Metaphors gone wild: quarterbacks and decisions

January 24, 2023 0 Comments

“If you’re a quarterback,” says Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, “you want everything on your shoulders. You want to be the decision maker.” Quarterback or ordinary decision-maker, we’ve all felt the burden of decision-making. Metaphorical football reaches touchdown status only through a combination of the right people, the right conditions, and the right decisions.

Emotion regarding some decision can get in the way of clear thinking. Just consider what Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach John McKay says about emotion: “Emotion is so overrated in football. My wife Corky is very emotional, but she can’t play football.”

A more analytical approach, but one that doesn’t rely too heavily on numbers, can serve you well whether you’re making decisions alone or in a team.


Data alone shouldn’t be all we rely on when making important decisions. McKinsey and Company urges moving beyond reliance on quantitative data alone. The world-renowned management consulting firm emphasizes the value of examining style, skills, systems, structure, people, strategy, and shared value.

Other experts recommend identifying the long-term problems facing the organization. This critical first step has far-reaching implications. Identification may mean having strategic review meetings that involve candid conversations with top decision makers.

Clearly, there are numerous approaches to arriving at the right decisions. However, identification is vital: many experts believe that it is better to have the wrong answer to the correctly defined problem than to have the correct answer to the wrongly identified problem.


Many decision makers pride themselves on having a “golden gut,” that is, they make decisions based on their intuition. There is nothing wrong with doing that if you know for a fact that your intuition is more than 90% accurate.

The best decision makers can avoid “certainty” which often turns out to be false. They give credence to estimates that 50% of the assumptions we make are wrong. Here’s a simple way to test the accuracy of your intuition. Simply answer “true” or “false” to each statement on the next page using only your “gut reaction” to guide you.

1) The tiger is the second largest species in the cat family.

2) Tigers can reach a length of up to 9 feet and weigh up to 400 pounds.

3) Among the many subspecies are the Malayan tiger, Siberian tiger, Bengal tiger, South China tiger, Sumatran tiger, and Indochinese tiger.

4) The tiger is no longer endangered, thanks to human effort.

5) Most (about 80%) of tiger cubs live to become adult tigers.

6) When tigers congregate, the group is known as tiger flattery.

7) Tigers fear water.

8) The white tigers are a figment of the writers’ imagination.

9) Tigers have their most successful hunts when they run together during the day.

10) Most of the tigers in the world today are in the wild.

Give the quiz to your team. Your answers will help when you make decisions as a group. If there are truly intuitive individuals on the team, someone with a perfect score, seriously consider their “gut reactions.” If the team has very diverse responses, this same lack of unanimous thinking suggests that a more unified approach may be necessary. Instead of a group vote on the best decision, there are more structured decision-making approaches available to teams.

Here are the answers to the tiger quiz:

#1 False (The tiger is the largest cat).

#2 False (Can grow up to 11 feet and weigh 660 pounds.)

#3 True

#4 False (It is in danger of extinction due to hunting and the destruction of its habitat).

#5 False (Half of the puppies do not live more than two years).

#6 False (They are known as an “ambush” of tigers).

#7 False (Actually, they are quite good swimmers).

#8 False (They exist: one in 10,000 genes will produce a white tiger.)

#9 False (They are more successful at night, when they hunt individually).

#10 False (Most are kept as pets and in zoos).


The African proverb, “I would rather be a tiger for a day than a lamb for a hundred days,” suggests an aggressive approach to decision-making, not a haphazard or condescending one. Keep the seven “s” words in mind when working alone or together, you have to make important decisions.

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