I spend a lot of time either coaching youth sports or hanging out watching youth sports. It is the nature of the beast when you have three kids at home. Those experiences remind me that managing kids is a lot like managing employees. The big difference is you hope employees are a bit more mature and responsible than kids. As most of you in HR can attest, that isn't necessarily true (as a coach I have seen young players be a lot more mature than their own parents).
Over the last several months there have been a number of times those parallels between sports teams and workplaces were very apparent. Without naming the guilty, here are a few stray observations about youth sports that carry over to the HR realm:
- No matter how hard you try, you can't cure a personality defect. Individuals who are moody and grumpy (read: have bad attitudes) usually stay moody and grumpy. It seems the more you try to draw them out of that mindset the deeper they settle in. It's time for tough love. Instead of slipping into the cycle of coaxing better performance from this type of person, make it simple. Drop the attitude or find a new employer. In other words, just get rid of the cancer -- cut it out. If you don't it will spread to your other team members. Plus you will have a lot more time to focus on your other employees since you won't be wasting a bunch of time on one needy prima donna.
- Every coach (and HR professional) has run across the person who just can't seem to be a good team player. Sometimes that person is very talented. Trust me on this one -- it is usually better to just pull the plug and move on. Those talents will never overcome the negative effects the player will have on the rest of your team. In your workplace you have the same issues. Sometimes your workplace team will be stronger without the problems no matter how talented the employee might be. The other alternative is to find a niche for that person that involves limited human interaction. If you have a role like that at your company, these talented but selfish personality types might do well. Otherwise, think hard about whether they really make your company better.
- With some players, you are never right. No matter what role they are asked to fill, it isn't good enough. Your coaching and instruction goes unheeded because they think they really know best and you don't. This group can sometimes be salvaged with a little extra effort on your part. Sometimes taking that extra few minutes to explain the importance of the role or the reason for the assignment to that role can help this person see the light. Some individuals just need to understand the big picture and how they fit. Now, if that approach doesn't work -- see number 1 above.
- Pay enough attention to the low-maintenance members of your team. These people often work hard for you and produce great results without drawing much attention to themselves. You may tend to neglect them because of the time spent dealing with the personality types in the three prior paragraphs. Just think what they could grow into if you focused a little more on their growth and development.