The Beauty of Control Paired with Unbridled Effort in Corporate America

A lesson in perfection from Walter Payton

September 27, 2014

By: Kyla Slen, VP of Operations

Anyone that ever watched Walter Payton play football was witness to a thing of beauty. He demonstrated unmatched athleticism and what seemed to be tireless effort in pursuit of every yard he gained as a professional football player. At 5’10”, 200 lb. “Sweetness” was not a large physical specimen, but he played as if he was twice that size. Many would say his physical strength and athleticism were unmatched and the key to his athletic accomplishments.

I would argue that Walter Payton was blessed with a far greater and more important combination of genetic gifts. Walter Payton had incredible discipline and dominance and utilized authority in a highly effective way.Why would these be more important than athleticism and physical ability? Because great athletes fail to reach moderate levels of success. While their physical abilities were great, they were unable to exercise dominance, discipline, and authority in pursuit of their objectives.

I have seen lesser athletes achieve greatness by focusing on these traits. One example would be Wayne Chrebet, a 5’10”, 183 lb. wide receiver that redefined the slot position for the duration of his career. This undrafted rookie had 66 receptions in his first year, still a Jets record. His dominance, willingness to persist while lacking the elite size or speed of others, along with his disciplined approach to outwork peers and authority and as his ridged and consistent process for preparing were like Payton— unmatched by others with far greater physical abilities.

Great accomplishments require that a clear goal is established. This is a key element of discipline. The ability to set a goal and hold oneself and others accountable is a necessity for those who desire consistent, long-term success. But it does not end with goal setting, as goals can only be achieved if one has a clear vision and understands how the goal will be achieved. Establishing a well-defined process requires the use of authority, the ability to provide structure and process in pursuit of an objective.

Walter Payton prided himself on his preparation for game day. He would challenge many other players in the offseason to train with the same discipline and regimen that he used. None were able to match him, even players much younger. The ability to train with consistency over a 13-year career at a level that exceeds that of all others is an example of the highest level of discipline and dominance at work.

Dominance is defined by one’s ability to take control and demonstrate persistence in the face of constant challenges. Walter Payton did not allow injury to deter him from his regimen, and he did not let fame and fortune lessen his intensity or diminish his work ethic. His preparation was only one aspect of his game. For those fortunate enough to see him play, there is no doubt that he was the best conditioned players on the field every Sunday.

At an organizational level, achieving greatness requires control. Well-grounded control incorporates the ability of an individual or an organization to set goals, defined in actionable plan, and organized in a well-structured process. Success relative to that plan of action requires persistence and discipline.

While it is relatively easy to define these elements; how does an organization measure an individual’s capacity to achieve an objective based on these themes? There exist three key behavioral traits that can define one’s ability and in organizations predisposition to invoke control in an effective way. (Dominance, discipline, and authority).

If an organization is unable to find people with these skills, the company will struggle to demonstrate consistent success. Yes, pockets of success can and most likely will be achieved, but those same individuals who achieved success in less challenging environments will struggle as situational dynamics evolve. Given the dynamic nature of business and the hypercompetitive landscape, organizations need to find individuals with strong dominance, discipline, and authority. They need to identify them as project leads. These elements need to be defined and leveraged at all levels of the organization.

Organizations that are able to identify this type of talent and leverage it will achieve consistent success, and will reach the highest levels, especially when they combine intelligence, motivational drive, and well-developed conflict resolution skills. Like Walter Payton, they will serve as an example for others, a model of greatness. How Sweet it will be…

Note: Scores and profiles referenced in this article refer to characteristics defined in the EurekaConnect Behavioral Dynamics program