Since 1969 the Pittsburgh Steelers have had only three Head Coaches – Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher, and Mike Tomlin. Each coach has won one Super Bowl, and Chuck Noll has won four of them. In comparison, another historic franchise, the Oakland Raiders have had 14 head coaches since 1969 (Offstein 2009, 114). The norm of longevity for football coaches in the NFL is more in line with the Raiders than the Steelers, the average length of time being about 5-7 years. It is probably not a coincidence that the Steelers have won more Super Bowls than any other team; a total of six. What has made the Steelers stay the course where other teams seem to be in a constant panic; ever-changing their strategy? The Rooneys, family owners of the Steelers, seem to trust their head coaching decisions. They give their coaches an opportunity to grow and learn on the job. They give them the freedom to make head coaching decisions without micromanaging the process. If the team has a bad year, they do not panic and take the easy route in blaming the coach. Instead, they strategically look at what resources the team needs to succeed and develop a plan to make that happen. They turn their failures into successes with patience and strategy, but, they do not change the strategy at the core – the Steelers may add a player here or there, but remain the same team with the same personality. In Gridiron Leadership, the Raiders lack of success is attributed to “strategic flip-flopping” (Offstein 2009,114).
From 1989 to 2008, the Oakland Raiders had ten separate head or interim coaches during that period. That’s a new coach every two years. Compare that with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who had three coaches over an almost 40-year period, or the Minnesota Vikings, who had four coaches during the same 20-year span as the Raiders’ coaching carousel. Since the head coach plays a large part in determining and dictating a team’s strategy, we can easily see that the revolving coaching door created a revolving strategy. This flip-flopping of strategy meant that no one strategy could get traction, and the people who were brought in to fit with the strategy… didn’t quite mesh when the new leadership came in and changed strategy again (Offstein 2009,114-115.)
As a manager, do you have those qualities exhibited by the Steelers and the Rooneys or do you panic and start yet another restructuring of your unit or revising of job descriptions? As managers we should exhibit the qualities of the Rooneys and the Steelers. Of course, we do not always have the luxury of dismissing an employee on the spot, but in most cases, that is not the answer any way. It is our job as managers to coach our players up – help that employee perform better. Take on that failure as your own, so your employee doesn’t lose confidence. Some of the best athletes are those who can quickly forget their failures, so by taking on that failure as the manager, the employee can quickly forget. How failures are handled will determine the level of ease and comfort of your employees. If you panic then your employees will panic and start wondering if they need to pursue employment elsewhere. Now, does that sound like a mind state that will lead to productivity? If you simply look at this as a challenge that you and your employees can tackle together, employees will remain relaxed enough to continue their creativity and productivity.
Offstein, Evan H. 2009. Gridiron leadership: winning strategies and breakthrough tactics. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Praeger.