Symbols to Inspire Excellence

This weekend, each of the 32 NFL teams are set to launch, in the context of business, a new initiative to be #1 in their “industry” through marketplace domination. Each organization has a CEO ( owner ), COO ( head coach ) and employees ( players ). Each is a for-profit business. Like business and industry we know that consistent high performance over time goes to the best organization in terms of leadership. I think sports can provide clues about how we can think about symbols to inspire excellence in business.
My observation about professional sports is that the key ingredient to success extends beyond X’s and O’s ( aka executive plans and strategies ).  Analysts talk of locker room chemistry as the key ingredient for on-the-field success.  Championship teams have cultures that are excellence driven.
They have seasoned employees (players) who lead in the locker room and on the 100-yard stage.
My hunch is that the best organizations ( teams ) do well at keeping the vision visible to all performers. Game films serve as weekly performance reviews, while keeping a weekly focus on excellence as the path to achieving their championship vision.
In sports, one given motivator for players is applause … the roar of the crowd. Home field advantage comes from the energy of fan approval and devotion! Customer satisfaction would ( should ) the business equivalent, for sure. But auditory applause exists only in the moment of a successful play ( project stage completion ) or game ( contract ) won.  Less valued in business is the practice of crafting symbols of success prior to actual achievement.  For the NFL, a compelling visual symbol is the elegant profile and image of the Vince Lombardi Super Bowl trophy.  lombardyDesigned by Tiffany & Co., the sterling silver award is the most recognized symbol of greatness in sports today.  The single trophy is a testament to the collective contributions of coaches, players and staff … on and off the field.   Once won, that prize is likely displayed in the team’s hall of honor. 4-trophies-4-super-bowlAnother important symbol of excellence for each individual in the organization are the Super Bowl championship rings.150122162706-33-super-bowl-rings-0122-super-169
So … what about symbols of success for business? Like sports, the real intrinsic incentive for performance in business is personal growth and winning in the marketplace.  Pride comes from contributing to excellence which, in employee surveys, always ranks higher than wages and benefits.  So I wonder why business champions don’t bestow suitable, but elegant, custom designs for employee winners?  Is it the expense? Maybe, but consider that “visible applause” symbols are paid for from winning in the marketplace … achieving #1 status?  Yes, let’s concur … high stature symbols are “self-funded”.  How?  No chairmanships … no symbol expense.  On the other hand, with victory comes increased revenue that more than pays for symbols of winning!  Think of it as a pay-it-forward investment in excellence!

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