Dressed in a suit and tie, not his usual gray hoodie, Belichick joked that he had to show an introductory video so people would know who he is, which got laughs from the attendees.
“In business things change quickly -- in your profession and in ours,” said Belichick. “There are always new people and new environments.” He connected with the audience, adding that it is a big part of his job, as it is a big part of any business leader’s job.
Each teammate’s has to do their part, Belichick emphasizes to each player and each coach, “We need to all do our job.” For the Patriots this means four things: being prepared, working hard, paying attention to the details and putting the team first.
There is a mix of compatibility and partnership, similar to any business, he said.
Belichick believes preparation is so important, referencing Sun Tzu’s famous quote, “Every battle is won before it is ever fought.” He noted it is on one of the few signs they have hanging in the locker room.
Belichick asked the attendees, ‘How do you know when your team is prepared?’ He admitted, “There just isn’t enough time to tell everyone what to do. When everyone knows what to do, that’s when you know you are prepared. In business, it is really the same thing."
"We only play once a week, not like baseball or basketball, he said. "We have to improve and prepare in all those practice sessions.”
Belichick told the crowd they have to prepare too, in order to be successful in the business world.
In showing some plays on the big screen to the crowd, he gave an example of how some things go as planned and some things do not. Belichick said, “Practice preparation becomes game reality. If it worked in practice, then it has a chance to work in the game.”
He showed a film of practices where his team was working on goal-line stands and then how it paid off in a game later in the year. He shared, “Having the ball on the one-yard line maybe only happens 15 times a year. When it comes up, it can be the biggest play of the game. It doesn’t happen that often, but you need to prepare for it.”
Is talent the most important aspect?
When it comes to the NFL, Belichick said, “There are hundreds of others that might even have more talent. It is not all about talent. There is certainly a level playing field.”
He explained there really are only small, marginal differences from the great players and good players. Players need to work hard and take advantage of opportunities. He reiterated, “It is all part of the preparation.”
Belichick insisted, “To improve, you need to be a great listener. Players will level off, if they stop listening.” They always need to be listening to instructions for ways to do it better, so they can continue to learn.
“In football, we have to have teamwork,” said Belichick. “It’s not like individual sports like golf and tennis.” He gave interesting statistics in recent years where the MVP was usually not on the championship team. Evidence that teamwork trumps talent.
He gave an example of two players who have overcome talent short falls, but are very successful: Tom Brady, his Hall of Fame quarterback, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who just ran for 1,000 yards with the Patriots. Belichick explained, “They still have short comings, but they play to their strengths. Their deficiencies don’t get spotlighted.”
Great players can understand their own weaknesses and play to them, he said.
“There are certain team jobs that everyone has to do," he added. In football, it's things like conditioning, blocking and tackling. In business it is very similar with certain standards that everyone has to achieve.
“We have a minimum standard of performance,” Belichick said. “There are certain things, if we don’t do them, we can’t beat anyone at any level.” He gave examples about a bad snap to a quarterback not being acceptable. He also talked about jumping offside on defense, giving the offense a free play and penalty yards. Belichick stated, “If we drop to a low level, there is going to be a price to pay.”
Earlier in Belichick’s career, he admitted, “I would yell at the player, take ‘em out of the play, throw this or that.” Then in practice he came up with a new strategy. When a player jumps offside, the whole team has to run around the field. Belichick said, “I let the team take care of it."
Belichick thinks, “In business, everyone can have a great quarter. The real measure is if you can do it year in and year out.” It is about dependability and consistency and that is what the Patriots try to do.
Belichick noted that he has had the privilege to coach some great leaders. He highlighted wide receiver Troy Brown as one of the best leaders because he was a player that was dependable and versatile, one that would play any role Belichick said of Brown, “He was very quiet. He never said a word. He never held a team meeting.” Yet, he said, Brown was a leader by example.
Teddy Bruschi was also noted as a fantastic leader. Belichick said, “Every time he stepped on the field his energy was at an all-time level.” Lastly, Belichick shared that Rodney Harrison was another strong leader worth pointing out.
Belichick sees consistent things in great leaders he has coached. He said, “Every leader has to do his job, so we can depend on [them]. Secondly, put the team first.” He believes they should think, ‘What does the team want me to do? Then that is what I want to do.’
