My grand-daughter Reya is 14 months old, having taken her first steps she’s boldly exploring her mobility, and not surprisingly falls a lot. If you’re a parent, grand-parent or a family member (I hope that’s most of you) you’ve experienced this. What’s our typical reaction? If it was a painful fall, we kiss the hurt and tell them we feel their pain. And we help them back up, reassure them it’s OK, maybe hold their hand in support for a moment, and encourage them to keep walking. And the outcome… well… do you know any child that’s ever demonstrated or declared “I’m not cut out for walking, I’ll just sit it out”?
Now imagine this scenario in a work situation where one of our employees has figuratively fallen. How do we react? We tell them exactly what they did wrong, preach the dangers of doing it the way they did it, probably show frustration because they’ve fallen before, and caution them about the consequences of further falls. And when all that fails we put them on a performance improvement plan that includes targets for number of falls, duration of floor time, and numbers of steps between falls. And we wonder why they’re not engaged (aka they’re sitting it out).
But wait you say; you can’t compare kids learning to walk with adults at work. How about comparing it to the “winning is everything” world of professional football; where everything every one of the multi-million dollar athletes and head coaches do is subject to intense media and public scrutiny. Several weeks ago the Philadelphia Eagles, last year’s Super Bowl champions lost a playoff game to the New Orleans Saints. They were driving to score the winning touchdown with 2 minutes remaining in the game when a short, routine pass went through the hands of usually reliable receiver Alshon Jeffrey to be intercepted by a Saints defender. Game over. Had that not happened, it’s quite possible as one of the best teams in the NFL the Eagles could have advanced and even repeated as champions.
In the ferociously competitive world of professional football, winning is everything (just like making your numbers and KPIs). And notwithstanding Jeffrey’s pain and remorse after the play, laying face-down on the field, shouldn’t his teammates be upset and angry with him? Yet the reaction of the Eagles players and coaches was of consolation. He was consoled and encouraged not only on the field by his teammates, but by coaches on the sidelines hugging him in support. In fact in this brief video of the play you’ll see a Saints defender going to him while on the ground; I’d like to believe as consolation to a fellow professional.
Jeffrey has publicly taken responsibility for the team’s loss. Regardless, because of the support of his coaches and teammates, I’ll go on a limb and suggest he’ll work harder, practice better, perform at a higher level and have a stellar next year.
Babies, employees and professional athletes… who would have thought the connection. If you’re curious, intrigued, or revolted at the idea, drop me a line. In the meantime go encourage someone to take a few steps.