July 26, 2023
Around the world, athletes are finally being allowed to start training ahead of their teams resuming play. Some fans are unhappy with the proposed tournaments or shortened seasons; others are tired of watching replays or events that previously were confined to the parking lot during tailgate parties. I was never much of an athlete, something that surely contributed to the dismal won/lost records of the youth sports teams I coached. That experience required me to attempt to teach skills I had never come close to mastering but it made me a much better supervisor. When you work with children, you cannot assume they know anything about the task at hand. Thirty years ago, in the beginning of my soccer [football to the rest of the world], few of the parents had any understanding either. After a disastrous first practice, I had to get out the instruction books and write out very detailed plans with “homework” assignments for the players to do with their families. This effort expanded to include “cheering instructions” for the parents and grandparents; you could not advance beyond “mob ball” if mothers were screaming at their little fullbacks to “shoot the ball.” “Own goals” are just as discouraging in the business world. Poorly planned projects, lack of proofreading, frequent redirection, and colleagues who do not or will not “stay in their lane” can negatively impact careers. We can learn a great deal from how professionals “hit the refresh button” on their teams. Instead of just rushing back into “real games”, they are allowing plenty of time to review the fundamentals, to achieve the required level of fitness, and to reestablish confidence in their “playbook.” Many organizations are coming out of “restrictions” to a very different environment. Social distancing, reduced staffing, limited travel, and more electronic meetings require a new “game plan.” We all long for the “good old days” that probably will never completely return. Leaders, players, and spectators will need time to adapt to the new conditions. No one should be surprised if the “game plan” needs frequent revision in the days and weeks ahead. Things that look good on paper may not work on the field.