Let's not forget that calling the play was no split second decision for Payton. It came at the second half kickoff, following a break in the action of around 45 minutes—ample time to quail in the face of pressure. While the rest of the country was watching the Who play their greatest hits medley, Sam Payton was wrestling with whether or not to follow the status quo or his own instincts. At stake: his reputation and his team's chances of staging a comeback. Under similar circumstances, maybe 99 percent of coaches would have opted for a safer kick-off—a decision no one could possibly blame you for. The decision not to listen to the voices—whether inner or those of colleagues expressing doubt—advocating for the easy, trusted path was what allowed everything else to follow. While typical stakes in business tend not to be as high—or as visibly deconstructed—being fully committed to your own decisions is the only way to get members of your team to believe in them enough to execute them effectively.
Watching a replay of the events from last night, it's clear that every single member of the Saints team that took the field for the second half knew exactly what their given role at that moment was. How many of us can raise a hand and say that of people in our own organizations—or even of ourselves, at times? Effective communication is the key to letting people know exactly what is expected of them. If they see confusion and indecision, that will be magnified throughout an organization. If, however, an organization's goals are communicated clearly and effectively, the chances of them being executed are significantly higher.
Long-term results are everything
Had the onside kick turned out successfully but the Saints gone on to lose, the chances are that it would already have been forgotten; no-one much cares about the single successful decision in a losing campaign. As such, Payton's half-time decision is only important in terms of the wider narrative. While there's no such thing as a Super Bowl for business, the wider narrative at stake for most of us is the ongoing success and health of our companies.
Making one good decision and resting on your laurels isn't going to help anyone.
Making a good decision and following up with consistent execution of everything else that you do well, however—the pattern the Saints followed last night—is the stuff great teams, and companies, are made of.
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Phil Stott is a staff writer at Vault.com in New York. Originally from Scotland, he has also lived and worked in Japan, South Korea and Eastern Europe. He holds an MA in English Literature and Modern History, and a Masters in Research in Civil Engineering, both from the University of Dundee.
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