Thursday of last week was the USA’s Thanksgiving holiday. The day typically includes family, food, and pro football, all three in great quantities.
A play during one game revealed the responsibility that leaders have to hold their staff accountable for desired behavior, at all times.
You may search YouTube for video clips of the play. Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh slams the Green Bay Packers player’s head to the turf – twice – then stomps on his opponent’s arm in anger. The referees penalized the Lions for Suh’s unsportsmanlike conduct and ejected Suh from the game.
The NFL has not yet announced whether Suh’s behavior will earn him a fine or suspension (I think both are required in this case). What prompts this post was a comment that ex-coach Bill Cowher made about the incident. Cowher said, “The coach either condemns or condones a player’s behavior. It’s up to the coach to quash behavior he doesn’t want on the field and encourage behavior he does want on the field.”
Leaders Drive What Behavior is OK in the Workplace
We see this happen all too often in organizations. Leaders typically focus entirely on performance and results. They do not naturally emphasize HOW results will be accomplished, which requires defining what values and behaviors “good corporate citizens” must demonstrate in the workplace.
The result of this “performance-only” emphasis? Blanchard’s research and experience indicates that:
- Performance occurs most consistently when the boss is watching. Performance is inconsistent when the boss is not present.
- People treat internal and external customers as “less-than-equal” more often than not.
- Power struggles occur, driven by managers and staff, which creates a workplace of fear and intimidation.
- The application of discretionary energy by employees towards goal accomplishmen is rare; too often it is absent.
Great Leaders Are BOLD about Performance and Values Expectations
Leaving values to chance means leaders see a wide range of behaviors in their workplace. If a leader want a high performing, values-aligned team, that leader must create the foundation with clear goals AND clear valued beahviors.
All sports teams start with the same ultimate goal – winning the championship. What separates good teams from great teams is not exclusively the clarity of the goal and each team member’s commitment to that goal – it is goal clarity and team commitment to great team practices that enables consistent team performance and values alignment.
Here is a terrific example of a pro team’s ground rules. The Stalulfur Football Team in Iceland’s Division 3 league outlines sixteen specific “citizenship” practices. Imagine if Suh was a player on a team with these valued behaviors so clearly defined. Ground rules such as “play with discipline and enthusiasm,” “put the team first,” and “show respect for opponents, officials, and fans” might drive different behaviors from Suh on the field.
Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz is at a crossroads. Will he continue to condone Suh’s behavior or will he condemn it, demanding exceptional sportsmanship from all players on the field and off? Only time will tell.
What is your experience with “unsportsmanlike conduct” in the workplace? Add your thoughts in the comments section below.
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