Play Your Position

This past weekend I got to watch my 4 year old son play his first little league t-ball game. He woke up in the morning eager and ready to go. He told me on the way out the door “I really hope I play good enough.” I assured him he would and we headed to the baseball park.

Once we were there, he took his position and began running all over to field incoming balls and on several occasions blocking other players. One of the older boys on the team stepped up to him and told him to stay in his position like the coach taught them at practice. My son looked back at him puzzled and told the boy “See, it’s okay, I got the ball for the team.” The next ball came and once again, my son ran over in front of the older boy and caught the ball only this time in the air and then threw it to first base getting the first player out. The team was so excited they all came running over to hug Will and the coaches gave him high fives. He was ecstatic, but the older boy who was in position to catch the ball was not so happy. He threw down his glove and yelled at Will to play his position. Needless to say, my son was confused.

I couldn’t help but chuckle a little out loud when I watched this all play out. It reminded me so much of what happens in organizational life. We put someone new into the game to play with the other more experienced players. We assign roles and responsibilities and encourage them to play their position to best support the team, but when push comes to shove what really gets rewarded is not whether we play our position, but whether we score a point for the team or field a fly ball. Even if that means we step out of line. Most leaders, don’t even realize that by recognizing and rewarding results only, they create breakdowns and confusion within the team.

How the team leader recognizes and rewards behavior is always at the crux of team performance. I had a team member say to me after a heated performance discussion with his boss, “I’m not worried, revenue heals all wounds and I’m off to a great start this month!” What does this say about the message this team member has received over time about what will be recognized and rewarded in his team? Interestingly enough, the leader of this team was at his wits end. He was struggling to find a way to get this team member to play nice with others, share resources and collaborate with other departments. In my conversations with the team leader, it never occurred to him that recognizing and rewarding good results without addressing the “how” he achieved the results would contribute to his dilemma.

To Personify Leadership, you also have to Be a leader who provides direction and support.

How do you do this?

  • Be clear about your position

What do you want from your team members? What goals and task should they be focused on?

  • Be clear about the team members positions

Are your team members clear about what role they play on your team? Do they understand how their behaviors impact other team members and the organization as a whole? Are they clear on consequences associated with not playing their position?

  • Recognize and Reward the right behaviors

Are you clear about “how” you want your team to achieve its results? Does the means justify the end or do you have clear protocols that need to be followed? Does it matter what impact the team members have on each other? Are you recognizing and rewarding the behavior that gets you the right approach as well as the right results?

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