I love college football. While watching some of the games this past weekend I was struck by one of the comments from a coach following his team’s poor showing during the game. He said “I’m disappointed in myself and how we came out to play. When you play like that, you’re just not mentally where you need to be, and that’s my fault.” Think about the level of accountability in a statement like that. How many leaders do you know take accountability for the mindset of their teams? In my experience, many managers go with the “I’ve told them how they need to act and if they don’t want to act that way they can leave” approach.
Don’t get me wrong. That approach can work well if you have phenomenal recruiting and hiring practices, an endless supply of exceptional talent that wants to join your team, and a lot of extra cash laying around to attract them. Otherwise, you better invest in helping the people who are already on the team think differently and perform better. That’s not to say that you don’t cut players when you need to, but if if firing your people, or threatening to, is the only performance improvement tool in your bag, you are in serious trouble. In the work that I do with businesses, there is often a debate about whether you can change people or not. The answer is no.
Most people agree with that part. The part that gets missed is that you can absolutely help them to change themselves. If you need proof, go find anyone who has become wildly successful and ask him or her if there was anyone along the way who helped them get there. In their answer you will hear about others who inspired them, helped them change their perspective, and caused them to take another look at who they were, and who they wanted to become. Too many managers and potential leaders feel trapped by the circumstances, the team, the culture, and never realize that they have control over most of what frustrates them.
If you have a bad team today, that’s a circumstance. If you have a bad team in six months, that’s a choice. Become the leader who can either help them change or help them find a place where they can work without changing. Either way, help them. If you take accountability for the mindset and the performance of the team you coach, you very rarely have to take responsibility for their poor results. Coaches and managers who take that kind of accountability typically have consistent remarkable success. One example is the coach I quoted earlier. That quote actually came after a win, his 200th with the same school. Something only 10 coaches have done in the history of the sport. He knows he can make a difference in the mindset and the performance of those on his team. And because he knows he can, he does. Do you?