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10 for 10

Progressive Forage Editor Lynn Jaynes Published on 27 February 2019

These are catchphrases used at different companies that became game-changers:

  • “Talk less, do more.”
  • “Work hard, be nice.”
  • “Pound the rock.”
  • “Be the constant, not the variable.”
  • “Prove the doubters wrong.”
  • “Write a great final chapter.”
  • “One size fits one.”
  • “Be aware of your emotional wake.”

When I first heard catchphrases used in business, I wondered, “Are these just cheerleading chants – just another rah-rah fad? Do any of these pithy little phrases make any difference, really?”

One man says yes, they do – Rand Pecknold. According to The Culture Code author Daniel Coyle, Pecknold coaches a hockey team at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, and has built a culture around “40 for 40.”

This refers to back-checking, which means rushing back to the defensive end in response to the other team’s attack. (I don’t follow hockey, but I assume the same principle works for basketball, and that I get.) Back-checking happens about 40 times per game. Pecknold’s goal is for his players to go all-out with 100 percent effort on each one, hence the phrase “40 for 40.”

While this maneuver of 100 percent effort at back-checking is physically exhausting, the thing is: It almost never pays off. Pecknold says, “You can back-check 39 times in a row, and it doesn’t make any difference at all in the play. But the 40th time, maybe something happens. You get a stick in, you steal the puck, you stop a goal, or you create a turnover that leads to a goal. That one back-check doesn’t show up anywhere in the stat books, but it can change a game. That’s why we are 40 for 40. That’s who we are.”

The Quinnipiac team doesn’t just use this in the locker room pre-game talk; they use it in practice, one-on-one meetings with coaches and during games. When they review game tape, any successful back-check is highlighted to the whole team – not the goal, not the assist. And Pecknold emphasizes this goal happened because they’re “40 for 40.” And the team eats it up. They try harder. They love it.

I’m betting whatever it is you do, you probably want to do it better. Most of us have a “drive” gear for some kind of achievement. I have an area of interaction with people I want to improve, so I thought I might take a lesson from Pecknold and try his approach – the same approach Navy Seals, Pixar and other highly successful teams use (at least one of them), which is to come up with a catchphrase that would remind me of my goal. It wouldn’t have to be readily understandable to a casual observer, but I’d know what it meant.

So I took a chapter from Pecknold’s playbook and modified it. My goal now is “10 for 10.” In any given day, I figure I average at least 10 opportunities to interact one-on-one with folks in more than a “hi, how are ya” kind of way as I walk past. About 10 times a day, on average, I have an opportunity to make a better connection. Sometimes it’s through email, sometimes a phone call, sometimes at a tradeshow and sometimes in a meeting. I wondered if I couldn’t achieve a 40-for-40 back-check kind of thing with every person I interact with – in essence, 10 for 10.

I’ve been working at this for a few weeks now. I put a sign up in my office to remind me. I try to remember it even when I’m at home playing tractors with my grandson on the carpet. Ten for 10. Every day. Every time.

I decided Peckhold is right; it is exhausting. But it’s also energizing, productive, enriching, focused and actionable. I think he’s onto something.

If you or your team could pick one thing to focus on, what would it be? And could you put that into a catchphrase to help you remember it? “Face toward the problems.” “Fail early, fail often.” “Hire people smarter than you.” “If it ain’t broke, fix it.” “You can’t prevent mistakes, but you can solve problems graciously.” What would you choose?

It could be a game-changer.  end mark

Lynn Jaynes
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