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Playing for the Right Team

One of the most compelling stories out of this year’s college football championships is that of the four teams that made it into the playoffs for the title, three were led by quarterbacks who had transferred in from other programs. Joe Burrow graduated transferred to LSU as a graduate student after three years at Ohio State (sorry, the Ohio State). In addition to taking the Tigers to an undefeated regular season, he won the Heisman Trophy. Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts (three years at Alabama) and OSU’s Justin Fields (formerly of Georgia) came in second and third in the Heisman voting.

Athletes transfer for various reasons, but the most common for key positions like quarterback is lack of meaningful playing time. College athletes have a unique dynamic – the clock is ticking on their eligibility. While “there is always next year” there are not many “next years,” especially if they hope to get drafted in the NFL. For that to happen, they need to play, and shine, on the field.

There are several lessons from college football that professionals in the workforce and employers can take on board.

For Employers:

Success breeds success. College football programs like Alabama or Clemson consistently compete for the championship year after year buy building great teams. Their recruiting efforts are helped immensely from their year-over-year program. Players risk riding the bench more than losing, which attracts players willing to put in the work to make the team. Leading companies like Apple & Amazon can attract and retain the best talent in the marketplace easier than companies in turn-around mode.

Consistently high-quality coaching staffs. The best college head coaches attract and retain great coaching staffs. This helps them attract great players and get the best performance from them out on the field. A sign of a great coach is their assistants routinely get recruited to lead other programs. In the business world, leadership is everything to employees. Great leaders build great teams and get the best from them. They also consistently get their people promoted out from under them.

They have a total support system focused on success both on and off the field. Great programs take a holistic approach to success on the field. From nutritionists, trainers, strength and conditioning coaches, equipment managers, to academic support teams, everything works in synergy to get the most from the players. Likewise great corporations have support structures like HR & IT that focused on helping the enterprise be as successful as possible.

Lessons for Professionals:

Great teams, not great players, produce championships. For most organizations the enemy of great is “good enough.” Great players like to play with other great players that elevate their game. It’s much more fun to play for a team where everyone is dedicated to success than teams where “good enough” is good enough. The best teams are also filled with trustworthy individuals. They look out for each other a know that everyone is doing the right thing. Find a team that forces you to elevate your game and has your back.

Great leaders are also great coaches. Working for a great leader will make a huge difference in your performance and career. They will let you do the job to the best of your ability, and give you the tools you need to be successful. They might be demanding and push you – but also build deep relationships with you and understand how to best motivate you. Great leaders also focus on developing their employees for bigger things.

Switching teams might be the best career move you can make. Just as the quarterbacks found out, sometimes the difference between going from good to great is finding a new team. In the professional world there are many reasons to consider switching jobs or companies. There is always risk involved, but the rewards could be a better job, better manager, career advancement, and better teams to work with.

At The Rivet Group, we talk to professionals all day considering making a change in teams – the decision to do so is never easy. The results can be spectacular, however. We’ve worked with professionals that have moved companies every few years and ended up several levels above where they would have been if they stayed put. If you are reading this, you might be thinking about making a change yourself.

Maybe you don’t have a great coach. Maybe you don’t have a great team. Maybe you need to build one.

We would like to hear from you.

We can be contacted at

PS: We wish the best of success to the Tigers in the national championship game!

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