Super Bowl Lessons for Hiring Managers


Naturally the Broncos are in the Super Bowl because I will be on a plane for the first half of the game.  Business travel is not always glamorous or convenient, but in this case it will save me from consuming far too many snacks.  The last time the Broncos made it to the Super Bowl I was in Canada on business… thankfully alone in my hotel room during that awful game (I’m sure my Seattle friends have a different take on that game!)


The Super Bowl is an enormous spectacle for so many people; fans in their pricey seats at the game, millions of people at parties across America, advertisers, pizza delivery companies… the list goes on.  But, for the players and coaches, it’s the culmination of a lot of hard work and preparation.


Getting new people up to speed quickly is critical to any organization.  You wouldn’t expect a team in the Super Bowl to start a brand new player in that game and expect them to perform.   Yet, every business day I hear a story about a company that is hiring someone with experience so they can hit the ground running.  Hey, business folks, you could learn a thing or two from the NFL.

Helping new people become productive quickly happens in phases, much like there are phases to a professional football game.


  1. Preparation In the NFL, coaches watch game tape to learn what they can about how an opposing coach plays the game.  They learn the strengths and weaknesses of key players and they build their own game plan based on the knowledge they gained from their pre-game study.  Have you done the work to make sure that you know what tools your people need to succeed?  Do you have your playbook or are you hoping a new hire comes equipped with their own, and if that’s the case, how will their playbook integrate with those the rest of your team is using?


  1. Pre-game Show Before kick-off, fans participate in tailgate parties, paint their faces, put on their team logo gear, buy snacks, watch cheerleaders, paint signs and yell as the players run onto the field with great fanfare.  What is your welcoming event?  It’s easier, more convenient and cheaper to watch a football game at home, but tens of thousands of fans flock to stadiums across the country, in nasty weather, to be part of the event.  Do you welcome your new hires with fanfare?  What about your existing team… are they fans of your company culture?


  1. Kick-off Time to get down to business.  While everyone knows how to play the game, coaching, cheering, reviewing plays, challenging calls from the referee and water breaks are all still necessary.  When it’s time to get down to business are your new hires left to their own devices, or does your Onboarding plan allow for coaching and Gatorade along the way?  Coaching and training is happening during the game, even the Super Bowl, where you would expect that the players already know what they are doing.


  1. 4th Quarter The game is not over until the end of the 4th quarter and any fan of the game has seen it happen, at least once, that a team is down by a huge margin only to win it in the 4th quarter.  In this year’s AFC Championship, the Broncos, in the lead the entire game, almost lost in the last 17 seconds!  Just because a team gets off to a great start, doesn’t mean they have what it takes to win it in the end.  It’s  great when a new hire gets off to a quick start, but this can be dangerous too.  Make sure your Onboarding plan allows for continued growth and development beyond the first 30-90 days.  Payton Manning still runs drills.  Remind your star players that they are not above doing some extra practice.


  1. Post-game Recap Much is said after the game is over about how the game was played.  In Denver, you would think nothing else in the world is happening if there is football that can be discussed and assessed! This is a critical assessment phase that can greatly impact the performance in the next game.  Assessment is often overlooked in the hustle to get a new hire ramped up quickly, but taking the time to talk about what is and is not working in terms of a new hire’s initial experience can save quite a bit of time and frustration as time goes on.  It’s mission critical in the NFL and in your conference room.


The NFL wouldn’t put a new player in a big game right out of the gate.  They would train them thoroughly and make sure they feel and act like part of the team.  Follow the NFL’s lead in your business and celebrate your success with a lot of yummy snacks.