Coaching in football and business pays off.

Do the Motivation Techniques of College Coaches Work for Business?

Leadership Employee Management

Borrowing motivation techniques from college football coaches can lead the way to success in your business. Here’s what the best of the best have to say.

The motivation techniques employed by college football coaches are often strikingly similar to the best practices of outstanding managers and business leaders. In each setting, the lead-up to a college bowl championship game or workplace preparations for a big initiative or sales presentation involve considerable preparation and nose-to-the-grindstone work. For both college football coaches and managers, getting the team fired up for the challenge ahead is essential for reaching the desired goal.

Here are some motivation techniques favored by college football coaches that can translate into your workplace and help you inspire your employees to give 100 percent.

Prepare Before the Big Game

In pre-season training and in the hours leading up to a big game, coaches get their players into the right mind-set for competition. They share research on the opposing team and their most effective game plan and line-up. Business owners should also share strategic information with their employees, including market and competitor research, key financial indicators and current (and anticipated) market conditions. Employees who are equipped with knowledge and prepared to take action will always win out over those who enter the fray without a plan or the right skills.

No one put it better than Paul “Bear” Bryant, the legendary head coach for Maryland, Kentucky, Texas A&M and Alabama: “It’s not the will to win that matters — everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.”

Share Your View of the “Big Picture”

Coaches often demand exhaustive training before a game, throwing in additional routines just to keep their players on their toes. It helps when players get a view of the big picture and why so many workout hours are required. “Its hard to go all out on that last 100-meter sprint if you don’t understand how that effort matters to your larger goal,” notes coach and startup investor Jordan Fliegel. The same holds true for your workforce. When people grasp how their particular job responsibilities support the company’s overall goals, they’re more motivated to act. “As a leader, your job is to communicate how individual performance impacts the overall bottom line,” Fliegel adds.

Show Passion to Inspire Passion

Think of the great college football coaches (Bryant, Joe Paterno, Nick Saban, Pete Carroll, Steve Spurrier, etc.). Each of these strong-willed individuals are (or were) deeply passionate about the game and, in their own unique way, demonstrated that passion both on the field and off. These coaches understand that their players are watching them all the time. Passion is infectious, both in a ball game and in a conference room. You can’t get employees fired up about their jobs if they don’t see your own passion for the business. Leading by example means taking part in the action and working every bit as hard as your hardest-working employee.

Be Honest, Even If the Truth Is Painful

Winning coaches know how to guide their players away from bad habits and wrong moves on the field. They communicate honestly in all their interactions, even when telling the truth may result in hurt feelings. In the long run, an atmosphere of honesty will inspire their players far more than an environment of evasion and misdirection. This is no less true in the world of business. Managers or owners who don’t acknowledge or confront an employee’s poor work habits or a series of preventable blunders aren’t doing anyone any favors. Honest, constructive criticism, delivered with respect, can lead to improved performance and a deeper commitment to staying with the company.

It’s difficult to imagine how any unmotivated team could achieve a winning season. “However talented team members are, they can get to the point of asking themselves, ‘Why bother’ if they don’t believe their performance matters,” says John Mattone, a top-ranked executive coach. On the other hand, with inspiring leadership, “Positive results can cascade throughout the organization,” Mattone adds.

Lee Polevoi
Lee Polevoi

Lee Polevoi is an award-winning business writer who specializes in the challenges and opportunities facing small businesses in the U.S.A former senior writer at Vistage International (a global membership organization of CEOs), Lee regularly contributes articles, white papers and blog posts to a variety of small business websites, including Paychex, Intuit Small Business, ADP, Hewlett Packard's™ The Pulse of IT, Catapult Groups, Avalara TrustFile and many others.