All it took was a 30-minute power outage to turn a pretty unimpressive game into one for the ages. The 2013 Super Bowl began to take on the look of a blowout as the Ravens racked up a commanding halftime lead. The commercials seemed a little less funny than in recent years, and the halftime performance was only slightly better than the 2011 Black Eyed Peas debacle. Then the power went out, and everything changed.
Why is it that a 30-minute reprieve from being demolished by Ray Lewis and company was all the San Francisco 49ers needed to change the tone of the game? A lot of the credit goes to coach Jim Harbaugh, who nearly pulled a rabbit out of the hat against his brother John.
The Harbaugh way of coaching is something that any business leader can learn from. There are five key tenets that drive success both on and off the field, and certainly transcend any organization:
1. Make decisions and take responsibility for those decisions. If a player commits, then he must follow through on that commitment. The same holds true for a manager or an employee. Let’s face it; we all make good and bad decisions. We benefit from the good and must learn from the bad. This approach makes us all stronger in the end.
2. Give credit to players in public, while dispensing criticism in private. This is equally important in the business world. It is important to acknowledge success and shine a light on accomplishments. The same is not so for criticism, which should not be levied in a public forum where it can be misunderstood, embarrassing and cause resentment. By turning criticism into a coachable moment, it offers those being coached a chance to excel in the long run.
3. Inspiring passion among players with the occasional sideline outburst. Passion is the key to success in anything we do. If one isn’t passionate about their vocation, they should find something they are passionate about. It is this passion that drives success, as this behavior becomes contagious throughout any organization.
4. Understanding the difference between leading and managing. A manager is simply doing a job; much like a babysitter. They aren’t truly leading. Managers get people do to something because the manager wants them to do it; leaders get people to do something because the people want to do it. The Harbaugh brothers have unique leadership skills in that they are leading teams comprised of players who want to succeed. This is a challenge in many organizations, particularly in claims organizations, where management is following the rigors of the status quo, rather than leading teams and fostering innovation.
5. Offering players a unified vision of goals and how to achieve those goals. The goal is more than just a championship. It is one of being a perennial winner, on and off the field. The same holds true in our organizations, where we want to be the best in the industry, but also away from the office where we can have successful marriages, happy families while also being spiritual and civic leaders.
Seeing Is Believing
Throughout the course of this past season, the Harbaugh way of coaching resulted in much success in both Baltimore and San Francisco. Against the odds, both teams made it to the big dance. There was little expectation that #4 seed Baltimore could get by both Denver and New England, on the road. Then there was San Francisco, who had benched starting quarterback Alex Smith mid-season in favor of the young Kyle Kaepernick with the uphill battle of beating Atlanta on the road to claim the NFC championship.
But this is the Harbaugh style where change and influence management made a believer out of players and fans alike. It is the ability to adapt to the situation and recognize that the status quo will not deliver success. It is this very lesson that separates the ordinary from extraordinary in the business world as well.
According to Bill Reckmeyer, a leadership professor at San Jose State University, “It is clear that his players have an awful lot of respect for him. If people are willing to run through a brick wall for you, [then] there is really good leadership going on. If not, you have bad morale and passive-aggressive behavior."
The respect for the Harbaugh brothers, in particular Jim, is that they are not afraid to make tough decisions even if those decisions may come under fire. True leaders recognize that all the weight is on their shoulders and that sometimes they simply have to make a decision and go with it.
Of course, as observers we can learn as well. We can take these key lessons into our own organizations and be the catalyst for success. We can think outside the box and recognize that the surest way to fail is to adhere to the status quo. By recognizing the evolving world around us and embracing new and innovative ideas, we can be the leaders that take our organizations to the top of our respective industries thus gaining a competitive advantage in an increasingly difficult marketplace.
Christopher Tidball is an executive claims consultant, speaker and author of multiple books, including "Re-Adjusted: 20 Essential Rules To Take Your Claims Organization From Ordinary To Extraordinary and Blocking & Tackling: The Playbook for the Winning Claims Organization." He is a claims veteran having held numerous adjusting, management and leadership positions with multiple top ten P&C insurers. To learn more, please visit www.christidball.com.