Two Football Coaches Provide a Lesson in Management

2 min read
Oct 28, 2016

leadership styles

In the end, the six-six tie between the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals on October 23 wasn’t riveting football. It was low scoring and both teams made a number of blunders. But what happened afterward provides a lesson that managers at any organization can learn from.

Two of the biggest mistakes were clutch field goals that kickers on both teams missed. Arizona kicker Chandler Catanzaro missed a 24-yard field goal with just over three minutes remaining in overtime. He had already made two field goals at longer distances during the game.

Then Seattle kicker Stephen Hauschka could have made a game-winning field goal, but he missed on a 28-yard attempt. Just like Catanzaro, he had made two field goals earlier as well.


How the Managers Reacted

Both coaches were faced with the same reality: their kicker hadn’t made an easy key field goal in a crucial situation. But their reactions were completely different, according to Inc.

Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said this about his kicker’s performance:

“Make it. This is professional, this ain't high school, baby. You get paid to make it.”

Pretty harsh words. Here’s a manager who never tolerates failure and throws his employee under the bus at the first opportunity. (Note that he also singled out one person from the whole team for the loss. Meanwhile, Arizona’s offense failed to score a touchdown.)

But Seattle coach Pete Carroll had this to say about his kicker’s error:

“[Hauschka] made his kicks to give us a chance and unfortunately he didnt make the last one. Hes been making kicks for years around here . . . but hes gonna hit a lot of winners as we go down the road here. I love him and hes our guy.” 



Who Would You Rather Work For?

Carroll has brought his kicker onto the team because he knows he’s talented. He supported his guy 100% without any questions. There’s no doubt that the Seattle kicker will feel better about his job security going into the next game. Meanwhile, the Arizona kicker will be sweating it out, expecting that if he misses another one he’ll be done.

You might think that “playing hardball” (to mix metaphors) is the best way to motivate employees. However, the research shows that using fear is ineffective for getting results. One study found that up to 70% of employee engagement is based on managerial effectiveness. The best managers set clear goals, communicate well with employees, and focus on employee strengths over their weaknesses.

In a competitive labor market, workers will choose employers who are supportive of their risk-taking and are willing to tolerate a normal amount of error. That means managers have to accept failure once in a while. It also means that singling out a single employee as a failure isn’t going to work.



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