I love college football and watch it every weekend during the season. One game in the past stood out in particular, not because of a crazy play or huge victory, instead I was struck by one of the comments from the coach. He said “I’m disappointed in myself and how we came out to play. When you play like that, you’re just not mentally where you need to be, and that’s my fault.” Think about the level of accountability in a statement like that. How many leaders do you know take accountability for the mindset of their teams? In my experience, many managers go with the “I’ve told them how they need to act and if they don’t want to act that way then they can leave” approach.
Don’t get me wrong. That approach can work well if you have phenomenal recruiting and hiring practices, an endless supply of exceptional talent that wants to join your team, and a lot of extra cash laying around to attract them. Otherwise, you better invest in helping the people who are already on the team think differently and perform better. That’s not to say that you don’t cut players when you need to, but if firing your people, or threatening to, is the only performance improvement tool in your bag, you are in serious trouble. In my work with veterinary practices, there is often a debate about whether you can change people or not. The answer is no.
You can’t change people. But you can help them change themselves.
Most people agree that you can’t change people. The part that gets missed is that you can absolutely help them to change themselves. If you need proof, go find anyone who has become wildly successful and ask him or her if there was anyone along the way who helped them get there. In their answer you will hear about others who inspired them, helped them change their perspective, and caused them to take another look at who they were, and who they wanted to become. Too many managers and potential leaders feel trapped by the circumstances, the team, the culture, and never realize that they have control over most of what frustrates them.
If you have a bad team today, that’s a circumstance. If you have a bad team in six months, that’s a choice. Become the leader who can either help them change or find a place where they can work without changing. Either way, help them. If you take accountability for your team’s mindset and performance, you rarely have to take responsibility for their poor results. Coaches and managers who take that kind of accountability typically have consistent remarkable success. One example is the coach I quoted earlier. That quote actually came after a win, his 200th with the same school. Something only 10 coaches have done in the history of the sport. He knows he can make a difference in the mindset and the performance of those on his team. And because he knows he can, he does. Do you?