This article is part of a series: Learning Lessons from Stanley Cup and Super Bowl Champions.
Why should you think of your organization as a sports team? Because you face many of the same learning challenges that Mike Sullivan and other great coaches face!
1. Your learning matters for performance
There’s a direct – and immediate – link between what you know and your ability to do your job.
One of our clients in the pharmaceutical industry trains sales reps for “hallway conversations” with healthcare providers. Imagine: You’re walking down the hallway with a doctor, and she asks a question about a drug’s specific mechanism of action.
In those moments, you have only seconds to respond. You either know the answer, or you don’t. If you say, “I have that documented somewhere; let me get back to you,” you’ve missed the moment.
Conversely, when you walk your reps through recent customer objections and share how to overcome them, you’ll see results as soon as the next ride-along.
In football, we see the immediate link between learning and performance every week. Every player needs to master the details of their team’s playbook. If they don’t, it shows up as a mistake on the field.
Rob Havenstein of the L.A. Rams (Super Bowl LVI champions and Learn to Win customer) summarizes this point perfectly: “You have a snap, and you make a call immediately, or else you are just sitting there going ‘uuhhh.’”
To prevent those ‘uuhhh’ moments on your team, you need to invest in effective training.
2. You need to spot knowledge gaps early (before they hurt performance)
“We don’t know what our people know – and what they don’t know.” We hear this complaint from sales leaders and line managers all the time.
Sometimes, sending out training materials can feel like writing a message in a bottle and tossing it into the ocean. Is the concept sticking? Is your team even reading what you sent them?
When you notice a mistake during ride-alongs, was that a one-off error (which everyone claims!), or a symptom of a larger misunderstanding on your team? Usually, you can’t tell – at least, until they miss quota.
Chris Partridge, co-defensive coordinator at Ole Miss Football, faced this same challenge. Before Learn to Win, he frequently emailed play corrections to his team, but he couldn’t see how his players were thinking.
Last year, Partridge used Learn to Win to pull off what the press called “The Most Impressive Turnaround in SEC History” (click here to learn how).
Since Learn to Win showed him exactly which players were struggling with specific concepts, he could fix those misunderstandings before they turned into errors on the field.
In both sports and corporate learning, teams gain an advantage when they focus on the leading indicator of learning rather than only the lagging indicator of performance.
3. Your Gameplan Changes Constantly
Your competitor just launched a new product. How should your reps respond to questions about it? How do you incorporate fresh insights from market research into your sales strategy? What’s the latest best way to frame our recent pricing changes?
Your training needs to change as quickly as your business. Otherwise, you’re wasting time, energy, and money drilling your reps on outdated material and stale competitive intel.
Our sports clients face the same challenges. Every week, coaches make adjustments to their gameplan based on whom they are playing next. If a pro team needed 6 months to update their gameplan, we probably wouldn’t see them in the playoffs.