Could You Phone It In If You Had To?

Before you quickly answer this question, stop for a minute and think. In a perfect world, good paying jobs would be plentiful and expenses would be low, but that’s really not how it works is it? There are bills to pay, mouths to feed, and/or a lifestyle that you want to keep, and for most of us, companies aren’t knocking at our door ready to throw gobs of money at us.

Hold up for a minute. Shouldn’t we all just take jobs that we like? Why sign up for a job you don’t like or want to do? Well first off, I don’t suppose many people willingly take jobs that they know they won’t like. Well maybe except former New York Knicks Team President, Phil Jackson. But don’t get me started on him, and that is my obligatory sports reference for this post.

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How long could you stand to be in a job you don’t like?

But in all seriousness, I don’t believe we take a job in something we don’t want to do unless we absolutely have to. Instead, what usually happens is that we’re “sold a false bill of goods” so to speak and the job isn’t what was advertised, or it came with complications that weren’t made known up front.

Also, sometimes jobs we want and would love to have don’t pay enough to cover the bills. I’ve seen people claim that they have the best jobs in the world, that they’re doing what they love and they wouldn’t have it any other way, but then they set up a GoFundMe to ask for help to pay their dental bills. How does that make sense?

If you have a job that pays your bills and allows you to survive, you would phone it in if you had to. And you know what, it’ll show.

As a manager, if you’re not in tune with your team members and you can’t see the signs, you risk losing your team. And talent will find a way to move on. Chances are that if someone on your team is phoning it in, that they’re also looking at options to leave.

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Managers, you have the ability to keep your employees from walking away.

“Josh Bersin of Deloitte believes the cost of losing an employee can range from tens of thousands of dollars to 1.5–2.0x the employee’s annual salary.” (Huffington Post)

Managers play a key role in talent retention, as we know that most people quit managers, not jobs. “Unsurprisingly, the manager relationship is highly correlated with employee engagement”, says Jack Altman. People will stay in roles that might not be the best fit if they find their relationship with their manager to be positive.

In some cases, it could be best for both parties to move on from each other, but I would suspect that more often than not, simple, honest communication can prevent employee turnover. If anything, you might be able to find a better fit on another team, preventing them from leaving the company altogether and losing the talent completely.

Good Coaches (Managers) Develop Teams Of Players Instead Of Just Relying On One

As a father of 2 elementary school boys, I’m at my share of team sports games, especially basketball games. And as someone who has coached basketball at a competitive (but amateur) level, I enjoy talking to the coaches of my kid’s teams. What I’ve heard consistently is how the coaches feel the game should be fun, and how it’s more about the experience than winning or losing. But what I’ve experienced consistently is that when the games start, that philosophy gets thrown out the window.

At an early level, sports team’s coaches shouldn’t really care too much about the scoreboard. Their job is to make sure the kids have a fun learning experience so that they come back next season to play. That doesn’t mean that game scores shouldn’t be kept, I believe that it’s good to keep score and that there should be a winner and loser, but at an early age it’s more important to grow the players.

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Team members come at all skill levels, all should be developed to the best of their ability.

What usually happens on teams at such a young age is that there is at least one player that is heads and tails above the rest. And this player is going to be the primary reason why the team will be competitive at games. At this point the coach has a decision to make, use this dominant kid to score all the points, or train him or her to use their skills to get the others involved.

When there’s no score and it is practice time, a coach’s decision is pretty easy. There’s no game pressure, no screaming parents, no winner and loser. And all of the coaches have told me they believe in team ball. But once the game starts, a different story plays out.

You can beat a bad team if you have one good player that is simply just much better than everyone. But you can’t beat a team with average players if they all play together. And kids, like adults, get frustrated when they’re losing. And when they get frustrated, they get selfish. As a coach, if you don’t take control of the team and enforce teamwork, it’ll never happen. Players know when you say one thing but mean another.

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You can only rely on one player for so long, good teams rely on all players.

