What Super Bowl success can teach us about evaluating talent
On Sunday 3 Feb, 71,000 fans packed Mercedes-Benz stadium in Atlanta for Super Bowl 53. Millions more watched on TV. Gladys Knight delivered a spine-tingling rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner.
And between the commercials a little bit of football got played. Dancing cheerleaders, mountains of snacks and an overblown halftime show. It was as my U.K friends would say, “wonderfully, absurdly American”.
As an American who has traveled abroad, I learned quickly that there is “football”, and there is “American football”. Our NFL is unlike the Premier League in England, which is dominated by a handful of clubs. In American football we have a system that strives for parity.
To a non-American observer, the NFL appears to be a form of “sports Socialism” with rules and restrictions that are strikingly different than how the English Premier League operates.
So what does the NFL do that appears to run counter to the basic principles of capitalism?
Well first up, money from TV rights is distributed equally AND there’s a salary cap. Franchises in bigger media markets can’t buy themselves any advantage.
Second, players enter the league via the draft. The worst team from the previous season picks first.
So, it’s hard to maintain success for more than a couple of seasons. Unless you’re the New England Patriots…
With Coach Belichick patrolling the sideline, and quarterback Tom Brady under center, they’ve found a way to subvert the handicap of sporting socialism. Swaggering into Atlanta, they clinched their 6th super bowl, defeating the LA Rams. Overmatched on paper, the Patriots were greater than the sum of their parts.
Testament to an organization that evaluates talent and leadership development programme better than anyone else and knows how to fit it together.
Take the draft. The later rounds are a lottery. But where other teams swing and miss, New England still strike gold.
MVP Julian Edelman, a case in point. An unheralded seventh rounder who played quarterback in college. The Patriots switched him to wide receiver. Typical of how they think. And Brady himself, considered the greatest player of all time, was another overlooked late round gem.
What’s more, they have a knack for turning trash into treasure to further help their cause. Players who underperformed on other teams are promoted to starters. Formerly square pegs. In New England their potential flourishes in schemes that play to their strengths.
And we can take this ‘Patriot Way’ and apply it to the workplace learning and development, where the business superstars you covet could be hiding in plain sight. If only you knew where to look…
The potential future leader… hired for the wrong role.
The rough diamond…in need of a mentor.
The ‘flaky’ graduate…who just lacks confidence.
Here at OnTrack we don’t just run training courses.
We like to run the diagnostics first.
Deep dive analysis into the way that you work.
And the talent you already have on your books.
So, potential doesn’t slip through the net and walk out the door.