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Quality Breeds Trust

As I say to others, "I got this."
Soccer’s been on my mind recently with several blog posts already this year, but last Tuesday’s soccer games illustrated yet another important revelation in my entrepreneurial, professional, and personal life… and it’s this notion that Quality Breeds Trust.

Last week, I was asked to fill in for two other games after my own. You could really see the disparities in quality from team to team, even before each game started. During warm-ups, you could see who was serious, who wasn’t. You could see who had a good technical touch, who didn’t. And in the opening five minutes of each game, all those earlier impressions were dead-on. That, in effect, had a drastic effect on how I played from simple things like positioning to passes. With lower quality players, everything had to be much more direct and calculated. With greater players, I could be more creative and play more piercing passes.

I remember when I started playing Silverbacks 7v7 so many years ago (damn, I’ve gotten old), I started out with one of my best buds, Don Pottinger – co-founder of Body Boss, programmer extraordinaire now plying his trade at ATV. He was so freaky fast, strong, and skilled that when I had the ball in our defensive half and I had to “clear it”, I would send the ball down the line or into a far corner. I knew that I could put it in no man’s land and before that ball went out of bounds, Don would latch onto it. We’d be off and attacking in seconds.

When you have quality players on your team, you let players make the play. You can see this happening any given Sunday – with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. When Stafford’s in trouble, he scrambles, and he’ll oftentimes lob it to the freak that is CJ trusting in CJ’s ability to make the play.

Sometimes, taking risks like throwing into triple coverage is okay… let great players make great plays! This is the Stafford to Johnson connection in the Lions-Bengals game from October 20, 2013. (Image source: http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5491/10388278066_cca092c634_o.gif)
In a different way, you also have generalists like a player of James Milner’s capability of the current Barclays Premier League champions Manchester City. Milner’s not the most skilled defender or the lethal attacker of many others, but he’s a solid utility player that can be placed in any position, and his work ethic makes him invaluable.

(Image source: http://i4.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/incoming/article8853577.ece/alternates/s615/464323506.jpg)
Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini on Milner: “I understand. I’m Milner’s No1 fan. Find me a more complete English player. There are players who’re better technically, yes. Quicker players, yes. Players who head better, yes. But show me one who does all the things Milner does well. There isn’t one.”

You can also trust quality players when they take on risks. It’s just part of their game. So called “risky plays” or their audacity to take on three, four defenders may have low probabilities of success, but it’s okay. It’s okay if it doesn’t come off because risk is inherent in their game… inherent to being great and to pull everyone else forward. For quality players, plays are calculated risks.

There’s an obvious quality and trust relationship in entrepreneurship, of course. They go hand-in-hand. In a startup team, the world is changing so fast that having high quality team members you can trust enables the team to act at speed. At Body Boss, I knew that Andrew had some slick designs and UX in queue for new features while Don and Darren were working hard building new features for our coaches and players. Meanwhile, I was out closing deals and handling logistics for our upcoming coaching clinics. There was no need for any one of us to micro-manage each other. That’d be a waste of time anyways.

From quarterbacks to wide receivers, center-mids to forwards, and sales people to engineers, quality breeds trust. Quality can take on many forms in skills and capabilities to an individual’s work ethic and personality… specialists to generalists. In any case, you know quality when you see it. Give them difficult tasks or ambiguous projects, and they’ll somehow find a way to nail it. With high quality players, you just have to trust them and let them make the plays.

What else influences trust? How else do sports not only build character but foster leadership and teamwork?

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