What We All Should Learn About Bench-Building from the New England Patriots
“Resiliency.” Merriam-Webster defines resiliency as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. The ability to bounce back from adversity or uncomfortable change, to thrive under pressure.
Resiliency is the ability to overcome challenges of all kinds and not only bounce back, but bounce back stronger. Successful organizations build resiliency into their culture, their strategy and their day-to-day business practices.
When I think about resilient organizations, no better example than the New England Patriots comes to mind. What we all saw the Patriots do in the last 20 minutes of Super Bowl LI was plain and simple resiliency. No team in Super Bowl history had ever come back from more than a 10 point deficit.
At half-time, the score was 21-3 in favor of the Atlanta Falcons. To most of us, this meant “game over,” but not for the Patriots. They emerged after half-time with an extraordinary display of team confidence and excellence in execution.
This is not the first time the Patriots had to rely on resiliency and a strong bench to overcome adversity. Brady was the NFL MVP in 2007. In the first game of 2008, he went down and did not get up. It didn’t look good and turned out that Brady would miss the entire 2008 season with a knee injury.
The Patriots turned to inexperienced backup quarterback Matt Cassel, who led the team to a win in Week 2 against the NY Jets. Cassel had not started a game in the pros or even in college. In fact, he hadn’t started a game in nearly a decade.
Many doubted the call by Coach Bill Belichick to choose an untested player, but Belichick liked Cassel’s work ethic and drive to win. His instincts paid off. Cassel finished the season with Brady-like stats.
In 2008 and again in 2016, the Patriots lost the only player they could not afford to lose, Tom Brady — or so everyone thought. In both situations, the team had an entire season ahead of them. They didn’t have time to dwell on misfortune. They rallied together and made the best of it. Belichick had built a strong and deep bench.
Building a bench starts with selection. In the parking industry, so often I hear that any candidate we consider must have parking experience. Why? Choosing players with strong leadership skills and “culture fit” are the name of the game. Lack of industry experience should not be a deal breaker. Allow only those who share the company’s core values to join your team. You can teach them the industry.
Coach Belichick has a rigorous selection process for the Patriots. He often passes on what is considered a star player in favor of fit with the Patriots’ culture. His approach to hiring revolves around maintaining a strong “team first” culture. The philosophy is that “fit trumps talent” for every position.
When the rules apply to everyone, it creates a culture where people want to stay on your team.
This process screens out misfits, and Belichick finds like-minded players who share core values and work well together as a team. He always passes on athletes who grandstand and don’t put the team first. He values team chemistry over individual talent, and holds accountability as a top priority.
Bench-building is also about evaluating your organizational risk and being proactive in finding “backfills” for those who are likely to leave you. It’s about not relying on superstars to rise to the occasion every time the organization faces adversity. This approach will eventually result in failure. The best people will burn out, feel taken advantage of, or, worse, think they are irreplaceable.
Those who think they are irreplaceable often feel that the rules don’t apply to them. This always spells trouble for team morale.
Resilient organizations create a culture of accountability. That means having high expectations for all of your players, including the superstars.
In 2015, when Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler missed practice because his flight was delayed, Belichick benched him for three weeks.
In 2014, Jonas Gray, following a 201-yard, four-touchdown performance that earned him a Sports Illustrated cover, found out the hard way that Belichick’s late rule applied to everyone. Gray missed practice because he had overslept, blaming it on a dead cellphone battery. He was benched for the game for being late to practice.
When the rules apply to everyone, it creates a culture where people want to stay on your team. Where everyone pulls their weight because no one is allowed to get away with not following the rules.
It’s up to each of us to build a company culture that can sustain challenges and flourish into the future. We are only as good as our weakest player. We must have a flexible approach to bench-building.
Ask yourself – who are your star players? What would happen if they left you tomorrow? Would your company go into a tailspin? Do you have a backup? What about a backup to your backup?
Having a deep and sustainable bench is one of the reasons that the Patriots have headed to the Super Bowl an unprecedented six times in 14 years, and it will also determine your company’s viability in this culture of rapidly accelerating change and fierce competition.
Tracy Kalteux, Senior Vice President of Citizen’s Lanier, oversees the HR Departments at Lanier Parking, AmeriPark and Park One. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.