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Presentations in an NFL Locker Room = a Tough Talk

I would have loved to have been in the locker rooms of many NFL teams to hear the speeches given by the head coaches yesterday. What could be said to motivate the teams that were still in the hunt for a good post-season placement?  I’m sure those speeches were well-thought presentations. And they were talks given with passion. But motivating professionals at the top of their performance was probably not that much different than it was all season.

But consider the pep talk given to those at the bottom of the pile. Especially to the Indianapolis Colts. It had to be a very tough talk Jim Caldwell, the head coach, delivered. That’s the one I would have wanted to hear.

Just as any leader does, he faced complex issues, including employee illnesses, naysayers with de-motivating messages, and workers worried about their jobs. Here was what boss (coach) Caldwell had on his plate:

Nothing seemed to go right this season. Injuries. Penalties. Referee calls going against the team. 12 straight losses.

The team went through 3 back-up quarterbacks after Peyton Manning’s neck injury kept him off the field the entire season.

Caldwell’s job was on the line, as was the employment status of most of the team.

A complex reason that wasn’t in the regular playbook: A loss in the final game would ensure the Colts would get the first pick in the April NFL draft.

The negative theme of “Suck for Luck” was heard all around Indianapolis.  Andrew Luck, the Stanford quarterback, would be up for grabs in the NFL draft. With Manning’s future in question, the Colts might need a new quarterback next year.

Consider the mindset of the employees, such as traditional roles, competition from other companies (teams), personal issues and worries about job security. Colts players were thinking about this:

Many of them, including the great Reggie Wayne, Jeff Saturday, and Robert Mathis, might have been playing their last game in Colts uniforms since they became free agents at the end of the season.

Contract negotiations for them will be intense, whether it is with the Colts or other teams.

Dan Orlovsky, the QB for the last part of the season, had a monumental emotional event take his focus away from football this week. He became the father of triplets, resulting in a trip away from his office (locker room) in Indianapolis and a lack of sleep!

They were known to be team players, always doing their best to win and give credit to their fellow teammates. But being a team player (or “company man” in olden days) would have a different definition and have been against their very natures. Playing less than their best, just so the “team” would have a good future with the first draft pick, was not in their characters.

Consider the mindset of the big boss, Colts owner, Jim Irsay:

This was the first year in a long time that the Colts were not in the playoffs and considered a potential SuperBowl winner.

The long term success of the franchise rests on the choices made in drafts and trades.

The Colts want Andrew Luck.

It’s no different in business. When a company faces tough times, keeping the morale of the employees is essential. Rarely though is there a situation when a company wants to lose, or to ask employees to do a bad job.

It turns out, whatever Jim Caldwell said, the Colts seemed to play well for a lot of the game. But the Jacksonville Jaguars played just a bit better. (Maurice Jones-Drew actually played a lot better!) And the Jags won the game.

When I read or hear what Caldwell said, I’ll pass it along. I’m sure there are lessons that all bosses can learn about employee communications and having tough talks™ in tough times.

This entry was posted by Jean Palmer Heck in Heck of a Blog, Motivation, Tough Talks. Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback.

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