Organizations have been pouring in from all over the world
all week for this one event. This week alone will bring in over $1 billion for the city of Atlanta.
Football isn’t just a game; football is an enterprise.
But it got me thinking—what else sets football apart from
other major team sports?
Only in football does the team meet every 40 seconds to plot
their next attack. They gather to check the game plan. In a few, brief seconds,
players look each other in the eye and their leader, the quarterback, takes
signals from the sideline and provides instructions so they can execute the
plan together. This is the huddle.
In a huddle there’s no time for conversation, deep
reflection or discussion. It is time to devise a strategy, get to the line,
make a read, alter the play and then execute.
Sounds a lot like business doesn’t it?
In fact, many businesses have adopted the concept of the
huddle. Business consultant, Donavan Roberson, wrote in his blog, “The huddle
is a key element…that speaks to the importance of the team by communicating
vision, providing clarity and demonstrating unity.”
So let’s talk about huddles in the business world. I don’t
mean large team meetings over a period of time spent recreating the business’
marketing strategy. I’m talking about peer-to-peer discussions, usually no more
than 15 to 30 minutes daily or weekly. Supervisors participate, but don’t run
the show—these huddles are designed to support a self-directing,
These huddles will look different based on team and
department. But no matter what type of huddle, it serves several purposes:
1. To establish teamwork.
When you’re in a huddle you’re a part of the team. First and
foremost, the huddle provides direct, personal, eye-to-eye contact. It is a
simple, yet powerful way to unite a group of people.
At a growing company, huddles are an effective way for
people to get to know each other better. The team will come to feel that they
have support from their colleagues and a place to take their concerns.
2. To take action.
The only reason for a huddle is to take action. Huddles are
useless if not acted upon. John Maxwell often says, “We aren’t getting together
to get together.” Well done is better than well said!
At the end of a huddle, action items are identified and
delegated. Each person on the team should leave knowing his or her role and how
to follow through with it.
3. To reinforce commitment.
The huddle can be used as a place to affirm and celebrate
team members. At one retail store group I visited, team leaders give a
shout-out to any teammate who gets a heartfelt thank you from a customer by
ringing a bell.
There’s a direct link between employee satisfaction and
customer loyalty. Employees become advocates only when they feel that they have
the autonomy to learn and grow and that their company really cares about their
perspective as well as the customers. A huddle reinforces that commitment.
4. Giving and receiving help.
Huddles help team members to work together rather than
separately. People talk about issues that they have been struggling with and
compare notes about possible solutions. They commit to making improvements and
holding each other accountable for taking action.
Much like calling an audible in a football game, team
members can make adjustments in a huddle. I’ve seen it many times in my own
team—someone came in with a fresh perspective that changed the original game
plan. But because we came together in the huddle, everyone walked away with a
clear understanding of the new plan.
5. To escalate broader issues.
It is important for any team to be able to prepare for what
is ahead and make adjustments accordingly. John Maxwell wisely says, “We are
either preparing or repairing.”
Huddles give teams a chance to identify issues that require
attention of another function or level of the organization. The supervisor’s
job isn’t to defend the policy, it is to channel concerns and suggestions like
these to the leaders who can make the necessary decisions.
New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady is a master at
reading the defense and changing the play before the opponent can adjust. But
it wasn’t until I really began to study the team’s system that I understood how
they do this so effectively.
In the huddle, Tom Brady delivers 2 or 3 options to the team
before they go to the line of scrimmage. That way the team is prepared to
respond if the play needs to be changed. And time and time again, they’ve found
success because of the clarity that was established in the huddle.
Successful huddles require practice and experience. But when
done effectively, the huddle is a powerful tool for any team.
Will you take the huddle concept and apply it to your family, work or team? If you do, I believe you will see great success on the scoreboard as well!
John Maxwell Leadership Podcast