Your quarterback needs an offensive line

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Football is my favorite sport, and it reminds me of some important lessons for running a business. In football, it is the quarterback who drives each play. However, the quarterback also has to contend with the other team's defenders coming in to try to tackle him before he can make a play. It is his offensive linemen who hold off the defenders to give him the time he needs to read the defense and to execute the play called by throwing a pass to an open player down the field or handing off to his running back.

Although your employees won't have defenders trying to tackle them (hopefully), they'll still come across a variety of setbacks and complications when working on projects. Just like a quarterback in football, your team leader needs to have protections in place as well, so they can execute your plan. This will better enable them to do their job properly with minimal distractions. Here are the primary areas you need to defend.

Communication
Whenever you make changes to your company's products or services, your customers are bound to give feedback on the changes. Make sure that you have dedicated and well-trained employees whose responsibility it is to deal with customer’s questions, comments and complaints.

Your team leader needs to be focused on the bigger picture, which is difficult for them to do when they are bogged down dealing with customers. Have your customer service representatives make note of the comments and complaints received to be passed on to the team leader, freeing him or her up to focus on the overall progress of the project.


Delegation
There is no “I” in team, and football is a team sport. Just as a quarterback must rely on wide receivers, running backs and tight ends to find an opening in the defense and gain yardage, your team leader needs to have confidence that they can rely on the members of their work team.

Make sure the people you choose to work on a team are up to the task and can handle their duties with minimal supervision. Of course, the team leader will provide general guidance, but they should not have to guide their team members through each individual step. Everyone needs to know their roles in running the offense.

Important stakeholders
A quarterback has a position coach. The quarterback coach reports to the offensive coordinator. The “OC” reports to the head coach. The head coach reports to the general manager. The “GM” reports to the owner. Team leaders report to their managers, who then report to their own managers, and so on up the chain of command in your organization. Any communications should follow the chain accordingly, meaning that those at the highest levels of the company should not be pressing your team leader for details; instead, they should seek the answers they need from the team leader's manager. This way, the team leader can focus on completing the task at hand, rather than trying to assuage the worries of stakeholders. 
Of course, defenders in football can and do break through the offensive line on occasion, and this will happen to your team leader as well. However, the more protections you can put into place for your team leader, the better their chances will be of success and getting their project done on time. Listen to your quarterbacks to identify the areas where they could use additional support, and do your best to provide them with that support whenever it is possible.

Now, go out there and just win baby!

Bryan Marsh was the 2017 Chairman of the Chamber Board and is a vice president at Digital Realty.
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