I’ll never forget those conversations after a game is done where the coach will tell me that my kid played well, but he hardly got the ball. My son has asked me why he doesn’t get the ball when he’s been told he’s played good defense and passed well. As someone who has coached teams, I will never undermine my kid’s coach, so I just tell him that there are other ways to have an effect on the game. And then I do practice with both of my kids at home.

If you’re coaching an elementary school basketball game and look to rack up the points, are you really there for the kids benefit or for your own?

My kids are fortunate to have parents that take an involved interest in their sports development. I am in no way under the delusion that either of them will be professional sports athletes, but we do want them to be the best that they can be in whatever sport they choose to play. But my point in saying this is that I know that there are parents that cannot be as involved in their kids sports as they’d like. And so it’s really on the coaches to develop the kids as best as they can. And that means it might be the difference between winning and losing a game.

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Invest in your player’s development, and chances are they’ll want to play for you again.

Before this season my son had a coach that encouraged the best player to get others involved, and while it might have been a frustrating experience at first for that player, the game results were proof that the strategy worked. Other players that were not as talented were able to step up in games and score points and help win games against better, balanced teams. And in the end, each kid got better.

To put this in context as a corporate professional employee, a good manager works to get their team in a position to best accomplish the team’s goals. Relying on one employee heavily over the others will let you achieve the small, immediate goals, but it won’t work for larger, bigger projects. Every team member must carry their weight, and if they cannot, the manager needs to be able to get them to a place where they can.

Develop teams of players and they will be back to play or work for you. Constantly rely on only one, and eventually you’ll be left alone.

Set Your Team Up For Success And Keep Them Motivated

Coaching basketball is something that I will always look back on fondly. As a coach it’s fun to come up with sets and plays that will help the team win games. But in order for those sets and plays to be successful, the players have to execute them properly. In the end, it all comes down to having the players buy into your plan, and motivating them to be better than their abilities.

Some of the best ways to keep players motivated is to give them ownership and responsibility for their roles on the team, and make sure that they’re in roles that are suited for them. You can, and should apply this same logic to business teams too.

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Giving team members ownership of their roles makes them invested in the success of the team.

The San Antonio Spurs are a world class professional basketball organization that consistently puts a championship level team on the court each year. Juggling talent and egos is no easy task, but the Spurs seem to have a handle on it and teams around the league look at the them as the standard for consistency and excellence.

Coach Gregg Popovich is at the center of the Spurs success, and while he will be the first to defer any praise to the players and the front office, it is Coach Popovich that the players want to play for. Coach Popovich “doesn’t give orders, he assigns responsibilities. And this is the ultimate sign of respect.” (GQ.com)

Giving responsibilities to the players gives them ownership, and this makes the player invested in the team. A personally invested team member will be more motivated to get the job done well as they have more of a personal connection to the job or role.

But allowing the players to take responsibility is only part of it, Coach Popovich “sizes [the players] up, accepts them for what they are, and entrusts them with the tasks suited to them.”

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Give your team roles that best suit their skillsets.

There are a couple of things to unpack here. First, the notion of assigning responsibilities to team members is different from assigning tasks. If all you do is assign your team members tasks, you are not giving them ownership for their roles. Instead, you’re just giving them ownership over the tasks, which gets old and dry really quickly. If you want to motivate your team, give your members ownership of their roles. As a leader, you can set the teams goals, and in some cases even the strategy, but by giving the team ownership of their roles they can set the tasks needed to accomplish the goals. This allows the team members to be invested in their roles and responsibilities.

Second, you need to fit jobs with the people that have the right skillset. Honestly, this should be the first thing to consider if you want your team to be successful. Do you have the right people to perform the tasks at hand? Finding the answer to this requires you to have conversations with your team members to see if they’re the right fit for the team and for what’s needed. There might not be a whole lot you can do right away if you find that someone on your team isn’t the right fit for what you need, but then consider how to make the best use of the skillset that person has. People are much more motivated when they’re doing something that can contribute positively to the team.

