The New England Patriots just won the AFC Championship, earning a trip to their third straight Superbowl. As a Patriots fan, I’m thrilled. I know that many people don’t like the team, but there’s no denying that the Patriots have built a dynasty and are one of the most dominant teams in recent history (across any sport).
How do the Patriots keep achieving success? By implementing a system that creates winning teams. Every year there’s a different set of players, coaches, and schemes, but the team has embedded a consistent approach and culture through its longtime owner (Bob Kraft), head coach (Bill Belichick), and quarterback (Tom Brady). While there’s a ton of different things we can learn learn from the Patriots’ success, I’ve identified six key lessons that will be valuable for almost any organization…
Lesson #1: Build a cohesive team, don’t just rely on a few great players.
Over the course of a season, 60+ different players play in a game for an NFL team. Even if you have a few superstars doing great work, the team won’t succeed unless dozens of other players work in a highly coordinated fashion. The Patriots do a great job of recognizing that each player has the potential to help or hurt a team’s chances of winning, so they sign players who will fit in their overall system and train them on a variety of roles.
“There is an old saying about the strength of the wolf is the pack, and I think there is a lot of truth to that. On a football team, it’s not the strength of the individual players, but it is the strength of the unit and how they all function together.” – Bill Belichick
Lesson #2: Focus on your next step, not the vast future.
The Patriots are famous for saying that they’re focused on the next game, unwilling to spend too much time thinking about all of the future twists and turns that may happen in their season. This clear focus on what’s in front of them allows the team to hyper focus on preparing for the next opponent on the schedule.
“Every game is an important game for us. Doesn’t matter what’s the next week – who we play, whether it’s a bye week, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Halloween, Columbus Day. We don’t care. We’re just trying to go out there and win a game.” – Tom Brady
Lesson #3: Learn from the past, don’t dwell on it.
The Patriots don’t overly focus on previous games, whether it’s celebrating a win or lamenting a loss. They only look backwards for the purpose of identifying how they may be able to improve in the future.
“I don’t care about three years ago… I don’t care about two years ago. I don’t care about last year. The only things I care about is this week” – Tom Brady
Lesson #4: Constantly improve, instead of aiming for instant success.
I’m always amazed how the Patriots seem to play their best football at the end of the season. Early in this season I didn’t think the team was nearly good enough to go to the Superbowl, but the team has managed to play like the best team in football over the last two playoff games. I believe that this is a result of Belichick’s and Brady’s relentless focus on improvement.
“We’ll continue to work hard to do a better job in every area going forward. I don’t know where those little things will come from but we’ll continue to be diligent on them.” -Bill Belichick
“Things don’t correct themselves, you’ve got to go out there and work hard to correct them.” – Tom Brady
Lesson #5: Prepare to “do your job,” rather than talking about it.
The Patriots are known for the saying, “Do Your Job.” This is about making sure that the entire team understands the overall goals and each member recognizes their specific role in helping the team achieve them. Rather than engaging in too much dialogue with the press or making other public comments, the Patriots get ready to do their jobs. It’s powerful when every person in an organization focuses on being prepared, which only happens when they know that all of their their coaches and teammates are doing the same.
“Whatever success I’ve had it is because I’ve tried to understand the situation of the player. I think the coach’s duty is to avoid complicating matters.” -Bill Belichick
“Mentally, the only players who survive in the pros are the ones able to manage all their responsibilities.” -Tom Brady
Lesson #6: Look for talent, but hire for much more.
Tom Brady was selected 199th in the 2000 NFL draft, but has become one of the greatest football players of all time. There have been a lot of players who’ve had more raw talent than Brady, but his desire to win and work ethic has propelled him to the top. That’s why you need to look for employees who aren’t only talented, but they also have the character and motivation to learn, adapt, and succeed.
“Talent sets the floor, character sets the ceiling.” – Bill Belichick
“A lot of times I find that people who are blessed with the most talent don’t ever develop that attitude, and the ones who aren’t blessed in that way are the most competitive and have the biggest heart.” – Tom Brady
The bottom line: We can all learn from the Patriots winning ways.