I graduated from the Tech Business College with both my undergraduate and graduate degrees. We were not tier one, so I’ll let you determine the value of my education. I’ve spent the past twenty plus years in the energy sector and have seen several different businesses with situations that paralleled that of the Tech football program. I believe we can all learn something from our current situation. I’m not using this as a forum to complain about the current state of our beloved football program. I’m also not going to spend time talking about our previous head coach. Instead, I will focus on translating what I see happening in Lubbock to the business world. From that translation I give you five take aways.
Number one. You must play the game with the team you have. Over the course of my career, I’ve seen several instances where someone was terminated or for some reason left an organization. In many cases, there was initial shock and disbelief that the person was gone. It’s human nature to want that person back. Surprisingly, most experts will tell you that it’s usually NOT actual job performance that resulted in someone’s dismissal (sound familiar?). As one of the employees left behind, you have to get over it and move on. I’m not saying that you must blindly remain loyal to your organization. Sometimes there are truly horrible people running organizations. You should assess whether or not you want to remain a part of that group. Could you be next? However, companies lose many talented people because of personality conflicts and reasons beyond “on field” performance. In the short term, unless you’re independently wealthy, you’re not going to be able to walk away in support of your fired colleague.
Number two. As a manager, when you are put in charge of a group or a department, make changes slowly. We’ve all had a new boss (for those of you still in school, you will someday) who made changes just for the sake of making changes. They make changes because “that’s the way we did it when I was at (fill in the blank).” Maybe they’re not comfortable or secure enough to try things someone else’s way. Perhaps their general attitude is that you must not have been able to find your way to work before they arrived. Obviously, there are exceptions to the “go slowly” rule. If you enter into a situation where group performance is truly subpar or if there is a crisis within your department, then immediate action may be warranted. In these circumstances, everything is usually dysfunctional and your group is unable to accomplish anything. In addition to making an immediate change, you may also need to ask certain individuals to make changes. But you should still take the time to assess your talent. However, in a situation where the overall department is functional and performing adequately, you should be patient. You should attempt to make changes only in an effort to improve performance. Again, be patient. It’s safe to assume that your group was doing some things rights before you got there. YOU can learn something from them before you make changes. It isn’t necessary to change everything to change the culture of your department. Ultimately, you may even have different ideas regarding what you need to change.
Number three. Identify the skill set for each of your reports; do your best to maximize their skills and put your people in a position to succeed. When I think back to my best supervisors, each one had certain things in common. They all understood what it was that their people did best and put each one in a position to utilize their individual skills. They also recognized each persons’ deficiencies and made a long term plan to help each one overcome them. However in the short term, they compensated for those deficiencies by altering what they did so as not to expose those deficiencies. Let’s face it, we all didn’t major in the same thing at Tech . Each of us do certain things better and enjoy doing certain tasks more than other tasks.
Number four. Be flexible. This one ties into the second take away. When you get an opportunity to manage a group, chances are you’re not going to be able fire everyone and bring in your own people. You may be able to bring in some people if you have open positions. Ultimately, through graduation, uh, I mean through attrition, you’ll be able to recruit the employees you want. Yes, you recruit in the corporate world. In the mean time you may not be able to implement everything you had in mind UNTIL you are able to either: 1) train your existing employees or 2) bring in your own people. There is more than one right way to accomplish a goal. You don’t have to implode your entire department just because you feel you can’t do things the way your predecessor did them.
Number five. You will be evaluated based upon your performance and the results you produce. We’ve all worked with someone who kept blaming their existing performance on the fact that they were still “new to the job” or because “things would take time to improve.” This person will typically fall back on the success they had somewhere else. In business and in football, there is no grace period. Yes, football is a business. Go back to points two and four and realize that you may need to manage certain things a certain way for the short term so that you can continue to produce your department’s deliverables. Your department still has to produce results right? Your long term changes may need to wait. Have you ever worked someplace where they were automating a process or implementing new software? You can’t quit doing the process manually or quit using your current software and provide the excuse that “you were still trying to implement or change to the new process or software.” You’re still expected to do your job.
How does this translate back to football? Let’s look at Oklahoma State. Even though Dana Holgorsen was brought in specifically to make a change to the OSU offense, he modified what he was doing with the Air Raid and has managed to take the talent he inherited and put his program in a position to be successful. Did you ever see a three back set run out of the Air Raid before OSU? Holgorsen identified what his personnel did best and put them in a position to perform. He also did so in a short period of time. He is an example of a “manager” who understands the expected deliverable and adapted his plan to ensure success. Hopefully, you can do the same in your career.