“The best leaders have never talked about leadership,” said Belichick. It comes from team attitudes and performance. Of course, it is also about being themselves.
Belichick shared some advice he got from his friend, Jack Welch, saying, ‘You have been elected, you are already in the position. Don’t worry about the popularity of it. Do the best thing for the team.’
Belichick told a story about when it might be hard to do the right thing. In his second year with New England, he made the hard choice to suspend Terry Glenn, the best receiver on the team, for the rest of the year.
Belichick said, “Many thought we couldn’t win without him. I told the team, ‘Look, I am the head coach and I made the decision based on what I thought was in the best interest of the team. It is my job to make this decision and I have made it. You shouldn’t talk about it, as it was my decision (not yours).’” He said he had players come up to him later and say that they really appreciated that he told them how to handle it, even if they agreed or disagreed with the decision.
Belichick admitted that we have all been through tough seasons, referencing the rough financial times of recent years. It is in these tough times that lessons can be learned. Belichick shared, “The bad news, you are in a bad situation. The good news is that you have an opportunity to evaluate your team. It gives you a much clearer picture of what you have to work with.”
“It basically comes down to doing what is best for the team when things aren’t going well for you,” said Belichick. “It is easy when everyone is winning.” He shared when the team is not winning is the best time to see the real team players come out. Belichick added, “That involves a lot of mental toughness.”
During these tough times, Belichick advised, “Tell them what you want and the boundaries you have. I am not saying everyone has to be robot. I want them to be themselves within a framework.”
Belichick shared a technique he uses, letting his team captains convey the message. He said, “Let them feel like they are setting sails. That’s an effective way to communicate with a larger group, through a smaller sub group.”
Belichick shared that he learned two big lessons from his earlier days of coaching in Cleveland, saying, “Delegate better. Try not to be as hands on.” Something he admitted was hard for him as he is such a details person. Secondly, he said, “I understand better now what goes on off the field. There are other things that lead up to the game that are important.”
Belichick described his locker room, saying, “It is about the people in that building. Every picture is of a player on the current team. We have pictures just from winning games. It is a picture of guys celebrating. Or it’s a picture of a teamwork play.” All visuals of what the team did well, helping them celebrate the wins.
When asked about the best play he ever saw, Belichick took some time to think about it and shared that it was Adam Vinatieri’s extremely difficult kick in the snowy playoff game against Oakland. He said, “It was an incredible play,” with a big smile, as you could see he was proudly reliving the moment.
Belichick admitted they have one sign hanging that goes a bit against this team concept which says, “There is no ‘I’ in ‘team.’ But there is an ‘I’ in ‘win.’” He explained, “For the team to win, individuals have to perform. Trying to merge those two together can be a challenge.”
Is there a single characteristic that Belichick looks for in a top notch player? Yes. Belichick said, “All great players have one good thing in common – they all have competitiveness. They are competitive internally to reach their best. They have the will and drive, no matter the obstacles in front of them.”
Clearly a reason Coach Bill Belichick is so great at what he does, is that he loves what he does. For example, he shared he looks at punts when he wakes up at 5 a.m. Belichick openly shared, “I know it is a little screwed up. I don’t feel like I am working. If you are doing something you love, you will be motivated to do it even when the conditions are not great.”
Belichick told the story of the pregame introductions that took place before his first Super Bowl win and later showed the video of the entrance. He said how the TV executives told him that there was 1 minute and 40 seconds to introduce the offense and then the same for the defense, but he told them the team was so unselfish they would not want the individual acknowledgements.
Even though, as a kid, it was probably their lifelong dream to have their names called out as they ran out of the tunnel. Belichick said, “They just wanted the team to win.” As a result, one of the most unified teams ever, accomplished one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history.
All valuable lessons from one of the most successful coaches in NFL history. The lessons were not just for a football team, but for any business that wants to win.
Mike Byrnes founded Byrnes Consulting to provide consulting services to help advisors become even more successful. His expertise is in business planning, marketing strategy, business development, client service and management effectiveness, along with several other areas. Read more at http://www.byrnesconsulting.com/.