The Hand Wringing and Teeth Mashing of Losers

Every Monday morning I make the trip west from Annapolis, Maryland to Columbia for a standing weekly meeting.  I’m either on the phone, listening to music or Morning Edition on the radio or enjoying the peace of a quiet car ride after a hectic weekend.

Last weekend I happened upon the sports radio stations covering the Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens.  Both NFL teams happened to lose last weekend and I thought the tone of the conversation was telling on the health of both organizations.  The tone of the Ravens community was concerned but no sense of panic.  The Redskins have had a rough season to date and the their customer base has become downright suicidal.  Players have been publicly battling and last week ownership brought in the dreaded ‘consultant’ to add another pair of eyes to their quickly sinking season.   And in a scathing article, the leadership of the organization was characterized by Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post, as toxic.  Ouch!

Although the dysfunctional Redskins are entertaining to follow, those of us in the midmarket can learn from their mistakes by asking ourselves how we handle winning and loosing.  You see NFL franchises are more like the midmarket than you might think.  Other than being valued by Forbes at close to $1B, the size of the staff, processes, strategies, and operations of NFL teams are very similar to many middle market organizations.

Perhaps the most comparable element of an NFL franchise and midmarket companies is the leadership.  NFL owners might not like hearing this but observing many of these owners and general managers, it seems obvious.  For example, good publicly traded companies have a leadership development program and culture that trains and grooms the best and brightest.  The best midmarket companies have the same.  Many midmarket companies, like poorly run NFL franchises, struggle in this area and as Sally Jenkins points out, in the case of the Redskins, the leadership has become toxic.

Ask yourself how you handle success and failure.  At the first sign of a storm, is your reaction to replace your captain or trust the plans you’ve made to get you through the stormy seas.  What is your language of success and what is your language of failure?  Does your team know where to turn when times get tough or do they turn on one another?

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