26 Feb Are you a cheerleader or a player?



I would like to present three short stories to prove an important point.

Last week, a new employee needed a computer drive mapped. The employee asked for help from a few team members in the office but received the answer “I can’t do that”. The fact is however, a quick Google search on the phrase “how to map a drive in windows 7”, returns viable results in less than 10 seconds.

Last year, a newly-hired employee had to be dismissed because they clearly did not match the company’s core values. Upon reviewing some of the emails that had been sent by team members, it was clear that at least four others recognized this mismatch early on, but did not approach senior management with their concerns.

Recently, one of our fax machines (yes, some clients still order this way) stopped working. Given that we have two machines in the office, I did not see it as an immediate issue. At 3:30 pm I inquired about the machine. I was informed we had not received faxes all day. I will not go into details, but with another working fax machine connected on site, I was able to resolve the problem in 5 minutes.

How did we get here?

I question why a computer problem with a simple and easily accessible solution was not resolved through a self-directed initiative.

I question why my team members were hesitant to come forward with concerns regarding a new hire that was not a good fit.

I question how a company gets to the point where the president needs to step in to replace a broken fax machine when it should have been obvious to all employees in the office that the machine had been strangely quiet all day.

The answer is that as a leader, I should have put much more effort into developing my team members.

Developing team members:

Discussing a similar type of employee-related management issue with my coach from CEO Global, he commented, “You have to expect that with a new hire.” When I told him that the team member in question had a few years seniority, he could not believe it.

The best leaders develop their team members. We must expect and require much more from a four year company veteran than from a freshman team member of less than one year. If we do not, it reflects poorly on our ability to lead. A perception of poor leadership discourages new hires, making it difficult to bring in good new talent.

Removing the blinders:

It is natural for employees to willingly box themselves into relatively simple jobs that consist of the tasks they want to do. Anything they cannot do, or do not like to do, becomes someone else’s job. Managers must take off their blinders and face this problem head on.

We need to become better leaders and make sure we receive only top performance from every member of the team. As leaders we must continually ask “is this the best you can do?” and accept no less.

In professional football and basketball, many teams have cheerleaders. The cheerleaders make less than minimum wage while the average NFL player makes $1.9 M a year and the average NBA player makes $5.4 M a year.

Getting on the field:

Every single member of the team needs to get on the field and play. An engaged player is very valuable, but a cheerleader is not.

Challenge every team member. Have them ask themselves if they are a team player or a cheerleader.

Leading a company is like being a good sports coach. You need to do everything you can to make your players the best they can be. You never stop, and you never give up, as long as you have a team in front of you. A coach needs a team where each player contributes in order to win.

So, challenge your team members to come out onto the field and play their best game. Commit to being the best coach.

I have renewed my commitment to be the best coach I can be and being the best is the only position my team now plays.