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Is your team frustrated and not motivated? Have a conversation with them and find out why.

Lastly, you have to be comfortable with your team taking responsibility for their roles and completing the tasks they need to complete to achieve the team’s goals. As a leader, that means taking a step back and letting your team do what they have to do. That doesn’t mean that you walk away from the group and come back weeks later. You should still have constant communication with your team, you just don’t need to be a micro manager.

If you’re noticing that your team isn’t very motivated and it feels like morale is low, try taking a look at these three things and look for ways to change the status quo.

An Example Of What Makes Leaders Great

I love the game of basketball, as a fan, a player, and as a coach. I love being able to use the lessons that sports, more specifically basketball, has taught and apply them to other areas of life. Right now we’re able to witness some of the greatest coaches in action, and one of them is Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs.

For those of you that follow the National Basketball Association (NBA), Coach Popovich is a household name. He is a great strategist as a coach, building a consistent, championship contending team year after year. But he’s also been responsible for creating the culture for the Spurs organization, and the culture plays an important role in the building of his championship teams.

The Spurs and Gregg Popovich are great examples of leadership and team building is so many ways, but for right now I’d like to highlight this one example of how he dealt with his star player asking to be traded.

I sort of liken this situation to a disgruntled or unhappy employee looking for a new job. And when they’re unhappy, half of the time it’s because of the boss or manager, not necessarily the job or company.

In my experience, when an employee isn’t happy, there aren’t many managers that are willing to have multiple conversations with that employee and then step back and think about how they (as a manager) can change so that they can get the most out of that employee. But that’s exactly what Coach Popovich did.

Coach sat down with his player numerous times, had an open and honest conversation with him and came to the conclusion that the reason why the player wasn’t happy was because of bad coaching. Imagine that. A legendary coach, well respected throughout the league and beyond, admitting that bad coaching is what led to the players unhappiness and decline in productivity. When is the last time you’ve seen that happen in any other profession? Probably never. Or if it did happen, it wasn’t public and it certainly wasn’t made known to the employee it affected.

If you want to be a great leader and your team be willing to follow you and your direction, invest in your team, and remove your ego.

If You Want Respect, Take Responsibility

Respect goes a long way and is a currency that must be earned because it cannot be taken. It can be earned quickly, or over time, as a result of an action or inaction, but it requires proof or a reason. When you’ve gained the respect of peers, competitors, or strangers, you’ve done something to earn it.

Some people think that by attaining a position of power, it should demand respect. But I disagree. Those in positions of power should work to earn respect just as much as everyone else.

Showing respect and earning respect are two different things. I can show respect to someone in authority but I don’t have to respect them. If you’re having trouble figuring out if the people that you surround yourself with or have been given to lead respect you or not, think about who would come to your aid when you’re in trouble, and who wouldn’t.

And before your blood starts to boil when you think about those that won’t back you, stop for a moment and take a step back and really understand why they wouldn’t. Sure, maybe some of them are jerks or they’re simply jealous of you for some reason, but even the fiercest of rivals have been known to have a healthy respect for each other.

Earning respect starts with taking responsibility and owning up to your actions as an individual, and if you’re a leader, manager, or coach of a team, owning up to those too. It means standing up and taking the good and the bad, not just enjoying the success and passing blame for failures to someone or something else.

“You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.” ~ Carl Jung

Leadership Isn’t For Everyone

One of the best experiences that I’ve had and fondest memories is when I used to coach basketball. I did it for 10 years and I loved it. There were a lot of ups and downs, it took a lot of time and dedication, but I really enjoyed it. There’s something about creating a team and watching them grow and succeed that’s just enjoyable to experience and be a part of. But in order to endure the ups and downs and experience the joy of seeing your team succeed, you have to be in it for the team and not for yourself.

