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Even Winners Lose: Lessons from Super Bowl 50

by Joseph Murphy

Super BowlMaking it to the Super Bowl is no easy feat. It takes an enormous amount of dedication, training, practice, a little bit of luck, and a lot of winning. From making it to the top of their division to besting the other teams in the playoffs to win their conference, the two teams that make it to the Super Bowl at the end of the season are used to being victorious. And with both of this year’s competitors the top seeds in their conferences, the match truly was the best versus the best. But, of course, only one can win. And last night we watched the Denver Broncos triumph over the Carolina Panthers.

Despite steadily collecting all of those wins throughout the season, the Panthers are the losers of the country’s biggest sporting event. The lesson? Even winners lose. And just like seemingly invincible NFL rosters, even the most successful companies won’t win every deal, meet every quarterly goal, or hire the best candidate every time. But your company can focus on effective strategies to create a high-performing team that collects more victories than defeats.

Draft the Best Talent

To see potential, NFL recruiters observe performance. When NFL teams select new players during the draft, they never leave the right choices up to chance. They have scouts survey college players to see how up-and-coming athletes perform on the field, and team owners and coaches pour over statistics to pick the best talent. They would never make a pick based on a player’s self-proclaimed ability to run or throw a ball. Instead, teams rely on data and review of prior performance to see how well potential players will fit in with the team. (And the NFL’s use of data will become more prevalent with our own Cleveland Browns signing data expert and inspiration for Moneyball, Paul DePodesta, as chief strategy officer.)

Similarly, your business needs to look beyond the resume, which offers a collection of words but no objective way to gauge candidates’ level of competence, to make data-based decisions. A candidate’s results from the Virtual Job Tryout allow you to see potential by observing performance. The Virtual Job Tryout predicts how candidates will perform on the job and helps you identify the most qualified candidates to consider for your team.

Practice Makes Perfect

No NFL player will hit the field and immediately score a touchdown. Even when teams recruit the most promising talent, players still need time to get up to speed. Seeing where players excel and where they need additional training are key to driving top performance on the field. Your new hires need the same consideration. Companies welcome new hires and expect them to hit proficiency targets quickly. However, when a new hire is slow to show progress, managers scratch their heads as they try to figure out why this promising employee is unable to reach their full potential. What companies may be missing is a focus on extensive up-front new-hire training, which sets up a new employee for the most success as a rookie. The ability to learn how to execute all the moves in a complex play book is one factor essential for success in the NFL. Hiring individuals capable of learning effectively and retaining new skills is crucial for executing key moves in your business strategy.

Deliver Targeted Coaching

Each football game produces a vast amount of statistics—for the team as a whole and each individual player. Coaches use this data to recognize and reward strong performance and identify areas for further coaching and improvement. Your organization should be measuring performance, too. Monitoring performance at the employee, department, and company-wide levels will let you see where everyone is scoring points and when the team may be fumbling. And though you aren’t always able to call for an instant replay to see who might have dropped the ball, by collecting and analyzing performance data, you’ll have a much better understanding of your team’s abilities and where you may need to step in to provide additional coaching and support. Being attuned to your talent’s strengths and weaknesses, you can mitigate potential risks and ensure your team has what it needs to perform its best.

Create a Winning Team

The ability to identify the best talent is crucial to advancing key business goals and priorities. But don’t hire blindly. Look beyond the resume to find underlying skills and evaluate levels of competence. Understand where employees can use additional support, and give them the coaching to excel. Take a page from the NFL’s playbook to create the game plan you need not only to recruit the best, but optimize their performance and create a winning team.