A football game in the NFL technically consists of four fifteen-minute quarters, yet the average game runs over three hours due to the start and stop nature of the action. Add in commercial breaks and the sometimes meandering nature of an NFL broadcast, and it’s easy to see how a sixty-minute game becomes one hundred and eighty plus.
The obvious game both teams are playing is made up of unbelievable displays of athletic prowess. Yet, a second more subtle game is played by a much smaller number of participants. According to FootballDB.com, the Bills and the Buccaneers were the most heavily penalized teams for 2015, with 143 penalties each. The lowest ranked team was the Vikings at a mere 88.
All other things being equal, do you think the Vikings may receive preferential treatment from the officials versus the Bills or Buccaneers? If you’re known as one of the most heavily penalized teams, wouldn’t you think there would be a certain stigma that comes along with that statistic? To think not is to think foolishly.
There is a game behind the game that happens both during the live action and much more between the whistles stopping the course of play. The same players see the same officials week after week. The intelligent players take the time to learn about the officials and their families. Do you think a guy who carries a good reputation, doesn’t pick up a lot of flags, and talks explicitly to the referees when appropriate about their families and interests will be treated differently?
As a worst-case scenario, consider a player who is penalized a lot, tends to get into arguments with the officials on and off the field…as in the “law,” and is generally not a very nice guy. How could this player be treated like the “good guy” above?
Michael Jordan, in his prime, was known for the “Jordan Effect.” I learned about this amazing truth from my mentor Andy Andrews. Michael Jordan played the game behind the game, maybe better than anyone ever. Jordan wasn’t just catching his breath on the sidelines during a break in the action. He was taking the time to build on relationships he had established with the referees.
As a result, a given referee didn’t see Jordan as just Jordan, never mind his superstar status. He saw Jordan as the superstar player asking, for example, about his son just getting his start in basketball and offering an encouraging word given Jordan’s rough personal beginning.
This effort on Jordan’s part to connect with the referees definitely paid dividends. Sports telecasts used to make a fuss over the fact that Jordan clearly got away with traveling and other violations, yet the fouls never came. Or at least not with the frequency of other players who had no concept of the “second game.” Clearly, the Jordan Effect was real.
Another story from Andy is about a restaurant that employed a simple yet powerful little strategy for better care of their customers. From the manager to the chefs to the servers & bartenders, they all collectively took on the challenge of learning their regular customers’ names. Then when one of their regulars walked in the door, it was a team effort to welcome them by name.
Whoever recognized the customer first would be sure to shout their welcome loud enough for everyone to hear. The chefs would even stick their heads out of the kitchen and shout a warm welcome. As a result, this restaurant exploded its business over a short time simply by learning its customers’ names and making them feel more like family than just a customer.
Do you remember “Norm” from Cheers? What was different about the bar the show was based on versus any other bar in Boston? For Norm, it was where every time he walked in the door, he was greeted with…”NORM”! It was also where he could forget about a job he hated and, unfortunately, a home life that left much to be desired.
Whether you know it or not, you’re all in sales and have the opportunity to play this game behind the game. You may not carry the title of salesman or saleswoman; however, you all sell your way through life daily. You either sell your wife, kids, friends, coworkers, or clients on your way of thinking, or they sell you on theirs.
So if you’re in a competitive situation and your product is basically an equal match for your opponent’s, who wins? The following may say it best:
“All things being equal, people will do business with a friend; all things being unequal, people will still do business with a friend.”
So what does this mean to you? It means doing your homework. One of the most profound yet simple truths I’ve ever learned from a leadership expert and my long-time mentor, John C. Maxwell, is to “Figure out what is important to people and then ask them about it often.”
You better know what’s important to your wife if you’re married. If you need help, The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman is a great place to start.
If you’re a Dad, you better know what’s important to your kids. Not what’s important to you about your kids but what is truly important to them. If their likes are different from yours, you better figure out a way to learn to like their interest. Otherwise, you will never have the kind of quality relationship that could be possible.
You better know what’s important to your clients if you’re in sales. And I don’t mean the features and benefits of your products or services. It’s not that they’re not necessary in general. The key is whether they’re necessary to your client.
Dale Carnegie offered wise counsel in his classic How to Win Friends and Influence People with:
“You can make more friends in two months by being interested in other people than in two years of trying to get people interested in you.”
Closing thoughts for my readers:
In closing, I want to share two concepts that have shaped my life. Zig Ziglar showed great wisdom with his philosophy: “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help other people get what they want.” This is my personal call to serve with my God-given gifts & strengths.
Napoleon Hill was famous for his teaching on The Habit of Going the Extra Mile. Hill’s definition was to render more and better service than expected. His formula for this was “QQMA.” This means the quality of your service and the quantity of service, and your mental attitude ensures that you attract more and more success.
I’ve combined these concepts into four questions I ask myself after every client interaction; however, these questions can be applied to every person-to-person interaction in your life.
- What did I do right? Most people tend to focus on where they messed up. Focus on the positives and avoid the habit of dwelling on your mistakes.
- What could I have done better? Here is a positive way of seeking improvement rather than beating yourself up over your shortcomings.
- What did I learn? We only learn from asking good questions and then listening.
- What can I now do extra that goes above and beyond what the individual could expect? Here is where you really have the opportunity to set yourself apart.
The key to making these questions work is taking the time to reflect on each experience and challenge yourself with each. This practice can lead to continuous improvements in all your business and personal relationships.
“At the end of each day, you should play back the tapes of your performance. The results should either applaud you or prod you!”
“The unexamined life is not worth living.”