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6 Things That Consistently Winning Teams Do [From a Super Bowl Winner]

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It doesn't matter where you're from, where you're at, or what level you are in your career. I think these characteristics of what has made Kansas City a consistent winning football team in the National Football League are applicable to all of us.

That's what Mitch Holthus, play-by-play announcer of the Kansas City Chiefs for nearly three decades, told finance leaders at Excelerate Summit 2023.

In his half-hour keynote, What Makes a Winning Team which featured a Ted Lasso video cameo, he explored the franchises 10-year transformation, from finishing as the worst team in the league in 2012 to winning two Super Bowl championships (Super Bowls 54 and 57) in a four-year span (2019–2023).

In this blog, you'll learn from Mitch the six things that transformed the Kansas City Chiefs and Chief Kingdom into consistent winners—all of which you can apply to your organization and to your world of finance.

Key Takeaways:

  • Listen to absorb, ascertain and act.
  • Connect your employees from different generations (baby boomers, Gen X, millennials and Gen Z) to integrate them.
  • Don't sacrifice your long-term goals for short-term gains.

1. Winning by Listening

"That is listening to absorb, listening to ascertain."

Their two-time MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes was an apprentice in his first season in the NFL. While he played in only one of 16 games that year, the Chiefs surrounded him with Alex Smith, Andy Reid, Matt Nagy, Eric Bienemy and Doug Pederson, the "NASA scientists of NFL coaches." Patrick absorbed and listened, which helped him exceed expectations in the subsequent early seasons of his career.

"Many times we listen to then immediately try to make it about ourselves, whether it's a personal conversation or a business conversation. And the best thing to do that Coach [Andy] Reid has taught me and others in the Chief Kingdom has been to follow up with more questions. Follow up with more delving into the person or the situation that you're dealing with, and then to absorb and then to ascertain, and then to act."

2. Winning by Being Curious

"We're a team that wins in many ways because we're curious. And how many times do we make a mistake, by being judgmental before being curious?"

In their Super Bowl 57-winning season, nine rookies played for the Chiefs. They set an NFL record by playing nine first-year players on defense and special teams, in the conference championship game and again in the Super Bowl.

"This is an organization where there's respect vertically and horizontally."

3. Winning by Connecting

"We're in the Alamo. Don't shoot your own people."

The Chiefs working environment went from one that was distrustful, unhealthy and difficult on our own people to one that was nurturing, which elevated employees at every level within the organization.

Mitch talked about his SPS (Superiors, Peers, Subordinates) meter, which measures how people treat others at different levels. He mentioned their generational integration which actively integrates baby boomers, Gen X, millennial and Gen Z employees.  He also discussed horizontal accountability.

"Accountability is there many times in a direct way, but what's not there is the indirect way of being horizontally accountable with your peers, not only within your company, but also in personal relationships with two or three people who may or may not be in finance that you meet with and can trust on a consistent basis."

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Practical Applications of AI and Automation in FP&A
See how leaders in the finance and planning space, such as Mitchs teammate Michael Ragsdale, VP of Finance, Strategy and Analytics of the Kansas City Chiefs, are harnessing emerging technologies in AI and automation to power their plan for anything.


4. Winning by Looking at Perspective

"Am I seen as a person of hope? A person that can be trusted? One who prepares? Someone who will stay engaged when the environment becomes difficult? A pin light in a dark room? A remnant?"

In his near-three decades as the voice of the Kansas City Chiefs, Mitch saw a lot. The pre-transformation 20 were in many ways, very different from the last 10. Just moments before Mitch went on stage to present their Super Bowl 54-winning team to the parade's audience, their team photographer captured a picture of Mitch before saying, "I'm not going to let this moment pass because you have been a remnant. You stayed as a positive force when it was not easy to do so."

For two decades of darkness, Mitch was a light.

"Financial situations can come and go: What's the Fed going to do? What's the economy look like? Is inflation rising? We see that throughout history that it's not always a steady line. How do we handle the ups and downs?"

5. Winning by Having Courage and Hope

"Unusual courage can produce unusual results."

About halfway through their Super Bowl 54-winning season, Patrick dislocated his kneecap. It looked like the season was going to go up into oblivion. But their quarterback missed only two games, and then the Chiefs lost by only three points in his first game back. They wouldn't lose another that season, en route to their first of two championships in the four-year span.

"Everyone wants to be there, very few want to get there. And we have won here as an organization on a consistent basis because we have people that want to get there as much as they want to be there. Then there's the linear progression of hope. And that is sometimes we exalt in our tribulation, that leads to perseverance, which leads to proven character, which leads to hope, and hope does not disappoint."

6. Winning by Waiting

"Many times in finance, we're faced with a quarterly report. Many of you have to put together a 10-K. And sometimes we have to live quarter to quarter. I understand many times there's a short-term play, but to win consistently, there has got to be the long-term play of waiting."

The Chiefs successfully balanced their short-term needs with their long-term goals. They never sacrificed winning a Super Bowl and winning consistently to achieve marginal gains.

"When you're in this business, you have to wait for it. You wait for it. You wait for it. And then it happens."

Consistently Winning Teams

Listening, curiosity, connection, perspective, courage/hope and waiting.

Those were Mitch's six characteristics of what has transformed his organization—in the last 10 years—into a consistent winner.

And they can transform yours too.

Watch his full half-hour Excelerate Summit 2023 keynote, What Makes a Winning Team, to transform your team into a consistent winner.

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What Makes a Winning Team

Learn from Mitch Holthus, Voice of the Kansas City Chiefs (Super Bowl LIV and LVII Champions), on how to create winning teams on and off the field.


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About the Author

Jonathan Paul, Senior Director, Content & Communications, Vena

As Senior Director of Content and Communications, Jonathan Paul leads content strategy and execution at Vena, overseeing the development of owned media and content experiences that help finance professionals fuel business health, as well as their personal and professional growth. When he's not dreaming up new ways to offer audiences value through content creation, Jonathan loves to lose himself in an immersive video game with a solid narrative, lose golf balls pretending to be good at golf and lose time dreaming about time travel.

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