Recently, I was watching ESPN and a panel of football experts were talking about a player that appeared ‘out of control’ on the side lines the previous week (shouting at coaches and other players). The owner of the team was quoted as saying that he planned to be on the sidelines more often after this incident. His obvious intentions were to be helpful- to make the sidelines a better place – but the panel was quick to point out the potential negative downstream impact of the owner’s actions on not only the head coach, but the rest of the coaching staff and players. They mentioned things like “undermining the authority of the coach,” and “sending the message that the coach isn’t doing his job as a leader.” What was fascinating to me is that in the sports world, this seems pretty obvious to us. When the owner starts showing up on the sidelines after an incident or bad game, there’s usually trouble. We also can clearly see the potential damage that this kind of rank-jumping does – it creates an environment of uncertainty, and an environment ripe for R- behavior.
So why is it so hard for us to identify this in the business world, where this kind of rank-jumping happens all of the time? Being aware of our downstream impact and what kind of message we’re sending as leaders is of utmost importance for creating the right environment where people can be successful. Maybe we all need Tom Jackson and Chris Berman to talk about our behavior on TV every Sunday – but I can imagine some leaders who wouldn’t be too pleased with this idea.