September 29, 2017
Enterprise Program Leadership

You Don’t Win Games with Good Play Calling

With football season upon us, it seems like every time I turn on the TV, a coach or ESPN analyst is talking about strategy for this season or the next big game. Similarly, in the business world, one often hears executives speak about growth, strategy and innovation and how these will play a huge part in their company’s future success. Although important, companies often fail to recognize the underlying reason why many of these strategies fail in the long term.

So, why do many businesses and athletic teams fail to create lasting success? Is it due to poor strategies? Often, the answer is no. Many strategies succeed to some degree, but what is it about businesses and teams that succeed in the short term, but fail to achieve consistent success over the long term? It comes down to one word: culture.

No matter the product or service provided, the value proposition, or how much time a coach puts into film study, these inputs matter very little in the long run compared to building and sustaining a rock-solid culture. If companies fail to focus on their own people, then they will see that those who create these innovative strategies or make the game winning catch will struggle to continuously fuel the passion that drives them. So, how does a coach ensure that this never happens to their program?

Coach’s Meeting

Step One: Executive Sponsorship. As a leader of an organization, it is up to the “Head Coach” to set the stage for the company’s culture. Employees must hear from all levels of management that culture is of the utmost importance. Coaches must ensure that employees understand that without their hard work, dedication, and creativity, the company cannot grow and prosper. This is a message that must be communicated frequently. Players must know that winning is not the only thing about which their coaches care, but also why they play and how they practice in between games. It is also critical that coaches truly care about their players as individuals. At Kenway, you will often hear us speak about our why and that the means are more important than the outcomes. As a company, it has been defined from the top down that we focus on the means and not the outcomes. This executive mandate and the frequency with which it is communicated has empowered our consultants to focus on the means and do right by our clients regardless of the outcome.

Team Meeting

Step Two: Define the Culture. Now that everybody understands the importance of culture, the next step is to establish the culture of the company. This step is easier said than done, and ensuring that employees have a say in this is extremely important. This can be done in many ways. At Kenway, our CEO defined our company “why”; to help and be helped. Through many communication channels and venues, employees share personal stories of how Kenway’s why manifests in their daily lives. In 2015, we defined a vision for our future during a company meeting that we call the Kenway 20/20. All Kenway employees went through a process of writing down the attributes of the company for which they wanted to work and what Kenway Consulting would look like in 2020. Our employees defined and continue to shape our vision for the future, which creates an environment where culture is not something about which we just speak, but it’s personal and important to all of us.

Get to Know Your Players

Step Three (and the most important): Build Relationships. The fact is we spend most of our waking hours with our colleagues. If these aren’t people with whom you have a relationship based on trust and mutual respect, then steps one and two will be much more difficult. Thinking in terms of college athletics, most fans focus on the benefits that players receive and forget that playing sports in college also means a great deal of sacrifice. Think early morning workouts, hours of film study, practice, etc. Can you imagine spending hours and hours every day with teammates and coaches with whom you do not have a trusting relationship? The fact is that when the lights go down at the stadium and thousands of fans are no longer cheering, the people (teammates and coaches) who have helped you along the way are all that is left.

You don’t win games with good play calling! X’s and O’s are not as important as the players and coaches that create and execute them. If companies focus on three simple steps (executive sponsorship, define the culture, and build meaningful relationships), then strategies will succeed and endure in the long term. Simply put, at the end of the day, it’s the people and their trust in one another that win the game.

If you’re interested in learning more about Kenway’s Organizational Empowerment service and how we could help your company create lasting success, then email us at

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