Day 2 of Host Analytics World 2016 kicked off with an inspiring keynote speech by former NFL quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Steve Young
Steve Young is best known for his achievements as a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. To name a few:
- Third-Highest Passer Rating, Career -- 96.8
- Most TD Passes in one Super Bowl -- 6
- Most Rushing Touchdowns by a QB, Career -- 43
And yet, to hear him tell it, Young, Wednesday's keynote speaker at Host Analytics World 2016 was on the verge of failure for much of his early football career. From a failed stint in the USFL to two seasons with the cellar-dwelling Tampa Bay Buccaneers - followed by four years of playing backup to Joe Montana, Young says he battled growing frustration in what should have been the formative years of his career. Gaining perspective helped him reverse the trend and become a Super Bowl MVP.
What changed? The data, except that Young wasn't pulling analytics from an EPM system but from the late Dr. Steven Covey, author of the highly-acclaimed and best selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The two met on a plane in 1991 and struck up a conversation that Young summarized passionately from the stage.
"Steve, I've got to be honest with you: I travel the world looking for organizational platforms that allow people to find out how good they can get. I don't see platforms like that very often, and when I see them I want to amplify them. I want to tell the world about these organizations that offer what I think every human being is looking for," Young says, his voice rising to drive home the point to come. "I don't know that I've seen a better one, in all my life, than the one you have. Do you want to see how good you could get?"
From that point on, Young says, everything changed. He spent the next two years under Montana absorbing as much as he could and putting up record performances. By 1994, Young was the 49ers' starter and a dominant force on the field, throwing six touchdown passes in a 49-26 win over the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. He's spent many of the years since identifying the drivers of championship performance, two of which he introduced to the 800-plus attendees at his keynote.
Integration. Not racial integration or data integration but life integration. Young credits the late Bill Walsh for this idea, saying that his former coach would open each training camp by declaring that the members of the team would "integrate" by getting to know each other on a deep and personal level. That, Young says, led to the trust required for excellence in tough situations. Businesses should be operating similarly. "Whether it's finance and HR or the guys in sales -- you know, the ones who are like wide receivers who catch the ball for a touchdown and spike it. Yeah, even them. On every level, we've got to break down the barriers that keep us apart," Young says.
Accountability. Trust develops when teammates know they can depend on you to do your job. Making excuses when things go wrong won't get you that. Instead, Young says, you need to be accountable. And not just to management but to everyone around you. To emphasize the point, Young described a method he'd developed for rallying the team after throwing an interception, or "finterception," as he derisively refers to the act of throwing the ball to the wrong team at the wrong time -- something he did 107 times during his 15-year NFL career. Instead of making an excuse in those instances, he'd instead take responsibility and ask for forgiveness. "It's my fault," Young would say. "But I'll tell you what we're going to do. We'll go to the sidelines, we'll get a drink of water, we'll go back on the field, and we're going to win the game. What do you say?" Each time the players would rally around him, and the wins they compiled as a team in spite of the setbacks and the "finterceptions" testifies to the power of remaining accountable.
Measuring for these two traits isn't difficult, Young says. He does it all the time in his job as an NFL analyst. "Even if you don't like football, watch the post-game press conferences. Watch the interviews," Young says. Invariably, the players who are making excuses are the ones delivering forgettable performances and playing for forgettable teams. The ones who take responsibility for losses and poor performance, he says, are the champions in the making.
"Whatever your Everest is, in life and in business, integration is real and so is accountability," Young says, and he's right. The data -- a Super Bowl ring and a Hall of Fame NFL career, among other things -- proves it.