Monday, October 27, 2008

Can't Coddle Your Employees

Another sports analogy....I apologize but this was just too good to pass up.

Mike Singletary, legendary Chicago Bear player and now interim head coach for the San Francisco 49ers made his coaching debut for the ball club yesterday and wasted no time in letting his players know who was boss. Apparently the team's running back Vernon Davis didn't live up to his self-promoted super star hype and Singletary had seen enough. It all occurred after Davis was called for an unnecessary roughness penalty. His cavalier attitude about what he had just cost his team sent Singletary over the edge and Davis ultimately to the showers. Something rarely seen in professional football - banishment by your own team.

Singletary was quoted in his post-game press conference as saying, "I’d rather play with 10 people and just get penalized all the way until we have to do something else rather than play with 11 when I know that right now that person is not sold out to be a part of this team. It is more about them than it is about the team. Cannot play with them, cannot win with them, cannot coach with them. Can’t do it. I want winners. I want people that want to win.”

If your a leader of anything you've got to find inspiration from what Mike says and apparently does. I have no doubt that today's leaders have a tendency to coddle those stars on the team that they don't want to lose. Heck my beloved Dallas Cowboys are proof of how far management will go to not upset their top rated players. Whether it be in sports or business in my humble opinion that is just plain wrong. Employees are an important part of the equation but no one single employee is the whole equation.

I love the passion that Singletary shows and perhaps just maybe you will find some of the same inspiration in his words and actions that I have. I know for one has without a doubt made me realize that in order to have the kind of team any of us may want, we've got to be willing to tell it like it is. Even if that risks hurting some feelings, bruising some egos and upsetting the apple cart along the way.

Ripple On!!!


Artie Gold said...

I cannot agree with you completely here -- not by any stretch of the imagination. Although the fact that Mr. Singletary's brief tenure on the job is certainly a mitigating factor, the "my way or the highway" approach is more often evidence of a management failure than anything else.
One of the primary jobs of management is getting employees to "buy in" to a system. There are two aspects to this: Defining that system. Selling that system. Only once due diligence has been practiced can the notion of "benching" be looked upon as a success from the management side.
There's something else involved here: Much of management is the ability to win with what you've got as opposed to what you wish you had. (Moving toward the latter is typically a longer term project.) Talent is an elusive commodity -- and always in shorter supply than most would desire. Whatever talent is available always needs to be deployed in a manner that makes success as likely as possible. But that's not all: It is also the reposnsibility of management to place talent in situations where it can succeed; after all success tends to breed success.
That is where the magic lies.

Suebs said...

Eh... The players, as much as the coach, need to do a little self-policing themselves. Good sportsmanship definitely has more benefits than bad. It could have been used as a learning experience or an example, but I think he went a tad too far.

It was a crazy weekend in football, for sure!

Steve Harper said...

Great point Artie but I think it might be worth understanding that this kind of selfish play was what got the first coach axed in the first place. This team and many corporate teams are filled with people who think of benefiting themselves first - long before they think of their team (co-workers, management or otherwise). Singletary was no longer going to tolerate the kind of behavior that is splintering that organization. If nothing else, he has set the tone of what he as head coach will and will not tolerate. I believe the message was delivered to the whole team - not just Vernon Davis.

You make valid points and I agree with many of them. However if you are suddenly placed in a position to change the very behavior and outcome that didn't work for the last guy, sometimes desperate and over the top measures are the only way to get that change to begin occurring. Talent or no talent, I bet this team plays harder for this guy because at least now they know what to expect when they don't.

Thanks as always for your insightful comments.

Ripple On!!!

Steve Harper said...


Thanks for your comment. It was a weird Sunday of football - though I was truly glad to see my Cowboys win - ugly as it was.

Ripple On!!!

Artie Gold said...


I buy your comment.

Too often, though, I have seen the appropriate very occasional attention getting, over the top reaction turn into a common event -- the default reaction to any difficulty encountered. It wears thin. Quickly. There's a thin line between the mere exercise of "power" and actual "management".