THE BLOG
09/09/2014 04:31 pm ET Updated Nov 09, 2014

4 Reasons Smart Leaders Scrimmage

"We've got our first scrimmage." Players love to hear those words from the coach because scrimmages are much more fun than squat thrusts, windmills, or shoulder and hip rotations. Scrimmaging is as close to a real game as you can get without the hoopla, and it serves multiple functions in sports and at work.

Scrimmaging Trains You to Think on Your Feet
You can do deep knee bends and squats, push-ups, and jumping jacks until you faint from exhaustion. You can pass, catch, bat, rebound from the boards, and sink free throws until you perfect the basics. But the real test is maneuvering with poise and purpose against your opponents. A scrimmage gives you opportunity to react appropriately to whatever unfolds on the court or field.

At work, scrimmaging serves the same purpose. You need opportunity to train before getting in the game. Many people fail to follow through with tasks for the simple reason that they've had no training. They're told the mission, handed their equipment, directed to suit up, and sent out to face the project or client without a single scrimmage. Is it any wonder they can't think on their feet when faced with a tough situation? Is it any surprise that they drop the ball or fail to follow through?

Scrimmaging Provides a Safe Structure
The score doesn't count on the season record. In fact, you often play your own teammates--first string against second string. When that's the case, you may not even keep up with the time or the fouls. Instead, your attention is--what happened, ... what didn't happen, ... what to do next time to make it happen.

At work, going without a scrimmage can be costly. Why not do a complete walk-through of the big customer briefing? Why not get input on the new policy statement draft from a few key suppliers before rolling it out it to a negative reception from all your vendors?

When scrimmaging, you can perfect a task or process and ask questions--before you lose a customer, blow up a project, or cause a lawsuit.

Scrimmaging Allows Replays Until You Get It Right
You can stop in the middle of play without an okay from a referee and work on your technique. If you didn't handle the screen appropriately, the coach can have you run the play again. And again. And again.

Learning at work must be a continuous mind-set. Real leaders know the value of always expanding their skill set. Whether facing mergers or acquisitions, recruiting for top slots, opening new markets, or developing new product lines, senior executives analyze, study, and bring in consultants to do the replays of what their own staff has recommended--just to make sure they're getting it right before making the final game move.

The habit of replays should trickle down until everybody gets it right. What you knew last month has become outdated. Continual learning is your competitive advantage.

Scrimmaging Builds Bench Strength
Scrimmaging keeps everybody on their toes. For the second stringers, it's their opportunity to go one on one with the first string. As a first stringer, this is not the time to relax because someone else is itching to take your place. If you're not playing at your best, you can quickly find yourself back on the bench.

Scrimmaging at work on stretch assignments provides perfect opportunities to increase your skills so you're ready to take on more responsibility. The best leaders make it a priority to build bench strength among the entire team--rather than depending on one or two star players.

Leaders who can motivate their team during the scrimmages find that the tougher challenge--but are better prepared for the bigger win.