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Ken Keller: Goal setting, coaching builds a successful team

Brain Food for Business Owners

Posted: August 19, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 19, 2012 2:00 a.m.

I had the opportunity to visit the Dallas Cowboys’ football training camp last weekend in Oxnard.

It is an enjoyable experience to watch professionals run drills and practice. These 90 men show up and in a few weeks just 45 men remain on the team.

Each year my wife and I predict how we think the team will do in the season starting in early September. I predict they will have a winning record. Last season the Cowboys lost four critical games when leading at halftime; championship teams don’t do that. I anticipate similar disappointments this season.

As I sat in the stands watching the activities I had some thoughts worth sharing.

My first was that the owner of the team had set a goal of the team getting to, and winning, the Super Bowl. The mission was to find the best possible people to achieve the goal. Have you defined winning and do you have a mission statement?

Football players and other professional sports players are expected to maintain a state of physical excellence so when training camp begins, they are in shape and ready to begin working as a team.

The Cowboys released two players signed in the offseason when those players showed up out of shape not ready for camp. This signaled to me that the team was more serious about the season than in previous years.

For an owner, the question is, are your individual employees doing anything to stay in reasonable physical shape?

More than 35 percent of all adults in America are obese, according to data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Medical costs in 2008 directly related to being overweight was set at $147 billion; medical care costs for individuals estimated at close to $1,500 per adult per year. Not only have these numbers increased in the interim, they may be directly related to annual increases in healthcare premiums. Are you doing anything about this?

What I observed on the practice fields was choreographed. Some players practiced kick-off returns, some practiced defending a punt; the quarterbacks threw all kinds of different passes to tight ends, wide receivers, and backs; linemen defended against the rush and pass; running backs practiced getting around the opposition and through the line.

No activity went on for more than 20 minutes, keeping the players interested and active. There were frequent pattern interruptions, with individuals moving from group to group, activity to activity, always learning and practicing something new.

Personnel development has been cut back if not eliminated in many companies, but this is an excellent model for any company with a development program. Make it interactive, challenging and fun. Adults learn when the programs are this way.

During stretching exercises, more than a few assistant coaches were bent down on one knee, providing one-on-one feedback in soft voices to their assigned player. There were a lot of nodding heads responding back to the guidance.

Coaching works when the player is receptive to feedback. Are you coaching enough and do your employees understand why they are being coached? It’s to make them better at what they are being paid to do.

The plays the team practiced has already been scripted out; the afternoon session I observed was to hone individual skills and to solidify the concept of teamwork that had already been marked up on whiteboards in the morning.

Businesses don’t do enough scripting. Stop winging it and put into place the guidelines to make your business more professional and helpful to all stakeholders.

Goals, mission, physical health, development, coaching and scripting are all hallmarks of professional sports teams. They can be the same for your company.

Ken Keller is CEO of STAR Business Consulting Inc., a company that works with companies interested in growing top line revenue. He can be reached at Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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