The New England Patriots defeated the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game last weekend, earning them a trip to the Super Bowl this Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.
Super Bowl XLIX (that’s 49 for non-Romans) will mark a major milestone in a historic journey by the Patriots team and their head coach, Bill Belichick.
Belichick stands to become the first head coach ever to appear in six (6) Super Bowls, and with a victory over Seattle, can become the only coach to ever win four (4) of them.
In addition, New England Quarterback Tom Brady will be making his record-breaking sixth start in a Super Bowl, and if he wins, he will join the elite ranks of NFL legends Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana with four victories in pro football’s biggest game.
Of course, the New England Patriots are made up of much more than Belichick and Brady, who make up the winningest coach/QB team since the big AFC/NFC merger in 1970. The entire Patriots organization (Deflategate notwithstanding) has developed a reputation for being one of the most disciplined and engaged clubs in the league.
Since he started his dynastic run with the Pats in 2000, Belichick has kept his squad on the winning side of things by adhering to a simple team philosophy: Do Your Job. The idea behind it is that if everyone focuses and does their individual job, great things can happen for the team.
Belichick believes in this philosophy to his marrow, which is why he has his team captains sign an agreement of sorts, a “Do Your Job” Statement of Work as a requisite for playing with him.
“Do Your Job” pledges that must be kept
Among the pledges made:
- I will accomplish all my chores and errands well before kickoff, making sure to let everyone know that game day hours are not to be interrupted.
- I will hold my head up high with whomever I interact, knowing I represent one of the greatest sports franchises on Earth.
- When the Patriots are on defense, I will create as much noise as possible … so as to disrupt sideline-to-quarterback communication, and [it] will not cease until the ball has been snapped.
- When the Patriots are on offense, I will remain silent so the offense can communicate and focus on the task at hand: another Patriots FIRST DOWN.
- I will be courteous and respectful to other fans in attendance. In the event a fan is rooting for the Patriots’ opponent, in addition to respect and courtesy, I will add pity to how I interact.
The agreement verges on tongue-in-cheek in many places, with special instructions for viewing games at home, including shaming in-laws who may be Jets fans. However, it’s something the team takes very seriously on game day.
Inspiration in action
Bill Speros of Boston.com recalled some gruff inspirational words from Belichick that demonstrate the philosophy in action.
During the AFC divisional playoffs in 2007, the Pats were tied up with the Jacksonville Jaguars 14-14. “Do your job. That’s what the problem is right there,” Belichick said. “Take care of your responsibility and just do it right. For once.” At that time the Patriots were 16-0 — talk about not giving an inch. The Patriots ended up winning the game and made it to the Super Bowl that year as well.
In 2015, while playing the Baltimore Ravens in the same divisional playoff round, they found themselves in a similar situation halfway in. Belichick delivered an inspirational speech that would have felt at home in a corporate boardroom:
Listen fellas, it’s about doing our jobs. Just cover your man. Do what you’re supposed to do,” Belichick said. “We’re trying to make too big many plays, and we’re not doing what we’re supposed to do. Playing the under-thrown ball. Tackling. Jamming the receivers. Just play the defense. That’s all we’ve got to do. They’re not giving us anything we haven’t seen before. There are no scheme plays. It’s just disciplined football. Come on, fellas, we’ve got 25 minutes left. We’ve got to get that play.”
Bigger than the NFL
Pundits and detractors might argue that the Patriots’ recent victories were secured with trickery, but you can’t argue that Belichick’s “Do Your Job” philosophy doesn’t keep his players focused on the task at hand. For that reason, it’s bigger than the NFL alone.
For all of the research and studies that attempt to define what employee engagement is, at the end of the day it is simply that — keeping your employees focused on the task at hand, and more important, providing a genuine reassurance that their hard work will be rewarded, and making good on those reassurances.
An engaging leader must be able to not only motivate others to do their job, but turn that motivation into results. A simple dime-store philosophy like “Do Your Job” can do wonders to keep everyone on track.
A victory of management
Belichick has communicated and reinforced his philosophy constantly over his tenure, and it is now a part of the fabric of the organization. Every Patriots player eats, breathes, and sleeps to this notion.
Staying on-message over the years may very well be Belichick’s greatest management victory. Consistency forms habits, and habits form a culture. When the pressure is on, everyone feels the pinch. When everyone focuses on their jobs like they’re supposed to, there’s no time to think about it.
You can love him or hate him, but Belichick knows that when the stakes are highest you don’t need your employees to be extraordinary or work harder than they ever have, you need them to simply do their jobs like they’ve always done, because that’s how you got to the Big Game in the first place.
The collective effort that results from that is what makes a team truly extraordinary.