What You Can Learn from NFL Coaches to Get to the Superbowl in Your Career

This week I am happy to share this blog space with Gretchen Holcomb. Gretchen is spending a few months fine-tuning some things in our organization before going off to Spain for a year to teach English as a second language. I hope you enjoy her perspective on coaching and leadership.


February is an exciting month for football fans across the nation as we come to the pinnacle of the NFL season, the Superbowl.

This Sunday night, the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers will face off to determine who will be the Superbowl 50 Champion!

Although it is an exciting time for the players on the field, I can't help but think what it must be like for the coaches who saw the big picture, planned the strategy that got them this far, and wonder how they might be handling the pressure. Whether or not you are fan of either of these teams, I believe we can learn a lot from coaches Ron Rivera and Gary Kubiak that we can apply to our own playing field.

They Know Who they Are

Rivera and Kubiak lead with their strengths, because they know what their strengths are. They've identified their values and implemented them on and off the field. They leverage their self-awareness in order to lead their team and care for themselves. By understanding what they need to do in order to handle stress and pressure, they are able to manage and channel them so that their performance does not suffer.

Knowing themselves gives them the endurance to perform well throughout the entire season. In fact, in Rivera's bio on the Panthers' website, he recognizes the influence of his family background as a part of who he is: “Coming from a military background, there's a lot of discipline, a lot of structure. That's how I feel when I coach.”

What About You?

Do you know your strengths and weaknesses?

Are you extroverted or introverted? How do you manage stress when under pressure? Do you handle work conflicts differently than conflicts at home? If you are interested in learning more about yourself, check out last Monday's blog when we discuss the latest personality assessment and how you can take it.

They Know Their Game

This may seem like an obvious point. If Rivera and Kubiak are football coaches, then they better know the game. They have to know the game so well, in fact, that they are able to create strategies, teach their players, and make quick judgment calls in the midst of all the action. Both coaches have years of experience as successful players. Most likely, they mastered their game as players and enjoyed leading their teammates, which led them to coach. However, coaching is different than playing. To do this well, they had to pay attention to all the ins and outs of the game; not just what the quarterback is supposed to do, or the basic rules. It takes time to study, observe, and listen. Most importantly it takes having a great coach to become a great coach, just like these head coaches had when they were once players. In fact, I would bet they still have coaches or advisers helping them in their current position.

What about You?

What's your “game” and how well do you know it?

How has it changed in the last 10 years, and how could it change in the next five? What do you need to study to make your game your expertise? When you look around, what do you observe on the field and in the game? Who do you need to listen to? Who can coach you?

They know Their Plan and Work It

Only when these coaches know themselves, the game, and their team are they ready to get to work. It is up to the coaches to communicate their plan, prepare the players, and motivate the team. You see, the players are their resources, and it is the responsibility of the coach to help them get into game-ready shape, building them physically and mentally so they are able to perform in such a way that carries out the plan and strategy the coaches have devised. Yes, it's important for them to be in physical shape to play each game, but what is going to motivate the players to stay engaged for the entire season? The end goal is to win the Superbowl, but why does that really matter? It is up to the coaches to communicate this "why", and to communicate it often, so that the players stay focused and on track.

What about You?

What is the goal of what you want to accomplish and why? What resources are available to and how are you shaping them so they work to your advantage?

They Celebrate

We know what this looks like: balloons, streamers, fireworks, and someone announcing that they are going to Disney World! What would it look like if after the Superbowl these celebrations didn't happen? What if the players just walked off the field, cleaned out their lockers, and went home?

That wouldn't feel very good to the players, coaches, or the fans. They should feel excited, proud, and motivated by their accomplishments! The celebration is important, even when reaching milestones.

On the Denver Bronco's website a few weeks ago I saw that they hosted a Playoffs Rally to celebrate their step toward the Superbowl with their fans. I can only imagine how exciting and motivating that is for the players. Just a little taste of victory encourages you to press forward towards the ultimate victory.

What about You?

Where are the milestones in your plan? How will you celebrate when you reach those milestones in such a way that it pushes you closer to your end goal? What will it look like for you to celebrate your end goal? Plan those celebrations now to keep you motivated and in the game.


Consider taking a personality assessment like Strengths Finder, MBTI, EQi 2.0, or Pearman Personality Integrator. If you are not sure where to start, contact me and we can help you decide which assessment would be best for you.

Identify one way to learn your game. Is there a new book in your field you could read? Is there an expert in your field you could talk to? Even better, could you listen to your followers or clients, gather data about their observations, and learn from them?

Write out your plans for this month. Be sure to include how you will celebrate when you accomplish your goals. Finally, decide what action step you will take this week and tell us that step in the comments below.