Former All-American and NFL pro quarterback Tom Flick repeated one number in his keynote address to kick off the Winning Is Everything practice management conference in Las Vegas on Thursday: the number 10.

After meeting gold-medal gymnast Mary Lou Retton at another conference, Flick was interested in the mentality that led to her scoring that famous perfect 10 vault required to claim the all-around title at the 1984 Summer Olympics.

After her incredible feat, Retton was interviewed by a doctor who was just as curious, asking, “What were you thinking before you jumped?”

According to Flick, she replied, “I just wanted to do what my friends were doing.”

That mindset, Flick said, it necessary for growing firms.

“Leaders speak differently than the norm,” he told attendees at the 11th annual conference. “They are always about moving forward, not [into] the past.”

For Retton, that meant ignoring that her previous vault had been a personal best. She still needed a 10, and, Flick said, that was precisely what she thought as she lined up for her second attempt.

“You look at your reflection in the mirror tomorrow morning and say, ‘I need a 10!’” advised Flick, before joking: “And you’ll say: ‘I’ve got a 2!’”

The one big thing keeping companies from leaping into the future, Flick said, is complacency. He has found that contentment with the status quo and resting on past successes to be rampant within companies, along with an increase in complaints.

“Leaders don’t do that,” he said. “Managers and leaders give people 10s.”

They also build people up, Flick continued, as he did in his team meeting in the NFL.

“You should make people feel like they won because they’re working with you,” he said. “There is something more important than winning—helping people to win and creating winners.”

Flick also advised leaders to encourage teams by connecting the head and the heart and not under-communicating the message. “People don’t connect with facts,” he said. “Your job as leaders is to change how people think, work and go after life.”

This means shifting to a larger-scale mindset. “If you really want to push frontiers, chase a big opportunity for your firm in 2012,” Flick advised. “Give yourself the freedom to dream a big dream.”

At the conclusion of the keynote, and continuing a theme from last year, the Advisory Board’s Allan Koltin of Koltin Consulting asked Flick to predict this year’s Super Bowl-winning team.

Last year, legendary football coach Lou Holtz correctly named the Green Bay Packers as the champions.  
Flick wouldn’t go as far as naming the trophy-hoisting team, but, if he’s correct, Super Bowl Sunday will host a rematch of the New York Giants and the New England Patriots.

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