Chuck Noll on Teamwork

This month we lost one of the greatest football coaches in the history of the NFL. As the leader of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Chuck Noll is the only coach to win four Super Bowls. How’d he do it? One key was his ability to inspire teamwork.

Chuck Noll took over as head coach in 1969. Within five years, he won his first Super Bowl and continued on a streak that has yet to be matched. When asked how he did it, Chuck said,

I can’t tell you how much you gain, how much progress you can make, by working together as a team, by helping one another. You get much more done that way. If there’s anything the Steelers of the ’70s epitomized, I think it was that teamwork.

This mentality fostered the Steelers’ famed Iron Curtain defense and garnered an impressive 209 wins over a 23 year career. A quote that really puts teamwork into perspective is when he said,

Right now you hear about teamwork and it’s defined as 50-50, and that is a falsehood. There’s no such thing as 50-50. You do whatever you have to do as part of the team. You may have to carry somebody.

Too often, we hear people who are overly concerned with things being equal. “I’ll give you this if you give me that,” they might say. And when it’s not perfectly even, they’ll follow it up with, “it’s not fair.” These individuals are focused on the short game. They are only thinking about what they are sacrificing in the moment. Teamwork is based on the idea that we are helping each other. Regardless of the industry, this leads to organizational success, a stronger culture, and a generally happier environment to work.

A few ways we can do this might include:

  • Reinforce your vision. This is an enduring goal that can’t be won overnight.
  • Incentive team accomplishments. This will mitigate selfishness and promote a sense that we’re all in this together.
  • Preach the importance of supporting teammates when they are having a bad day. It’s easy to support people who are ahead; real teamwork takes place when we’re floundering. After all, you’re going to need the help one day, too.

To coach a national championship football team or lead in the conference room, we must spend more time and energy on winning in the long-term. Nothing will be perfectly equal, but over time, it’ll be pretty close.

The thing that stuck out was we had a lot of people who didn’t worry about what somebody else did. If someone else was having a tough time on a particular day, they reached down and got it up a little more. They got the thing done. Whatever they had to do, they did to win. There was never a reason to let down.