Keys to a Winning Offense

On Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens squared off against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII, considered by many to be one of the greatest sporting events in the world. In football, it is sometimes said that the best offense is a good defense. The theory here is simple – if you prevent your opponent from scoring, your team only needs to score once to win the game. In business, however, the opposite is true. The best offense is a great offense… period.

In business, it’s not as simple as scoring the most points. Sure, that’s part of it, but it’s really about growth. For example, you could score one more point than your competition in a sales year and technically “win” the game against them. However, your investors are looking for much more than that. Your investors are looking for growth. If you only score one more point than your competition, you are simply not growing. The key to growth is a high-powered offense that basically obviates the need to play defense at all. Let’s face it – if you are playing defense, you are losing.

The 5 Keys To A Winning Offense

Talent – As the great John Wooden often said, the team with the best players almost always wins. This is true, but there is an “almost” in this statement for a reason. Even the best players will not win if you do not support them with spirit and motivation, a great culture, sound strategy, and focus.

Spirit and Motivation – The spirit and motivation of both you and your team is arguably the most important aspect of a winning offense. History is rich with stories of otherwise outmatched armies that rose to the occasion and defeated larger, better equipped forces because they were highly motivated and believed in their cause. As a leader, the spirit and motivation of your team is your direct responsibility, so look in the mirror if morale is low. A demotivated and/or demoralized team is destined to lose. The key to spirit and motivation is an authentic belief that you can win, and this has to permeate the entire team.

Culture – Culture is a choice, and it is a direct reflection of the leaders in the organization. Every team has a culture, and it is guaranteed to be one of two things: good or bad. If you choose to be an uninspired leader who does little to create culture in your organization because “that’s just not your thing,” you are dooming yourself and your team. Culture is the glue that holds your team together, which is especially important during the most challenging times. Courageous Leaders work hard to create (and nourish) culture… every single day, as part of every single decision.

Strategy – Offensive strategy is critical. Great offenses are explosive, well executed, and hard for your competition to defend against. Consider San Francisco and the highly touted pistol offense they ran in Sunday’s Super Bowl. The key to this offense is that it is innovative, and it gives the quarterback the option to adjust on the fly, choosing from a variety of weapons. The intended result – a disoriented Baltimore defense that, despite knowing San Francisco will be running this offense, will have a very hard time defending against it. While San Francisco did not execute well on this offense in the first half, great execution in the second half brought them to within three points of an historic comeback. Lesson: you cannot wait until the second half to get your offense firing on all cylinders… it has to be flawless from the first play. I see this all the time in business: the offense ends up being great, but it wasn’t great from the start.

Focus – Even with all of the above in place, the best teams in business will lose without focus. Teams can have the best talent, highest motivation, a great culture, and a great strategy, but it will all fall apart without focus and commitment to the things that matter in the here and now – planning, organizing, and executing flawlessly. The “here and now” is the hardest part, as even top performers get distracted by things that are very important, but not for the game they are playing at this moment in time. Short-term focus must prevail when the game is on the line, which often means dialing back on longer-term thinking. For without winning today, there may be no long-term.

As leaders, getting the offensive mix right is critical to success. That’s because the complexity of the “real-world” and day-to-day obstacles (as well as other people in the organization) work to distract us from a pure focus on the fundamentals of doing what’s right to ensure our teams win. Whether you agree with my offensive mix or you have a better version of your own, stand strong as a Courageous Leader and let nothing pull you away from flawless execution of your offense.

Courageous Leadership Challenge – engage below and add at least one thing that you think I missed in my offensive mix.

Lead. Courageously.

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  • If you can do all of these with PASSION & MEANING, then your “offense” will be un-stoppable. I can apply your 5 keys to a Winning Offense everyday. Love the article Doug!! Love it! 

    •  I agree completely, Meredith. Passion and meaning are critical components to everything we do if we are to be successful – as leaders and as people. Thanks for stopping by and contributing – much appreciated!

  • Leaders have to be willing to take calculated risks.  The fake field goal was one example from the game on Sunday.  Knowing how and when to put your faith/expertise into action is always part of a great offense.  Leaders understand timing and seize opportunities by taking risks realizing that failure isn’t falling down, it’s staying down.

    •  Precisely, and well said, Chad. Speaking of the fake field goal, I wonder how his brother felt when he tried that move! Cold blooded! I deeply appreciate the comment you made – failure isn’t falling down, it’s staying down. Powerful. Thanks for stopping by and contributing.


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