Designing Champions—On and Off the Field
Every year, more than 100 million people around the world tune in to watch the Super Bowl: a championship battle between two teams who have survived the brutal playoff gauntlet for a shot at the Vince Lombardi Trophy. You don’t need the NFL’s “We Make Football” campaign to tell you how team sports have always been compelling to our culture. I’m no Lombardi, but as a championship lacrosse coach, I know a thing or two about attaining success with a team.
Over the years, I’ve cross-pollinated my experiences as a coach and my work as a senior designer at LPK. The two worlds are more similar than they appear: we all want to be the best problem solvers in a world where problems and solutions are ever-changing. Additionally, more often than not, we have to do so as a collective group of people.
I could list the usual suspects of why my championship lacrosse team is successful: hard work, determination, leadership, talent, fundamentals. The problem is, every decent program has those things. To truly set yourself apart—and I know this is true for us—it comes down to four distinct areas of expertise: family, savviness, an adapt-or-die mentality and standards.
When teammates and their leaders genuinely care for each other at a deep level, amazing things happen. Every year after tryouts, we gather our team—along with their parents, siblings and even sometimes grandparents—and say: “Welcome to the family.” We immediately make it known that we function as a family through the good and bad. Problem solving isn’t often warm and friendly—we are constantly failing at tasks and having to hold each other accountable. A lot of people don’t like being told what to do, and it’s rare to have 30 human beings, with a majority of them being teenagers, all like each other. However, if you feel a united core of respect and love, you’ll have a deeper understanding of accountability with the strength to get back up and try again for the greater good of the team.
Agency Lesson: Check your ego at the door. You don’t have to like everyone you work with, but showing respect and love for the greater good of the team, or agency, will produce extraordinary results.
You can never begin to tackle a problem without a plan. Prior to a strategy, you have to know what the strengths and weaknesses are for you and your competition. Our coaching staff strives to have the smarter team on the field, constantly harnessing our unique strengths to win games with statistics and gut. What weapons do we have that you simply cannot stop? What are the big holes we need to fix? Looking in the mirror is equally as important as knowing the competition. Understanding how your opponent is successful gives you the keys to stopping and overpowering them. Know what you can and can’t do with a strategy to defeat the opposition, and you’ll win a lot of games.
Agency Lesson: Don’t try to make your team, or agency, something it’s not. Play to your unique strengths to find powerful solutions no one else ever could. Scout your opponent! Clearly define what makes them successful and not.
Rules, personnel and opponents are always changing. What makes you successful one day, month or year will not necessarily make you successful the next. You have to be flexible and willing to adapt to changing environments and problems in order to win. Our coaching staff is big on staying fresh, which means getting outside the bubble of our region and our sport. Whether it’s having a Super Bowl champion talk to the team about preparation, or having conversations with the U.S. Women’s National Team coaches about drills, we’re eager and humble to learn. It is scary to leave what’s working, but if you don’t change what you do, the competition will figure you out, catch up to you and beat you.
Agency Lesson: Don’t live and die by the playbook—or capabilities deck. Be ready to evolve on the fly to find new solutions. Take inspiration from different categories: fashion, culinary arts, boxing, ballet … ideas are everywhere.
Excellence is a sickness. Losing can make you physically ill. I’m being ever-so-slightly hyperbolic, but I have to stress that, at its foundation, success requires a strong passion to be the best, all of the time. It requires sacrifice, which is really hard, but it’s worth it when you’re holding a trophy at the end of the day. Ever since our program at Sycamore began, the team has sat down in a classroom and written the same goal on a chalkboard: “Win a State Championship.” Anything less is unanimously unacceptable by any individual on the team.
More often than not, we don’t win a State Championship, but we get motivated to try again, together, as a family. Have the courage to keep high standards not only for yourself, but for the team around you. Never waiver your eye from the goal. Even for a second.
Agency Lesson: Have the courage to hold your team, or agency, to high standards. Don’t release something that doesn’t make you proud. You might not hit the mark every time, but refuse to get jaded. Get up, and try again with passion.
Meredith Post is a Senior Designer at LPK and a proud (and loud) Green Bay Packers owner. She brings extraordinary creative ideas and a steadfast promise to bettering her work and clients every day. You can mostly find her spreading the good word of Kanye West or sharpening her opinion as a political junkie. You won’t find a selfie of Meredith, but if you’d like to chat, follow her at @meredithwhitney or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.