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wilson-russell11Startup companies are the big underdogs in business. When compared to their cash-rich competitors, startups have less time, less flexibility and less professional support available to them to overcome mistakes and freak-of-nature surprises.

In many ways, startups are always behind their competitors, much like the Seahawks were for about 57 minutes of the recent National League Conference game against the formidable Green Bay Packers.

Against all probability, the Seahawks engineered an impressive, some say unbelievable comeback in the final minutes of the game. But was it the team’s actions taken during those three minutes that counted most? Obviously yes, but they were built on a stronger foundation of key management moves and team culture.

Even if you don’t like football, you can learn how to overcome gut-wrenching business adversity from the scrappy Seahawks.

Here are my top three team highlights:

Leadership stamina drives team results

The Seahawks’ quarterback is accustomed to hearing about all of his shortcomings. Yet, despite all of his “can’t do” naysayers, Wilson always believes there is a path to victory. His job is to find it no matter how bad the situation. When the Seahawks were down so late in the game, Wilson said, “There is no doubt” that the Seahawks would win.

Once a CEO thinks a turnaround isn’t possible, the business won’t turnaround. Once a CEO writes off a customer prospect as unattainable, the new customer relationship won’t happen. Once a CEO thinks she “can’t raise money for a business,” she won’t.

In the book, Pour Your Heart into It, Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz described how difficult it was during Starbucks early days to identify investors for his coffee store concept.   A whopping 217 angel investors said “no” to his fundraising pitch, some more graciously than others.   Still Schultz kept going, kept networking, and kept improving until the job was done. Eventually 25 investors said “yes” to Schultz. He succeeded by not giving up.

Staff scolding crushes team morale

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Jermaine Kearse catches the game-winning touchdown in overtime against the Green Bay Packers, sealing a second straight Super Bowl berth for the Seattle Seahawks. (Image: Seahawks.com.)

Green Bay Packer fans will long lament how one player bobbled the football into the hands of a Seahawk on a high risk, high reward on-side kick. After the misplay, the cameras caught the Green Bay Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy scolding the player on the sidelines.

On the other side of the field, numerous bad plays, fumbles, interceptions and penalties by Seahawk players were met with team and coach encouragement.

Jermaine Kearse, who caught the game-winning touchdown pass, emphasized the psychological importance of this support during post-game interviews. He noted that the encouragement given to him by his teammates and coaches after each setback helped maintain his confidence so he could make the really big play.

So what’s your company’s response to lost accounts, product failures, bumbled presentations or customer service oversights? Is it disparaging finger pointing or encouragement? Do you focus on what your employees are capable of achieving or what they didn’t do last week or last quarter?

Lead without fear

In mid-October, the Seahawks’ management made a bold move. They released super-talent Percy Harvin to the Jets with seemingly not much in return.

At the time, the Seahawks were inconsistent and struggling to find their groove. Harvin’s talent was needed by the Seahawk’s offense. He proved in last year’s Super Bowl that he can run fast and make game-changing first downs and touchdowns.

So why let him go? Apparently, Harvin had become more disruptive than productive. He wasn’t a team player and didn’t buy into the Seahawk culture of “playing for each other.”

It’s very common for CEOs of money-losing businesses to hang on to top sales reps, programmers, designers, technologists and managers who play for themselves, not the company. These “Harvins” want special treatment and attention. As a result, they make it impossible for the CEO to reinvent the will and the way for an entire company to climb out of red-ink danger.

Conclusion

Adversity is not failure. I say this quite a bit when I meet with business owners to talk through nagging problems. Adversity is not failure. All business leaders and companies struggle at one time or another. One day a hacker may shut down your website. Another day, one of your oldest customers may file for bankruptcy.

When nothing seems to be going right, you can’t allow adversity to gain the upper hand of your employees’ emotions and confidence. This is how the Seahawks fought the Green Bay Packers to advance to the 2015 Super Bowl. It wasn’t a miracle, just awesome management and disciplined dedication at work

Now imagine what you and your employees can accomplish with this winning attitude!

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