This Sunday most of us will be sitting on the sofa, glued to the TV, immersed in chips and dip. Meanwhile, in New Orleans, the Baltimore Ravens’ John Harbaugh and San Francisco 49ers’ Jim Harbaugh will be pitted against each other in the Super Bowl’s first ever head coach sibling rivalry.


The two brothers, only one year apart (John being the eldest), will lead their respective teams in the fight for NFL’s prized Lombardi Trophy. With a relentless spotlight on these two coaches, it’s a wonder how they can prep their players for the game of their lives.


Which had us wondering  – “Could you lead your team to the Super Bowl?”


Just how do you lead your team when it’s under pressure? Whether it’s the Super Bowl or a multi-million dollar project or a new key account, managing a team when it’s facing ‘make or break’ situations is no walk in the park.


As a manager you are juggling the emotions of your team, your clients, your superiors and yourself. Harvard Business School professor, Heidi Gardner, conducted a study on the effects of performance pressure on global audit and consulting firms.


“Teams facing significant performance pressures tend to default to high-status members at the expense of using team members with deep knowledge of the client, with detrimental effects on team performance.”


She goes on to say that when the stakes were high, team members relied on ‘generalists’ who may have more experience, rather than leveraging the expertise of ‘specialists’.


It’s a common and understandable fallback but it leads to underutilization of your team’s strengths.


Or to take another view –
If you’re going to win the Super Bowl you can’t stay in the ‘comfort zone’.


49ers coach, Jim Harbaugh, illustrates this well with his bold move to continue starting his breakout quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, ahead of Alex Smith. Veteran Smith had started the season well for the 49ers until taken out with concussion. 25 year-old Kaepernick took the starting position for the first time during Smith’s absence and performed so well that Harbaugh kept him on even after Smith’s return.


The younger Harbaugh could have easily benched the extremely talented but less experienced Kaepernick in favour of the more ‘tried and tested’ Smith. But his decision to keep Kaep in place, while risky, got his team a spot at the Super Bowl.


This Sunday will only be Kaepernick’s 10th start. We’ll soon see if Jim Harbaugh’s gamble pays off or if he’ll be congratulating his brother John’s Ravens on a winning match.