Draw Up a New Play (An excerpt from Ballgames to Boardrooms)

How often do you find yourself watching a game, and it’s back and forth, nip and tuck, ho hum, blah blah blah?  Same routine, by both teams, on both sides of the ball. Your team has the ball then their team has the ball, and back and forth it goes.  


Take for example, your typical football game, when it‘s first and ten, and a little scampering run play gets the offense three yards. Now, second and seven, a slant across the middle picks up another two yards as your number one receiver gets tackled in space, stopped in his tracks. 

So, it’s third and seemingly a short five yards to go for the first down, and a hand-off run play gets stuffed for no gain.  

Fourth down.  

Punting unit trots onto the field, and lines up for yet another punt, on yet another fourth down. The ball is snapped, and the punter winds up to kick it into next week, but…OH!   



The punter fakes a kick, turns on a dime, and sprints to a first down and more.   

First down!   

The game goes from boring to exciting with just one play. It’s amazing how one play can completely change the complexion of a game or even a season, for individuals and teams.  

New Plays are Purposeful 

In basketball, football, or any team sport, often coming out of a timeout, quarter break, or halftime, the coach draws up a new play.  

It’s usually designed with purpose, to achieve a specific outcome. The obvious desired outcome is to score points. While that’s often the case, great coaches peel back the layers of the onion and draw up new plays for other reasons, which add value in other ways. 

A new play can be the spark that:  

  • Ignites a slumping player  
  • Unleashes the talent or extraordinary potential in an emerging star 
  • Catches the opposition off guard 
  • Builds confidence among the team when executed flawlessly  
  • Proves to each player involved in the matter, and they belong 

New plays keep everyone, on both teams, on their toes, keeping the game fresh, exciting, and most importantly, FUN. 

We can disrupt the status quo, completely changing the complexion of our otherwise boring situation. Our friends, family, coworkers, and even our bosses will thank us for keeping them on their toes, and for making work fun again. 

Consider this from a couple different perspectives – one as a leader of teams, and another perspective as a member of a team.  

Draw Up a New Play as a Leader 

Shuffle the Deck  

Shake up who is responsible for what, among your team. Sometimes changing the responsibilities among your team can be just the purposeful disruption some individuals need to become reengaged, giving them newfound purpose and commitment to your team‘s mission. 

Disrupt Ordinary Routines  

Routines and faithfulness to daily game plans are necessary. However, going long periods of time with the same old same old is risky because complacency has a way of rearing its ugly head in the all too familiar sea of sameness that is corporate America.  

Don’t let your team get complacent.  

Call an out of the ordinary meeting, in a completely new meeting location, perhaps even outdoors. Ask a member of the team to facilitate or present something to the group. Let everyone go early one day, or tell them to come in late, while encouraging them to have breakfast with their families or sneak in a morning workout before coming to the office. 

You (and they) may be surprised at the boost in energy, focus, and urgency resulting from the disruption.  

Try Something New  

Recommend a new process or product to your senior leaders. Build the case, get some cross-functional alignment and agreement on your side, and call an impromptu boardroom scene meeting, ala The Apprentice. Just like drawing up a new play catches the opposition off guard in sports, it will have the same impact in business. 

Draw Up a New Play as a Member of a Team 

Take Another Road  

On a routine Wednesday, before or after work, take a different route to or from work, on purpose. The change in scenery will open your mind as new, fresh views of areas you haven’t seen in a while get you thinking about new, fresh ways to go about solving that problem back at the office. Or while at work, instead of walking the same way to lunch, your meetings, or even the restroom, take a different route.  

Walking a different route forces you out of your comfort zone, and puts you in situations to meet, engage with, and build community with people you otherwise wouldn’t see if you just walk your same route every single day.  

Write a Handwritten Note  

Write a handwritten note of gratitude or encouragement to someone in your office. This changes up the energy in the air right away. Nobody does it anymore, and what’s worse is people deserving of those notes of gratitude or encouragement rarely feel appreciated or encouraged. When you do things, no one bothers to do anymore, it gets noticed.   It’s amazing how good a handwritten note makes people feel. 

Volunteer to Lead a Project  

Our leaders run ragged, week after week, trying to deliver for their leaders, all the way up the food chain. We find ourselves doing the same in our roles. Operative word, ―same.  Volunteering to lead a project or to take on anything new will not only break up the monotony of the grind for you, but it will also take your leaders by pleasant surprise to know they have an ally, advocate, and confidante in you. It’s never ever a bad thing to achieve this dynamic with your boss. 

Have the courage to draw up new plays at work. Disrupt the day-today grind, and you’ll find it less of a grind and way more fun.

Have a great day.

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I’ve compiled twenty years’ worth of leadership lessons, stories, and applications for how to lead with hospitality and why it makes a difference that matters for everyone in your life, at work, at home, and in your community.