Why the Detroit Lions Don’t Win

     I am not a sports fan but happened to be watching the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day.  My son John, who is a sports fan, was watching with me.  I asked him:  “Why is it that the Pistons win, the Redwings win, and the Tigers can win, but the Lions never win?”

      The response he gave was one I could be thankful for.  He is a finance guy, and the issue, he said, really boiled down to money.  The owners simply don’t pay to get the talent they need.  For sure, they have one or two outstanding players, but they need a team of outstanding players.  That they don’t have. 

            Whether this is correct or not, I don’t know; but what I do know is the principle I got from that brief discussion: If you want to be a winning team, you’ve got to have a winning team. Put another way, if you want to win you must have a team of winners.  Not just one or two.  Not half the team – the whole team.

            This point was brought out by Jim Collins in his best-selling book, Good to Great.  His analysis of great companies – winning companies – was that they had the right people ‘on the bus.’  In fact, he said that before you do anything else, you’ve got to have the right people in the right place on the bus.  In other words, you’ve got to have a bus full of winners.

            Most small business owners are a work in progress.  I don’t know of any who want to lose.  At the same time, there are certain things the entrepreneur must do in order to develop a winning team. 

            First, you’ve got to have the right attitude.  Arguably, the ownership and management of the Detroit Lions don’t care whether they win or not.  This may be debatable, but its truth is apparent in that they rarely ever win.  Compare that with other franchises whose sole aim is the Super Bowl – every year!  The point is, you’ve got to want to win; losing is simply not an option.

            Second, you must act. The desire to succeed is one thing; doing what is necessary is another.  Developing a team of winners may require that you make some hard choices. Decisions such as rates of pay and benefits, training, providing proper resources, plus trimming non-productive people all play into the process of building a group of men and women who can make it in the marketplace.

            Third, there needs to be a culture of winning.  No one likes to lose, and few like to play on losing teams.  In this culture of winning, everything in the organization is geared toward ending the game with the highest score.  Every policy, every program, every tool, every role, every keystroke of the computer, all is designed to play its strategic part in coming out on top. 

            Somehow I don’t think the Detroit Lions have got hold of these basic truths. If they did, imagine the excitement their long-discouraged fans would exhibit.  Imagine the excitement of winning virtually every single time.  Wow!


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January 2010

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