(By Bob McCurdy) There are a lot of parallels between sales and sports and while this week’s national championship football game was one for the ages, the manner in which Alabama won might have even transcended the game itself. And I am not referring the final touchdown pass.
There were three developments in the second half, two off the field and one on, from which we could all learn.
While watching any game, I tend to focus on the sidelines to observe the interaction between players and coaches. Sideline dynamics are fascinating in that they shed considerable light on the relationship between player and coach, how each responds/handles adversity as well as the management/leadership style of the head coach, i.e. how he treats/interacts with his assistant coaches.
In Monday’s game, Alabama’s 19-year-old starting quarterback, Jalen Hurts, was benched in the second half for the first time in his career in front of 30 million viewers in the biggest game of his life. As commissioned salespeople we are keen competitors, so it’s easy to relate to the extreme disappointment likely experienced by this young man.
So how did this 19-year-old react? Like a poised champion. He was as engaged on the sidelines, enthusiastically rooting for his teammates as if he wasn’t just benched, but still playing. You can see his post-game interview here.
It actually brought a tear to my eye when he said, “I am a team player. I’m a leader, that’s what leaders do, they look out for the team.” When asked about the player who replaced him, he responded, “I was supportive, like he’s been to me all year. We have mutual respect for each other.” Prior to this locker room interview, he was seen on the field smiling, posing for pictures with kids and celebrating with his teammates. In fact, he was one of the first ones on the field celebrating when they had won.
Total class and pure character and grace on display by this 19-year-old in spite of just experiencing extreme disappointment. I was blown away by his attitude and character.
Takeaway: We all experience major disappointments. Management might not make the decision we were hoping for, we might not get the promotion we think we deserve or we might lose an account to a colleague. Ultimately, it is the manner in which we handle adversity and disappointment that defines us as individuals. An old coach used to say, “Reputation is what other people think you are. Character is who you really are.” The fact that this is a commission business should not prevent us from being selfless and supportive teammates, winning together and losing together.
This young man can be on my team any time.
Now for Tua Tagovailoa, the backup quarterback. He’s an inexperienced, seldom-used freshman. His coach unexpectedly thrusts him into the spotlight in a national championship game and he’s called on to save the day for Alabama. So what does he do? He single-handedly saves the day!
Peak performers are at their best when their best is needed and this young man was superior to the immense challenge he faced, in life-altering fashion.
Takeaway: There are things in business we can control and things we can’t, but we can control our attitude and our preparation, as this young player so ably demonstrated. Control these two things and the odds are you will achieve your life and professional goals. At his young age, it appears he understood that “success” is when proper preparation meets opportunity. His opportunity came Monday night and he is forever an Alabama legend. Good for him.
Finally, let’s focus on Nick Saban, the Alabama head coach. It’s half time and his team is getting dominated in the ultimate game. His starting quarterback is struggling and his backup quarterback is an untested freshman.
A tough predicament. So what does he do? He does what great leaders do. He looks reality in the eye, trusts his intuition and makes the difficult decision. He starts the inexperienced back-up quarterback in the second half and wins the national championship. Had he lost, he’d likely have been second-guessed by the media and Alabama fans for years to come. I doubt this fact entered his mind for even a second.
Takeaway: Coach Saban made the courageous decision, which is what great leaders do. He clearly understands that leadership is not a popularity contest, it is always doing what’s best for the entire team, which often means making the difficult decision, not the easy decision. You can hear Coach Saban talking about his decision here.
Who would have guessed that so many life lessons would be on display in just 30 minutes of a football game.
I learned from watching these two young men and their head coach Monday night. I will be a better professional as a result of it.
Bob McCurdy is The Vice President of Sales for the Beasley Media Group and can be reached at [email protected]