Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Are you really on the same team with your staff?

It's usually not a good idea to extrapolate flabby sports metaphors to the business world. We are not professional athletes. If we were, we'd all be making a heck of a lot more money...

Today, I am making an exception: I heard an interview this morning with NFL quarterback Tom Brady who was being asked about some recent personnel changes on his team and about how players view the coaches in general. Brady said that its sometimes hard for the players to picture that they and the coaches are on the same side. Makes sense when you think about it - coaches at spend inordinate amounts of time offering criticism of what the players have done, and most coaches at the professional level have not matriculated into School of Sensitivity Training. Brady said that once players get beyond the bad feelings associated with receiving bushels of blunt criticism, it becomes easier to develop a collaborative relationship with them. Of course, there is a catch: a coach decides when a player gets shipped out, thus ending the relationship. And this is not a rare occurrence...in fact, it's how most coach-player relationships end.

Think about your own organization - if all you do is criticize your players the natural progression for them is to assume that you could wake up tomorrow and get rid of them. You could have very productive valuable people on your team who, after some periods of time of hearing nothing but negativity, be convinced that you plan to get rid of them at the first convenient moment. Don't believe me? Do an anonymous poll: Do you think you could be let go from the firm for non-performance this year? I promise you there are more people than you think who believe they could be - even when it could be farthest from the truth.

The first thing you need to do is make it clear that your stars are stars. Second, you need to recognize when people do something good - this is FREE, by the way. Lastly, you need to be transparent - people need to know where they stand and feel confident that you are indeed on the same side. Rather than playing not to lose, you need your people to play to win.


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