In sports, it’s really easy to be enamored with winning championships and trophies, after all you play the game to win. But what you don’t see are the countless hours of practice day after day that the players need to go through, and in addition to that the hours of planning that the coaching staff needs to work on to make it all happen.

Good coaches are right there with their players and the team is like a family. Good coaches understand the strength and weaknesses of each player and put the team as a whole in the best possible position to succeed. They understand that the team is only as good as its weakest player.

Coaches must always be learning and adjusting, finding new ways to teach things and accommodating new players and their skills and weaknesses. If a coach decides to “phone it in”, the players can tell and then the failed product shows up on the field or court. If coaches want player loyalty, they must show the players that they are undoubtedly dedicated to the team.

I’ve always found it easy to translate lessons from sports to the corporate world. I can tell when a leader or manager only cares more about themselves than the team. I can tell when someone wants to become a manager or leader only because they see the benefits of a higher salary or status within the company. And it doesn’t come as a surprise when people leave the team because of these managers and leaders.

It is unfortunate that the path for success in corporations seems to require becoming a manager. In my opinion, companies that can create success for employees without having to go through that path will do a better job retaining talent. After all, leadership isn’t for anyone.

And one day I’d love to get back into coaching. I really loved it.

A Good Corporate Culture Isn’t About Physical Things

It seems like every organization is challenged with creating a good corporate culture. But what I’ve found in my experience, is that the word “culture”, just like “agile”, is increasingly misunderstood. Organizations associate the word “culture” with “environment”, and that’s correct, but that’s about where the understanding stops.

The easiest change to make is in the physical environment, and that’s what organizations look to first. They add all of the things that make it look like working there would be a cool place to be. Ping pong and foosball tables, scooters, beanbag chairs, free coffee and snacks, colorful offices and open work spaces. But is that enough? I personally don’t think so.

If you want to know if your company has a good culture or not, ask the employees about why they like working there. Be wary if the answers point to all the physical changes, because those never last. But to be honest, I don’t think physical changes would make it into many answers to begin with. Being able to take a break to play a ping pong game or scoot around the office is nice, but those moments are temporary.

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The allure of playing ping pong during breaks goes away after a while.

A good corporate culture invests in what the employees find valuable. You would think that a good company would already have these values in place as an organization. Organizations should want to know what employees find valuable because they should invest in those that are willing to stick around. “Choosing someone within your team to develop into a future superstar has typically been a successful investment for everyone”, says Mandy Gilbert, Founder and Chief Executive, Creative Niche.

It’s easy to cop out and send out a loaded survey asking employees if they think the open spaces look cool and if they like the new standing desks they all have. Who would say no to that? But I think you have to dig deeper to find what really motivates employees and what drives their decision to leave or stay, work hard or phone it in.

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Career conversations, mentors that take interest, transparency and valued feedback are what employees crave from corporate culture.

I read a blog post recently by Matthew Biggins titled, “Collapse of the Corporate Office”, and it was a great read on how the workplace has changed. Embedded in the blog is a video created by Vox on how open offices have changed over the years, and not necessarily for the best. In all the years of iterations, we forgot what really makes open spaces work. My takeaway was this, instead of using gimmicks and short cuts, try actually creating an environment where people want to come to the office instead of being forced to. If you create an environment that employees actually want to be a part of, they’ll come and they’ll be engaged. And better yet, they’ll brag about why they like working for your company. My guess is that it won’t be because of the scooters.

Culture is not a one size fits all sort of thing, and companies that can find a way to be flexible in how they can create an environment that keeps employees motivated and productive will find success in retaining top talent. The answers go deeper than video games in a lounge. Need some suggestions? Try real career paths with equal opportunities for advancement, flexible working arrangements, real 360 degree evaluations, being transparent and open to feedback, and combine those with competitive salaries. I know I’d take those over my fancy, motorized standing desk. Let’s face it, a ping pong table is not going to keep your talented employees from seeking out other options, but a good corporate culture would.