Late last year, Philadelphia Eagles backup quarterback Nick Foles took over for injured starting quarterback Carson Wentz when he suffered a torn ACL. Many believed the Eagles’ Super Bowl hopes had been devastated. But Foles proved otherwise, as he successfully led the Eagles through the playoffs and brought the city of Philadelphia its very first Super Bowl victory.
To say the past few weeks have been a case of déjà vu is a gross understatement.
Once again, Wentz has gone out with a serious injury (this time to his back), and Foles has taken over. Since that time, Foles and the Eagles have won four consecutive games, including yesterday’s playoff victory over the higher-seeded Chicago Bears.
You don’t have to be an Eagles fan–or even a football fan–to appreciate Foles’s accomplishments.
It’s more than the classic underdog story. To watch Foles in action is to take a class in leadership with emotional intelligence, the ability to make emotions work for you, instead of against you.
Case in point?
Check out Foles’s postgame interview after yesterday’s playoff win. Asked what’s going through his mind in these high-pressure situations, Foles said this:
“What I learned on those stages is just how to calm myself in a chaotic moment, when there’s … a ton of pressure. And just really simplifying in my head. Getting in the huddle, looking at the guys that I trust. Know that it’s all on the line for us and we’re just going to get the job done.”
Foles then summed up the lesson in six simple words:
“It’s just belief in one another.”
Foles’s comments may be inspiring, but they’re also backed up by serious research. For example, Google spent years studying effective teams and found that a single factor contributed most to their success: psychological safety.
Google describes it this way:
“In a team with high psychological safety, teammates feel safe to take risks around their team members. They feel confident that no one on the team will embarrass or punish anyone else for admitting a mistake, asking a question, or offering a new idea.”
There’s a simpler term for psychological safety, and it’s one that Foles used repeatedly through his postgame interview:
The word is trust.
And great teams thrive on it.
That trust in your teammates, the belief that Foles speaks about, doesn’t come easily. But Foles used his experience in yesterday’s game to explain how you can build it.
Having admitted that things weren’t going well for the Eagles offensively, Foles gave his defensive players credit for helping keep his team in the game.
“They just kept coming and telling us: ‘We got you. We got you. We’re going to get you the ball back,'” said Foles. “They never turn; they never get upset.”
“It’s about believing in one another–in the hard times. It’s easy to pat each other on the back when things are going well. It’s, hey, when things aren’t going well or when I [make mistakes], what’s going to happen? What happened today is I … made a couple of mistakes, but the guys were there to be there for me, to lift me up. The defense said they got me. And that’s what this team is about.”
That’s psychological safety.
That trust, that belief–along with a leader who practices what he preaches and has learned how to stay calm under pressure–is part of what has made the Philadelphia Eagles one of the most dangerous teams in these playoffs.
And it’s what can help you and your team get the most out of one another–in good times and bad.
If you would like help getting your team to adopt the value of psychological safety, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 443-364-8341.