functioning unit: C-suite, CEO, and Directors. Blame is easy to place (as Peyton knows), but while it may make for good theater, pulling the CEO for the sake of expediency, may not be addressing the root cause(s) of a problem.
Strong boards will see the value in these takeaways, measure the company's performance in terms of consistency and balance and ask the tough questions -- because in business there are no stoppages in play and you can't add minutes to the clock! (Although that would be a "nice to have".) Examples: Is our CEO getting all the direction, advice, and support needed? Is the C-Suite as strong at all positions as it needs to be? Is the board strong in many positions or is it a homogenous or monoline skilled group of directors? Are its members clear and of one mind as to where the company needs to go? How focused is the board at supporting management in it's execution on the field? As a board and company, do we have all the right talent at "play"? Can we manage all this without being knocked off our game plan? You get the picture.
Board can, perhaps, learn a few things from what sports teams have done for decades: build, oversee, and continue to strengthen their lineups with exceptional players who can score points and win the game for the company and shareholders. After all, who starts a season by fielding only one star player on the roster?
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