Random Thoughts on Life and Work

April 22, 2015

Soccer and The Game of Work

Filed under: Non-Profit — Darren Mullenix @ 12:18 pm
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I have the joy (okay, some might not consider it that) of being a soccer referee for youth club games and high school games. I grew up playing soccer and had some great experiences playing through my college days. My oldest daughter plays at the college level and will soon be wrapping up her playing career. So, you can see I’ve been around the game a long time. I’ve noticed how the game of soccer provides a picture against which our work can be compared.

  1. Soccer is boring. Okay, by nature and experience I disagree with this but many people say they find it to be less than exciting. (Frankly I find baseball far more boring.) How close does this description come to your work? Do you find it boring, tedious, or monotonous? I heard a TV personality say the other day that soccer was a game of boredom interspersed with brief moments of excitement. Maybe this is you at work? I would contend that soccer, and work, is what you want to make of it. If you aren’t being fulfilled because the rules are too restrictive, find a new spot where you can thrive.
  2. Soccer is about teamwork within designated roles. If you can’t develop a working relationship with your teammates, you won’t last long and the team doesn’t function at its optimum. Same with work. It is often difficult for the new staff member to slide into the new position. It is up to the manager/leader to ensure that happens as fast and as smoothly as possible. Witness teams who add new players at the professional level. There is often a period of time before that new team member is integrated into the starting 11 and contributing well. If they don’t integrate well, they are released to a different team.
  3. In soccer, there is an ebb and flow to the strategic importance of each role. At times the player in the center of the field will be key while at other times it will be an outside wing player. Top players will move about the field to adapt to conditions and the team needs at the time. If your work team has developed this kind of fluidity and recognition, I would hazard a guess that your team is working at a high level of efficiency and effectiveness. If not, maybe it is time to consider some alternatives to your structure and processes.
  4. In soccer, players have opportunities to take the lead with the ball and then pass it off to a teammate in a better position to move the ball strategically. In work, we have the opportunity to move the project forward, accomplish our role and then pass it on to the next person to accomplish their piece. At the same time, we take responsibility for the continued success of the project by moving into a supporting role, ready to be called on again to engage with the play.
  5. In soccer, when the team loses the ball, the focus shifts to defense and getting the ball back. But it is a team effort, not a solo effort on the part of the player who lost the ball. At work, if we lose the account, miss a deadline, or fail to accomplish the task in some way, how does the team respond? Is it an opportSoccerTeamunity to learn a new process or an opportunity to immediately blame an individual member? Focusing on the means to recovery keeps the team together and builds a morale that is hard to beat.

There are any number of additional examples that can be added to this list. Working hard to develop a cohesive team plays dividends both on and off the field. Feel free to comment and add any ideas you might have.

February 20, 2012

The New Center

Filed under: Non-Profit — Darren Mullenix @ 8:25 am
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Seth Godin posted a great short thought provoker this morning. In it he talks about how the age of the internet has spread influence and opportunity away from the center.

I’d like to take that a bit further and think about it in terms of organizational dynamics. In many organizations there is still this urge to think that unless someone is at the core of the business or center of the leadership team they don’t have anything to offer. This thinking is a result of the old “executive dining room” mentality. If you were not part of the club, you just did what you were told. No need to think strategically. Don’t offer up visions of new opportunity. That’s for the core.

Guess what – it doesn’t work that way anymore. The organization that continues to look only at the members of the “dining room club” for new initiatives will eventually implode. The organization that cannot recognize and reward talent that exists on the periphery will not only lose the talent, it will grow stale and inflexible.

If you are in leadership, provide your team with the opportunity to spread their wings. Treat them with respect and watch what happens. You stand to benefit.

If you are on the periphery, push the idea/project/opportunity. As Seth concludes in his post – “The center is a state of mind.” You are the new center.

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