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Friday, September 11, 2015


Many years ago (when I was pretending to be an athletic coach), I heard a NCAA Division I football coach talking about the problem of negativism among his assistant coaches.  This coach, who had won several national titles and whose teams were always highly ranked, described an environment in which the assistant coaches persistently criticized the players, both in their presence and out.

Remember, this is a top tier Division I NCAA program that recruits and gets pretty much whatever players they want.  As I heard the coach speaking I was wondering how in the world there could be such negativity toward what was unquestionably one of the best stable of players in the nation.  Huh?

The coach described one of his responses to this problem.  He placed a sign above the coaches office door which stated the following:  
Don't bitch about the players; they're the best ones we've got!

We see that same dynamic of negativity exist in many organizational settings - from parents toward their children, from principals toward their teachers, from foremen toward their work crews, from executives toward their leadership team.  Complaining, demeaning, diminishing, debasing, disparaging - whether publicly or privately - never pays dividends.  Why would those in leadership roles insult the very people upon whom their futures depend?

A better way...

  • Assess the root causes of poor performance rather than attacking team members on a personal level.
  • Collaboratively set very clear goals and pursue them relentlessly, together.
  • Strive diligently to craft a culture of continuous improvement, in which every "player" is encouraged and expected to get better everyday, and to help others get better everyday.
  • Recognize and celebrate the "wins" ritually, and talk honestly (not meanly) about the next steps needed to rectify the "losses."
  • Frame all conversations in the we-us context, not the me-you or us-them context.

When the team fails, the leader/coach/boss/teacher fails.  One of our primary jobs as leaders is to build others up, so that we all experience success. 

Don't bitch about the players (or the boss); they're the best ones we've got.  

Getting better is a team sport.  

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