Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Leaders & Employees Must Learn To Change

On Sunday the New York Football Giants pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the year by beating the once-unstoppable New England Patriots. Their victory in my opinion is a great example of what can happen when there is both give and take from both a leader and those being led. You see Sunday was the antithesis of where Tom Coughlin started with this team and how he almost lost them.

Tom Coughlin is an old school. When taking over the New York program he promised to instill good old fashion discipline throughout the team. He was going to be accountable. His players were going to be accountable. He was going to manage by objective and people would be expected to rise to meet those expectations or else. Fear was the big stick and it was yielded without worry of what head it might come crashing upon.

There would no longer any special treatment for any of the players, especially their star players. Players were expected to attend all meetings without exception; something that hadn't been enforced by the previous coaching staff. In addition, players were expected to be on time for those meetings. Coughlin was so committed to demonstrating that winning begins by doing the little things perfectly that he began to fine players who were not in their seats five minutes before meetings were actually scheduled to start. Other minor infractions that would otherwise be overlooked by other teams were made a very pubic and often embarrassing example by the salty coach. If discipline and perfection wasn't going to find the New York Football Giants, he would hunt it down and capture it and force feed it to his players if need be.

It was an old school, hard nose approach that amongst today's prima donna athletes wasn't very well received. In fact, Coughlin began to have an outright revolt. Star players began to question his motivations and resented being treated like children. The New York press waited at the end of each of practice like rabid dogs looking for that bone to be tossed from the dinner table to report what players were disgruntled on that day. The Giants were going no where fast and it looked like Coughlin would likely lose his job at the end of last season.

Then something happened. He loosed up a bit. Players who had never seen him smile reported seeing him smile at practices. He joked with the players and he seemed to take more time in getting to know them not just as players, but as men. Somewhere along the way, Coughlin seemed to realize that his hard line approach was no longer working, so he changed. Although his intensity and his drive to win and win with perfection was still the call of the day, his players began to respond.

The heart beat of the team began to beat a little faster.

Great leaders today aren't afraid to admit that the strategies they have employed may not be working. They adjust on the fly and adapt and just keep moving. I think Coughlin undoubtedly saw the writing on the wall and realized he could either stay his ground, which many leaders do to prove they are absolutely right, or he could become more "flexible." Perhaps he could give an inch and in the battlefield of life and work, sometimes all the people who are being led need is an inch and they will give a mile back. Yes, I said give a mile back.

Coughlin's approach absolutely shaped this franchise into the winning organization that it is today. I have no doubt that his willingness to change his approach undoubtedly shaped his player's perception of him and the results on the field prove that. The team began to move forward collectively and began to believe in themselves, even when faced with adversity and a world of doubters. That heart beat which only months earlier had been skewed and barely audible was beginning to beat strong and fast...and as one collective beat.

I have no doubt that on Sunday both players and coach thought of those power struggles. It would have been easy for either side to give up on the other and quit. Had they done that, no one, especially the old ball coach, would have been holding that shiny Super Bowl Trophy.

No, without change on both sides, neither side would be able to call themselves Champions.

Ripple On!!!

In case your interested...here's sort of a before and after look at the transformational change within the Giants Organization.

Article One

Article Two

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