Random Thoughts on Life and Work

April 22, 2015

Soccer and The Game of Work

Filed under: Non-Profit — Darren Mullenix @ 12:18 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

SoccerTeamLegs

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.

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August 8, 2013

Avocado Leadership

Filed under: Non-Profit — Darren Mullenix @ 12:55 pm
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A friend and former colleague, Gary Foster, had a profound paragraph in his newsletter this week. I quote it here:

Avocados are extremely easy to bruise. So farmers used to try to carefully arrange them in the box after picking. However, they still experienced costly bruising. Over time, they noticed if avocados were simply set in the box, they would settle themselves in just the right formation as the farmer simply left them alone and walked on. It’s the same with leadership. There’s a time to plan and to act strategically. There’s also a time to just let things settle in as we walk on. Sometimes we bruise things in our efforts fit things in rather than letting them fit.

I have found this to be true in organizations that are struggling with defining structure and processes. It is amazing how many leaders and managers will try to force a solution onto a group that is wrestling with a process. Often the leader is directing a solution through their own filters rather than allowing the group to wrestle with the challenge on their own.

Question – are you forcing a structure or letting your team develop into a working unit naturally?

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