What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Peyton Manning

I’m not a huge football fan. But I do marvel at the drama of professional football. 

In particular, I admire what Peyton Manning has done for the Broncos the past two years. His individual contributions are well documented. But what I’ve been most impressed by is the positive impact he seems to have had on the rest of the team. Sports are a great metaphor for many aspects of life. In this case, entrepreneurs could learn a lot from Peyton Manning and the leadership he’s brought to the Broncos.

  • Sense of Urgency: Manning has had one goal since he arrived in Denver and he’s pursuing it with maniacal focus. Set a goal and pursue it fervently.
  • Be Precise: In an era where many NFL quarterbacks are making an impact with pure athleticism (Cam Newton, Kapaernick, Russel Wilson), Manning makes an impact with precision. The  Bronco’s offense is a meticulous yardage producing machine. You can’t single-handedly carry your company and win consistently. Inspire execution precision across your entire team and your company will perform. Run your company with the level of precision that Manning runs the Bronco’s offense and your company will be a capital efficient value-creation machine.
  • Have a Contingency Plan: Manning is better than any other quarterback in the league at running through his progressions (the contingency) so that if the play does’t work as designed, he can check-off to another receiver. Always have a contingency plan; just in case your first attempt doesn’t work out as intended.
  • Peyton Manning hot tubWork Ethic: Manning has a reputation for working harder than anyone else on the team. This is a guy who, on his one-day per week off practice, can be found soaking his injured ankle in a hot-tub with his helmet on and iPad listening to his offensive coordinator call practice for the rest of the offense. With the level of success he’s had, he has every right to slack off every now and again, but he doesn’t. We should all set such a high bar for ourselves.
  • We not I: Listen to Manning at a press conference. This past week, all of the talk was about Brady-Manning. All Manning wanted to talk about was the team. Whenever possible, he accepts blame that shouldn’t be put on him and deflects praise directed toward him on others. Corporate leaders can/should do the same.
  • Be Selfless: What Manning does better than any quarterback in the league is take what the defense give him. If the defense wants to play 7 defensive backs, he’ll run the ball. If they want to crowd the line of scrimmage, he’ll throw it. He adapts, on a dime, and runs whatever play the circumstances call for. He’s not interested in how he looks when he audibles, but rather that the play is the “right” one for the situation. The point here is that more often than not he makes the right call regardless of how it affects his own personal stats. In the end, the only way to “look good” is to have your company perform. The selfless call is more often than not the right right call.
  • Set an Expectation of Greatness: You sense that Manning’s high expectations for himself extend to everyone around him. He doesn’t accept mediocrity from anyone. Remarkably, everyone around him seems to rise to the challenge. I’m a big believer that people will behave the way you expect them to. If you expect greatness, they will perform great, if you expect mediocrity, they will perform just well enough to get buy.

In full disclosure, I grew up a fan of the lowly Detroit Lions. They will forever be my “home-team” and rank ahead of my “adopted team, the Broncos. So this isn’t some kind of fan-boy post. I’m not sure Matthew Stafford’s leadership offers a whole lot of learning for entrepreneurs.

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