Big Game Rules

How you act and how you behave dictates how those around you will respond. 

“The goal is not to be better than the other man, but to be better than your previous self.” — Hindu Proverb

James Jones was an American author whose first book, “From Here to Eternity,” captivated the world when it was published in 1951. The novel became an instant classic and was quickly converted into a movie one that every actor and actress in Hollywood craved a part in.

The story particularly struck one down-on-his-luck singer who felt that Jones was writing the character Maggio based on his own life. It was a part the singer knew would require little acting because he was living that role every day.

Frank Sinatra knew immediately that playing Maggio would turn his career around. He knew if he could get an audition, everyone would see what he knew — that he and Maggio were one and the same. 

Sinatra was granted an audition and had one chance, one big meeting, to prove he was worthy. His screen test was no different than any big game, conference or sales pitch.  As coaches and leaders, we all hope we have one opportunity to play in the big game, have that one critical interview, or get in front of someone who might alter our career path. Just thinking of the moment often makes us nervous. Yet, when Sinatra got in front of the producers, he was calm, relaxed, and, most of all, himself. During the test scene, Sinatra ad-libbed a part in the bar, doing something he knew would have happened at any local tavern back in his hometown of Hoboken, New Jersey. He brought authenticity to the role, which ultimately earned him the part. 

What can you do the next time your “big moment” arises? What can you do when standing in front of your team of people whom you lead to help defuse the tension in the room? How you act, how you behave dictates how those around you will respond. 

Here are 5 tips:

  1. Be authentic, work like it’s just another game — take all the pressure off the team with a relaxed but concentrated process. Don’t change your routine. Don’t show up two hours earlier because this game or meeting is more important than any other part of your year. Your subliminal messaging is vital. 

  2. Spend more time understanding the essentials to winning the moment. Don’t start preparing for everything. Prepare for the one crucial factor that will allow you to win the day. Focus on three areas that will determine the outcome — and sell those hard to your team. 

  3. Don’t have a secret weapon or something new that will only distract your group. The strength of your team is the reason you have this unique opportunity, focus on your strengths. 

  4. Make sure you have a contingency plan in place. Prepare your team for sudden changes, for adjustments at the moment. Never assume it will all go as planned.  Instead, teach your team to expect the unexpected. 

  5. The moment carries all the inspiration the team will need. Don’t overtalk, don’t preach and certainly don’t beg for anything. Everyone knows the impact of the moment, so trying to become Knute Rockne won’t work. Inspire focus, concentration, and adaptation with your talks. 

Next time you have a big game or meeting, follow those 5 steps and you might end up like Sinatra, winning the perfect role. 


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