First Downs, Touchdowns, and Championships

This February you were either cheering or lamenting while the Philadelphia Eagles repeatedly charged down the field, landing first down after first down, scoring touchdowns, and ultimately, winning the Super Bowl championship.

Well, whether you’re a sports fan or not, you can use this same concept of first downs, touchdowns, and championships when thinking about strategic recognition in your organization.

First Downs

At work, first downs happen every day—they’re the daily effort people exert to drive success (for themselves, their team, or their organization). Sometimes this means doing their job well and setting the standard. Sometimes it means going above and beyond the job requirement. And, in some cases, a first down can mean an action that has a big impact on the customer experience or on a specific business result. All three levels of effort are worthy of recognition. Taking the time to provide a little recognition that acknowledges employees’ day-to-day effort can be just what is needed to help inspire them to press on. Here are a few examples of first downs:

 Helping out others

Learning something new

Sharing knowledge and expertise

Providing great service to customers

Solving a problem

First downs are critical for fulfilling employees’ day-to-day cravings for Respect, Purpose, and Relationship, which keeps them motivated and committed to accomplishing touchdowns and championships.


In football, touchdowns are a key result that occur throughout the game as a result of achieving first downs. At work, touchdowns are when you recognize results that come about from the cumulative daily effort employees put forth. Touchdowns at work could be results big or small, including:

 Having a project success

Achieving a goal

Accomplishing something as a team

Improving a process

Coming up with an innovative idea


Finally, we have championships. In football, the ultimate championship is the Super Bowl, which happens once a year. At work, championships are nowhere near as frequent as the effort level of first downs or the key results of touchdowns, but when they do happen, it often pays to make a big deal about it. Championships include major accomplishments and/or milestones that occur through a lot of first downs (daily effort) and touchdowns (personal or team results), for example:

Sales, revenue, or profitability goals

Productivity or cost-saving goals

Customer acquisition goals

 Career milestones

 Team milestones

Here’s a handy chart about what to recognize people for in regard to daily effort level (first downs), key personal or team results (touchdowns), or major goals/milestones (championships).

First downs, touchdowns and championships

As a leader and manager of people, investing a few minutes each week to stop and recognize a success (acknowledge a first down, touchdown, or championship) shows employees you respect them and the work they are doing. This not only builds trust and strengthens your relationship, is also helps employees feel less stress and become more motivated and committed—more engaged.

  CultureEmployee Engagement

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