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Leadership Lessons From Coach Belichick

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A high-performance team, by definition, is a winning team. A winning team is essential for an advisory practice to thrive as a competitive, multi-generational firm independent of its founder. But building and maintaining a high-performance team involves more than assembling the most talented individuals.

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Bill Belichick, the head coach of New England Patriots, is not a beloved figure to football enthusiasts of the other 31 NFL teams. Far from it. But it’s hard to argue with the Patriots’ success year after year. A team can’t be lucky and accomplish the level of their success with such consistency.

You might conclude that Belichick is supremely talented in attracting the best football players. But he would beg to differ. In this 2013 speech he said, “everyone in the [NFL] has talent” or they wouldn’t have made it that far. The league’s talent pool is more or less equalized, according to Belichick. So a winning team is about more than just talent and ability. He looks for, “players with passion, guys that really love football” not those who are in it for the money and glory. Belichick also demands “mental toughness” out of his players which, arguably, was the biggest factor in the team’s biggest comeback in Super Bowl history.

To Belichick, the invisible aspects of team building and winning are as much as – or perhaps more important than – the visible aspects like talent, speed, and strength.

How would Belichick build an advisory practice?

In your quest to build a winning team, you did your best to gather high-caliber individuals. One is a graduate of an elite school while another is highly credentialed. You recruited a future rainmaker who comes from a “family of money” and is well-connected in your community. Your most recent hire played college sports on an athletic scholarship and knows a thing or two about a winning team. All in all, you would call your team solid – even great. At least it is on paper

But, if you are honest with yourself, you wouldn’t quite label it a winning team.

What’s missing? You diligently assembled capable, hard-working individuals. Yet, your firm has plateaued. Well, what is missing are the very ingredients that cause winning. But these ingredients that can make you a winner, unlike names of schools, grade point average, professional credentials or a “big Rolodex,” are invisible.

G.K. Chesterton, in his book, Tremendous Trifles, quipped, “There are two kinds of people in the world: When trees are waving wildly in the wind, one group of people thinks that it is the wind that moves the trees; the other group thinks that the motion of the trees creates the wind.”

He was lamenting, facetiously, the modern men and women oblivious to the realness of the invisible, and the absurdity of their blind (and distorted) devotion to empirical science. No sane person would argue that trees create the wind, of course. Nevertheless, their materialistic worldview makes it difficult for them to “see” beyond the visible, let alone acknowledging that the invisible can cause visible results. But the wind, while invisible, is no less material – starting with the sun’s radiation absorbed on the earth’s surface, creating atmospheric pressures with varying temperatures that cause air movements.

You cannot see unfathomable depth of a mother’s love for her child, but you can see it in her affectionate embrace. That you can’t see the wind or love doesn’t make them nonexistent or immaterial.

Executives and leaders often approach their work – leading their people and producing results – like those who think that “the motion of the trees creates the wind” not the other way around. They fail to recognize that there is an invisible, but no less material, cause that effects results.

So what are the invisible ingredients that cause a group of individuals to become a winning team for an advisory firm? They are purpose and values – clearly articulated, frequently communicated and fully internalized by you and all of your team members genuinely and uncynically. It’s knowing and living why your firm exists and its values.

You might say that it sounds too simple and hopelessly naïve.

By Hoon Kang, read the full article here.

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