Super Bowl & Business: personal goals vs. team goals

Being in upstate NY, our office staff is pretty much split between New York Giants fans and New England Patriots fans. In the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, there was some trash talk. And this morning there has been acknowledgement that it was a good game, but there has also been some gloating. It is great having an office where there is a lot of camaraderie and an atmosphere of playfulness. That said, we all take our work seriously and we work hard.

No conversation about this year’s Super Bowl will be complete without a discussion of what ended up being the final touchdown of the game by Ahmad Bradshaw. Watching him, you could see the dilemma: score a touchdown or go down on the one-yard line to help his team win? As team players, we are used to the idea that our personal goals and the team’s goals are the same. My success reflects well on the team and the team’s success reflects well on me. But last night’s dilemma for Mr. Bradshaw highlighted the space in which compliance often lives. Compliance can mean not going for that immediate personal triumph in favor of the longer-term and less clearly defined success of the group.

It can be very hard to clearly see the possibility of a personal victory: a touchdown, a sale, a market advantage, and then let it go in favor of something not yet visible. And in compliance, our job is often to help the individual see that more elusive goal – a bigger, longer term and sustainable success rather than the short-term individual achievement. Our goal is to be sure that our clients aren’t tainted by the same stain that Mr. Bradshaw will be. He is likely to always be connected to his choice last night to go for the personal touchdown rather than making the choice that would more certainly have guaranteed his team’s victory.

He was lucky that Tom Brady’s Hail Mary pass did not result in a touchdown. If it had, he would have suffered an even worse fate in the analyses of Super Bowl plays. And sometimes those in business who put their personal success before the team’s success are lucky too – they don’t get caught. But there is always the risk that the quarterback will connect with the receiver. Then, not only is the individual’s reputation seriously tarnished, but the team loses too.

Compliance is all about making sure that there is room for individual glory, but that we don’t forget the team we play with.