Risks Aren’t Risky If You’re Prepared

Risks Aren’t Risky If You’re Prepared

While the New Orleans Saints failed in making it to the Superbowl this year I was impressed by their coach, Sean Payton, and his aggressive mindset in the game against Philadelphia where they were behind.  His decisions gave them a victory and got them to the Conference Championship game.

As a small business we are often in a similar position when we have good plans and work hard, but don’t get the results we expect.  When your team finds the moment slipping away, when all of the energy is flowing against you, and it feels like the day just isn’t going to be yours, how do you change momentum?

Do you call someone from your networking group? Follow conventional wisdom? Circle the wagons and declare that you’ll live to fight again another day?  Or do you do what Sean Payton did?

His team was behind by 14 points…deep in their own territory at the 30-yard line.  It was 4th down and he called for a fake punt—which could be a catastrophe if it failed as the other team could easily score from there and the game would effectively be over.  Why did Sean Payton take this risk?  Because his punter, Thomas Morestead suggested it.  He approached Coach Payton on the sideline and said, “I think we need to run the fake.”

At that moment, Sean Payton gambled on his punter’s instinct.  He might have been thinking of it as a possibility anyway, but at that moment he made the decision. Taysom Hill, the ‘up back’ called for the fake and ran for a first down, they scored at the end of that possession, the momentum changed and they won the game.

What can we learn from this?  How can we use this in our own organizations?   Here are three things I felt were important to learn from Sean Payton’s example.

1.  Be Prepared.

An old Boy Scout motto, but important for any situation we could be in for our business.  By practicing the fake punt over and over again, Payton ensured that his team was not only prepared to execute it well but prepared to execute it in the biggest moment of their season. Too often, teams don’t prepare for big moments and when those moments come, those teams fail to take advantage of them. John Wooden once said, “When opportunity comes, it’s too late to prepare.”

2.  Listen!

Great ideas can come from anywhere…and a lot of great decision aren’t top down, they come from every part of an organization and leaders need to seek out the experience and wisdom of their team members. When the people who are putting in the work are confident in their ability to execute, a wise leader pays attention and leans into that confidence.

Payton listened to the players on his team because he trusted their judgment. “It was a gutsy call, for sure,” Taysom Hill said. “That’s coach Payton. That’s become the norm with him—I think he just has such a good feel for what we need as a team and has a lot of trust in us and the preparation.”

3.  Make the Decision and Be Committed.

In his book Traction—Get a Grip on Your Business, Gino Wickman has a Chapter called Issues where he  lists 10 commandments for dealing with all of the challenges we face.  His last two commandments can help us work through challenges we face and I recommend them as a guide. Commandment 9 and 10 state… Thou Shalt Enter the Danger – deal first with the issue you fear most; Thou Shalt Take a Shot – suggest something, try something, do something, even it is wrong.  Sean Payton was a good example of these two commandments as he entered the danger zone and tried something.

As we begin this new year, let’s resolve to take the risks we need to drive success in our organization.  Let’s be prepared to try different solutions with preparation and informed optimism, not blind faith.  Take time to listen to those inside and outside of your team and find those grains of wisdom that can help you with your decisions.  Finally, just decide, take a shot and we each will learn more that can help us with our next decisions.  Thank you for your impact in our business and good luck this coming year and accomplishing your goals.