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Lesson #2: A Company is More About the Culture You Create
Steinbrenner knew from the very day he became part owner of a sports franchise, that a winning team would be the result of more than just paying large sums for the cream of the crop players. He knew that if he wanted to retain the very best players – and the fans to support them – he would have to create a culture of being the best, and that was something that went beyond the scoreboards.
One such policy that Steinbrenner implemented towards creating a culture of success was a strict grooming policy for all males on the Yankees. Taken from the policies of the U.S. military, police and fire departments, no male player, coach, or Yankee executive was ever allowed to wear any facial hear except for a well-trimmed moustache, and hair was not to be worn below the collar.
Steinbrenner believed that if the Yankees were going to be the very best, they first had to look the very best. In their traditional pinstripe uniforms, Steinbrenner wanted his players to look clean cut and focused, as if they were the poster boys for a professional and successful baseball team. That, he believed, would not only foster a respect among his own players for their team, but also with fans and players of competing teams, eventually luring them in. It might have been a psychological ploy, but Steinbrenner fully wanted the psychological advantage to be his if it had to be anyone’s.
The hair policy was not popular with all the players, however, and led to quite public disagreements between many of them and Steinbrenner. One such instance was in 1981, when Yankee Goose Gossage was ordered to remove a beard he was growing. In frustrated response, Gossage shaved away the beard, but left an exaggerated moustache from his lip down through his jaw.
Again, in 1991, Yankee Don Mattingly was ordered to cut his long mullet hair style. Unlike Gossage, however, Mattingly flat out refused. As a result, he was benched. A media frenzy followed, with Steinbrenner becoming the target of repeated public mockery. Eventually, Mattingly would be reinstated. On occasion, David Wells also wore a goatee, informing the media that he would be willing to pay any fine for doing so.
Despite the occasional break from the policy, most Yankees have no problem abiding by this rule. They agree with Steinbrenner that their team is about more than the number of runs it scores, but rather that their team is one of historical significance both to New York and to the sport. They are working together to foster a culture of being the best, knowing that there is a certain psychological advantage to playing for a team that is the perennial winner both on the field and off.
Consequently, despite the seemingly strict policies of the Yankees, it was in fact Steinbrenner’s strategy to attract the very best players and management to the team.
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