Monthly Archives: September 2014

Playing Time

In youth sports, everyone fixates on playing time. Hear any parent, on any field, in any season, and likely the conversation surrounds playing time.

I’ve been there. Usually the scenario is where you and your child believe he/she should be getting more playing time. More is better, right? I’ve found myself propagating these emotions.

Sometimes it even gets to the point where your child asks you tough questions like:

Why don’t I ever get into the games?
Why don’t I get a chance?
Why don’t the coaches like me?

Tough questions for a parent who loves his child.

Our typical reaction is one of defense, to assume an injustice is happening and to be angry. But we focus so much on the reward (playing time) that we forget about focusing our energy on what we can control (e.g., practice attitude, hustle, improving our game, and just being ourselves.)

If in our minds we can change the reward paradigm and focus it more internally, and live more in the moment, I think we’d be surprised that the rewards are right in front of us, and our energies are much better spent thinking about that.

And we all know this is not just about youth sports. Our lives, at work, are full of similar feelings and emotions. It might not be called playing time, but it’s definitely called promotion or opportunity. What we dwell on–or not–is our choice. Dwelling on what someone else got, that you didn’t, is the same mistake we make when we focus on playing time in youth sports.

There are rewards right in front of us, we just can’t always see them.

I tell my sons all the time that you should judge the season at the end of the season. Life is full of trials, and what you make of it defines your character.

Time Out!

The regretful words uttered by Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz last Saturday in a game against arch rival Iowa State which will haunt him for sometime to come.

The situation was at essentially the end of a tie game. His opponent was lining up to kick a potential game winning field goal. Ferentz had one time out left. As the kicking team lined up, Ferentz gathered the sideline referee close to him. He was waiting until the last absolute moment before the snap to call time out, disrupting the kicking team and “icing the kicker”. The theory is that with more time to think about it, the kicker would miss the kick, and send the game to overtime.

The ball was snapped, the kicker connected, but missed wide left!

But wait, Ferentz had called time out before the snap so the play was voided. Time for a re-kick.

After the timeout, the kicking team lined up again, and this time Iowa State kicked the ball through the uprights and the result was an Iowa State victory!

Ferentz was guilty of what author Malcolm Goldsmith called in his book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There as trying to “add too much value” a nice way of telling someone else they are being a Jackass.

We all, from time to time, try to add too much value. We have opinions, thoughts, and want to take action most of the time. That part of Goldsmith’s book for me was the golden nugget. I am guilty of trying to add too much value from time to time. And this Saturday, so was Ferentz.

I think there is wisdom for letting some things play out, to observe, and to listen. Perhaps the other team will miss that field goal on their own…

(Disclaimer, this blogger is a devout Iowa State Fan–go Cyclones!)

Favorable Weather

A community leader was sent a letter after a town hall meeting where the leader indicated he was hopeful that they would get rain to help the farmers’ crops which had been experiencing a drought during the late summer months. Farmers cheered at his support.

The next week he was sent a letter from a resort owner asking why he had expressed his desire for rain? Didn’t he know that it had rained all spring, adversely impacting the overall resort business? More rain would mean one of the worst resort seasons in recent history!

It sure is hard to please everyone. How often do you have good intent, but someone in the audience assumes the opposite? I’m sure this community leader was not wishing doom on the resort business, but how telling it is that the resort owner assumed as such. We all get so entrenched in our own perspective, from our own lens. We’re all resort owners, to some extent.

As leaders, our words matter. Choosing the right words and understanding all of the perspectives can make the difference between a happy farmer and a disgruntled resort owner.

So what did the community leader do the next time he mentioned the weather? He said, “I’m hoping that in the next few weeks we all have favorable weather.”

Let’s Take That Online, not Offline…

“Let’s take that offline.”

Generally speaking, that means that the topic at hand is deemed more appropriately discussed privately, and not out loud with the entire community.

Besides never knowing who actually takes the action to setup the offline discussion, the “offliner” or the “offlinee”, I wondered if anyone has ever said, “let’s take that online” instead of “let’s take that offline.”

So why would you ever actually elect to have topics liked this discussed online versus offline?

I’ve found that the offliner’s questions or concerns about the topic may actually be the same questions or concerns with the broader group. Taking it online, and thus out loud for the questions/concerns to be raised–and answered–may benefit the entire community of people. Taking it offline can imply that the entire community would not benefit from the dialog around the topic, but how do we know?

Yet our tendency is to take these things offline and if the offline meeting happens at all rarely is there a feedback loop to the broader community. One person’s concerns are addressed offline, and the remaining community, likely with the same question, is just left to wonder or speculate. Plus, we all tend to create drama when it really isn’t there. “Oh, I wonder how that (offline) conversation went?”

I’m just not sure that is really efficient. I’m not suggesting at all that there is never the need for a private discussion. I’m just suggesting that the future of work involves more online discussions, even if the topic may be something we’re used to handling in private one-on-one forums.

So, the next time you’re tempted to play the “offline” card, why not try the “online” one? You might surprise yourself.