Are there similarities between a career in IT and playing for the National Football League?

American football coach Pete Carroll has won both professional and collegiate championships. In his book Win Forever: Live, Work, and Play Like a Champion, Coach Carroll writes about his directives known as the Three Rules. They are:

  • Always Protect the Team
  • No Whining, No Complaining, No Excuses
  • Be Early

These three rules are part of the foundation of Coach Carroll’s winning strategy for his football teams and I think they’re also at the foundation of successful teams in IT. For that matter, they’re at the foundation of successful teambuilding in all aspects of business, education, government, non-profits, and nearly any other part of life.

Here’s how Coach Carroll’s three rules apply to us in information systems and technology:

Always Protect the Team

Always protect the team means always looking out for your team members. Mentor new team members while also listening to new team members to get new ideas and new ways of looking at things. Lend a hand to team members who are struggling. Look for ways to make everyone’s experience better. Maintain high standards of personal behavior both at work and in your personal life. Paraphrasing Coach Carroll here: Seek outcomes that will protect and enhance your family, your teammates, and your organization.

No Whining, No Complaining, No Excuses

No whining, no complaining, no excuses means always speaking well of your colleagues and the entire team. Of course, there may be problems and the way to deal with them is to go right to the person who can do something about the problem, instead of whining and complaining so everyone around you can feel bad. Of course, this means if you’re a manager, you must be open and approachable so your team members will feel free to bring problems to your attention. It also means, when you as a team member, bring a problem to your manager, try to also bring a possible solution. The third part of this rule is no excuses. That means avoid the trap of finding reasons why you can’t do something and instead look for how you might be able to do whatever it is. I’ve certainly fallen into the excuse trap and I’ve noticed that it never has led me to success. It’s only when I re-frame my point of view to look for possibilities within myself instead of focusing on external roadblocks that I’m able to succeed. Frankly, this rule is about being the person who brightens the room when you arrive, not the person who brightens it when you leave!

Be Early

Rule number three is simple, be early. This is about being well-organized and respectful to your colleagues. When my sons were young, they had a football coach who told them, “If you’re not fifteen minutes early, you’re late.” This means, if a meeting is scheduled to start at 9:00, everyone is in the room, settled in, and ready for the meeting to start at 9:00. I’ve noticed in some of my workshops and seminars that some people are there early, while others saunter in at the last minute, or even after the meeting starts. That’s simply rude. When we’re late, we’re saying the appointment or meeting isn’t as important as what we were doing. If you’ve ever said, “Sorry I’m late. The traffic was terrible.”, “Sorry I’m late. The dog escaped as I was leaving.”, “Sorry I’m late. The drawbridge was up.”, or any of a multitude of other excuses, the reality is you weren’t late because the traffic was bad, the dog escaped, or the drawbridge was up. You were late because you didn’t leave early enough.

Make a Personal Commitment

When we make a personal commitment to apply Coach Carroll’s three simple rules to our everyday behavior, we’re setting a standard for everyone else to follow. We’re making a personal commitment to rise above the ordinary. Small minded people will always find reasons not to follow them. The amazing thing to me is that these three teambuilding rules are easy to follow: Always protect the team, no whining, no excuses, and no complaining, and be early. Three simple rules for winning at work, in your personal life, and in everything we do.

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