Leadership Lesson From Last Night’s Fiesta Bowl


Yesterday I was lucky to be able to do something I had never done before – we took our Stanford alum son, daughter-in-law to be and Adam and Margot to the Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix.    Unfortunately for Derek and Jess they needed to get back to Boston but the rest of us had a fun family experience.  It started with a road trip to Phoenix from Newport.  We rented a minivan for the occasion – I must say minivans have come a long way since we owned them when the kids were little.  Satellite radio, DVD player, syncing with iPad – the works!  Being at the bowl game (my first ever) was an experience – huge crowds, bands at the tailgates, the stadium was intermittent seas of Orange (Oklahoma St.) and Red (Stanford), marching bands, cheerleaders – lots of excitement.

But of course the most exciting part of this outing was the game.  It was high-scoring, dominated by two great offenses.  The score was tied at 38-38 with seconds to go. Stanford had a chance to win the game in regulation, but a field-goal attempt by freshman Jordan Williamson was wide. He also missed a 43-yarder in overtime.  My iPhone video of the attempt is here.

The obvious focus after the game was on the kicker – he had the chance to win the game and didn’t.  Of course Andrew Luck took the high road in media interviews – “The media tends to want a scapegoat or a hero and that’s just not the case in any football game” after all it was a full game of plays that put them in that situation.  I am certainly no sports expert.  Truth be told, I couldn’t name all the positions on the field in either offense or defense despite being a loyal fan of my three son’s many years of football.  But I know enough to know that the coach had a choice – he could go to his experienced quarterback to make either a passing play (he completed 27 of 31) or run the ball (average gain of 5 yards per play) or ask an inexperienced freshman to go for the field goal in front of a stadium full of screaming people.

A big part of leadership is knowing not just what to do but who to do it.   There are many difficult and risky tasks we need our teams to do. In the case of SugarSync it might be to make a change to a database that manages critical customer data, move datacenter equipment, meet with an important customer, review financials with an investor, or speak with a journalist to name a few.  All of these actions can have dramatic consequences for our company.  It is my responsibility to make sure the right person is doing those tasks.  Invariably they are assigned to our most experienced, proven and consistently performing employees.  Not the young hotshot new hire (who by the way hopefully will be the experienced, proven contributor soon).  Why go with the proven performer? – they are likely to be successful in the crunch times as they have been in the many events that got your there.  We are lucky at SugarSync to have a great team of such experienced players.