I’m an unabashed Steeler fan. Have been for as long as I can remember. I was born in the ‘Burgh but moved to Chicago when I was only one year old. I remember my uncle John mailing me Steeler hats and scarves and wearing them to school. I learned many hard lessons during those elementary school years, but that’s a post for another day.
Today, as the Steelers march toward a possible seventh Super Bowl victory, I’ve been reflecting on the ways in which the lessons of Steeler teams current and past apply to business.
Set high standards and apply them consistently
This year the Steelers began the year without Ben Roethlisberger, who was suspended for the first four games of the season by the NFL for violation of the league’s personal conduct policy. Coach Mike Tomlin did a fantastic job of communicating across the league that the team expected to be successful with or without Roethlisberger. Time and again Tomlin (especially in the press) hit on the fact that “we have only one standard here, and that standard is winning”. This mantra was repeated at every turn throughout the year – applied to rookie wide receivers and dozens of shuffles on the offensive line. I’m certain that by setting a high standard and applying it consistently, Tomlin changed the outlook of his team and eliminated the possibility of excuse making for failures. How high are your standards? Do you apply them consistently across your organization?
Develop an eye for talent
The Steelers have a long and storied history of developing championship teams through the draft. Unlike many other teams around the league, the Steelers do not pay top dollar for free agents. Instead, they draft smart and develop their people. Are you recruiting for positions across your organization, even if they are currently filled? Finding great personnel is an ongoing endeavor. Network with an eye for talent. It will help you when openings occur.
Develop deep bench strength
The Steelers are very strong at developing their people so that even second and third string players are ready to play if their number is called on game day. How much time and effort do you put into ensuring your people are getting better at their current jobs? What about developing high potentials so they are ready for the next level?
Give key players the freedom to redefine their position
The Steelers have two future Hall-of-Famers playing on the current team who have redefined their positions. Hines Ward is probably the toughest, and certainly best blocking wide receiver in the history of football. During his tenure in the league, he has redefined how the wide receiver position is played (at least from a blocking perspective). The same can be said of Troy Polamalu. The Steelers give Troy incredible freedom to freelance in the defensive secondary – and Troy delivers time and again, making big things happen nearly every game. Who are your game changers? Are you giving them the freedom to operate in such a way that they could change the game?
What do you think? Who’s your favorite football team, and what lessons have you learned from the way they operate? What did I miss that you would have included?
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