Are You Playing To Win The Game In Your Business?


“What Were You Thinking?”

At the conclusion of practically every game in professional sports, you see and hear players, managers and coaches who have been thrown into the often contentious coliseum of the press corps to answer sometimes difficult questions regarding their level of play, game day decisions and on-the-field mistakes. Although we’ve all witnessed these post-game press conferences on any number of occasions, I recently found myself listening more intently to the responses given to the questions asked. If you’ve ever listened yourself, you’ve most likely noticed a pattern of what could easily be pre-scripted, pat clichés that cross the boundaries of every sport. “We go out there every night/day and give 110%.” “We left it all on the field.” “We can’t dwell on the losses”. “We can’t focus on the past. We have to focus on the next game.” “You can’t get too high after the wins, and you never get too low after the losses. It just all stays even keel.” “We take it one game at a time.”

What has to be one of the most difficult questions to answer in my opinion is “What were you thinking when you made that catch/block./score/hit/penalty/error? I’m not really certain how a player, manager or coach is supposed to remember what was going on in their mind during a singular moment at an exact moment in the heat of competition, but somehow, they always seem to come up with a response. Even if the response doesn’t really answer the question— “It is what it is.

It’s amazing how athletes are incredibly conditioned and trained not only at their sport, but to being able to withstand post-game questioning. It may not be such a dreaded chore after a team win, but can you imagine how demeaning it must be for these individuals to go before the cameras and microphones after a loss? Sure, they’re getting paid big bucks to perform at their absolute best but, at least in my thinking, there has to be a certain amount of humiliation that comes with the tough questions; especially when those questions are most likely coming from someone who may have never played the sport.

“You Play To Win The Game!” – Herm Edwards

That famous quote is attributed to Coach Herm Edwards. Today, he’s the head coach for the Arizona Sun Devils college football team. But, in 2002 he was the head coach of a struggling New York Jets pro-football team that had a dismal 2 win-5 loss record at the beginning of that 16-game season when a reporter asked him “Do you have to talk to your team about not giving up on the season?”  Coach Edwards, a highly passionate, motivational and inspirational former player himself, went on a 45-second rant about how his team would never quit (he wouldn’t allow it) and how, win or lose, “You PLAY to WIN the GAME!

Although that quote is what is most notable from that press conference, Edwards continued, “You don’t play just to play it. That’s the great thing about sports, you play to win. And I don’t care if you have any wins. You go play to win. When you start telling me it don’t matter, then retire… GET OUT! Because it matters. This whole conversation bothers me.

Ready To Get Your Game Face On?
This infamous clip from the 2002, Herm Edwards press conference should do the trick.

What Will You Do Today To Be Better Than Yesterday?

In a 2012 interview with “Yahoo Sports,” Herm Edwards reflected back on his decade old words by saying, “You have an obligation as a player — as an athlete at any level — and it doesn’t matter what sport it is. When you sign on, you sign on. You prepare that week to go win. I don’t care about your schedule, or how many people got hurt — it doesn’t matter. You owe it to the people in the building and guys in the huddle to prepare yourself to win. That’s the most important thing that week. My dad was in the service for 27 years. He used to tell me, ‘It’s not about tomorrow — it’s about today. What are you going to do today a little bit better than what you did yesterday?

When Sports Transcends Business.

Some may consider “You PLAY to WIN the GAME!” as a laughable statement of the obvious, but it’s one of the few quotes from any athlete, coach or manager that isn’t (at least at the time it was said) cliché and it was also a not so subtle challenge to his team. If anything, those 6-simple words are an effective and articulate purpose statement that transcends sports into the world of business.

As a business owner, manager or entrepreneur, you may not be playing a game, per se, but you face daily competition. One can easily argue that you compete everyday against yourself to be better today than you were yesterday. Every week you also run up against competition in your market where you have to make game plan decisions. It may be to speed up follow-up with a customer who has questions, or double-checking your attitude before stepping into a sales consult, or going the extra mile to “WOW!” your customers through the delivery of amazing customer experiences.

There are hundreds of customer-centric “moves” you can make every day that will you give you a clear competitive edge. You just have to execute.

When you open your eyes in the morning, do it with the intent of making the most of the opportunities that are available to you or that you can create for yourself, your business and your customers. If you simply focus on going through the motions of your daily routine without a commitment to the ongoing training and practice needed to exceed expectations, to giving 110% percent and to leaving everything you’ve got on the “field,” you’ll never “win the game.”

Sure, you may look really good against other sub-par “teams,” but championships are won by those individuals and teams that focus on the smallest details and who put in the hard work with a winning attitude and a dedication to be the best.

It’s Your Turn To Meet The Press!

What if you were forced to go before the glare of public scrutiny at the completion of each business day? How would you respond to the questions concerning your level of job performance and the choices and mistakes you made? Imagine being asked what was going through your mind at the very moment you didn’t acknowledge a customer who had been waiting in the service que for lengthy period of time, or when you failed to address a customer’s complaint in a satisfactory manner, or didn’t deliver on a promise made or about other missteps you may have made…even those you may not have even realized you overlooked.

Would you arm yourself with an arsenal of cliché responses? Or, would that type of questioning force you to take a much closer look at how you interact with your customers to save yourself the embarrassment of having to answer the tough, embarrassing questions?

Giving it your all and playing to win every day is vital. That doesn’t mean you will win every time but giving 110% to your business and your clients tells others a lot about your character, work ethic and level of professionalism. That’s how champions are made.

Does Hard Work Pay Off? Yes. Yes It Does.

The football pundits who thought it was ridiculous that the Jets could somehow rebound from that terrible, 2-5, start got a wake-up call in the value of Edwards’ motivation. The team finished the 2002 season with a 7-2 run, beat the Indianapolis Colts in the wild-card round of the playoffs, but lost to the Oakland Raiders in the divisional round. Is it likely that the team’s drastic turnaround was the result of that motivational quote –”You PLAY to WIN the GAME?” Who knows for sure? But there’s a good chance that any team looking to go from worst to first has heard that quote at some point in time.

Leave No Doubt. You Always Play To Win The Game!

So what are you going to do today to “turn your game around?How are you going to “step up your play?” What actions are you ready to take to transform your “is what it is” into “is far better than anyone ever expected?” Are you simply going to take it “day by day” or are you ready to “shock the world?” When it comes to the success of your business, you’ve not only got to “execute better plays” in “every facet of your game,” you’ve got to “come ready to play” and leave no doubt for your competitors and customers that “You PLAY to WIN the GAME!” That’s how championships are won and how businesses succeed!

Please share your thoughts, stories and experiences in the comments. Just don’t say, “It is what it is.”

Ron Ruth  |  Keynote Speaker, Customer Experience Design Consultant & Coach, Founder of the #Inspiramaginativity Institute.

Contact Ron to speak at your upcoming event or to provide a special, Customer Experience training session for your team – email [email protected] or call (816) 224-4487.

“Ron is a fun and informative presenter who engages audiences with demonstrations of #Inspiramaginativity—a blending of inspiration, imagination and creativity— and a powerful tool for sparking innovative solutions to the greatest business challenges and for transforming satisfied customers into loyal, raving fans.” – Rick Brewer,


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