Football Strategies for Your HR Team: Tips for a Winning Workplace

Football Strategies for Your HR Team: Tips for a Winning Workplace

This article was updated on July 20, 2018.

Effective leadership is a challenge for many organizations. According to Glassdoor, 86 percent of global HR and business professionals say leadership is a top issue — and this concern may be justified, with only 18 percent of current managers possessing the right combination of drive and talent to help their HR team achieve excellence.

Want better outcomes?

Take a page from some of the most highly disciplined, well-led organizations in the U.S. — NFL teams. Here are five football strategies for your HR team to help build a winning workplace culture.

1. No "I" in Team

While individual output may be the determining factor for small organizations with only one or two HR staff, larger organizations must adopt a team-based philosophy. For HR managers, this requires a two-fold effort — understanding staff strengths and weaknesses and encouraging open corporate culture. Consider the NFL. Some players excel at defense while others have a natural talent for catching or running the ball downfield. Some are generalists with all-around skills that can help any offensive drive, while others leverage specific skill sets such as kicking field goals, which are extremely useful in certain circumstances. The same goes for your HR team. Get to know the skills of your "players," how they fit together and how they can be leveraged to produce ideal results. It's also critical to support broad awareness of these skill sets so HR employees can encourage and hold each other accountable.

2. Maximum Motivation

Northeastern University notes how Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcels was known as a "my way or the highway" kind of leader, but also had the ability to discover what motivated players and use that to improve their overall performance. This is critical in HR, especially as more and more employees trend away from engagement with their jobs to a kind of employment which simply pays the bills. HR leaders should sit down, one-on-one, with their staff and ask probing questions — what makes you feel valued and like you're making a difference? What brings out your best? Here, support for intrinsic motivation combined with clear goal setting can help drive better team performance.

3. Failing Forward

Failure is a part of life, business culture and certainly a key aspect of professional football. As noted by, however, the response of leaders to inevitable failure can either empower team members or hold them back. It plays out in HR as well — conversations focused on failure and how team members should be doing better might produce resentful employees instead of improved output. Support and results-based coaching, meanwhile, can help staff feel valued while still encouraging better performance. "By choosing to focus on the positive, skillfully sharing your own personal experience, or simply reminding the person that everyone has a bad day, you do everything in your power to help that person recover," notes Inc.

4. Excellence Over Perfection

Next on the list of football strategies for your HR team? Pursue excellence. According to Entrepreneur, legendary NFL coach Vince Lombardi once said, "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence." In other words, it's important to set the bar high — in many cases, so high that it's impossible to reach. For HR teams this might take the form of recruitment goals, retention practices or even records management efficiency. Make it clear to team members that you're aiming to be the best, and then empower them to achieve this aim. You'll never reach perfection, but you can create a team that regards excellence as the de facto standard.

5. Be Extraordinary

As noted by Entrepreneur, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Chuck Noll had something to say about being ordinary — "If you want to win, do the ordinary things better than anyone else does them day in and day out." In football terms that means working on the basics — running, passing, blocking, kicking — and getting to a point where "ordinary" isn't just easy but second nature. The same applies to HR processes. When handling performance reviews or managing employee expectations becomes an inextricable part of the team dynamic, it's possible to achieve extraordinary outcomes because staff are inherently confident in their own abilities to improve.

Want a winning workplace? Co-opt some of the best strategies from NFL coaches to empower and encourage your team.