Playing Their Own Game

The New England Patriots have had a successful past few years full of undefeated regular seasons, a 20 game streak of wins at home, and a Super Bowl appearance or several. This season has not been quite as flawless. Before last Sunday the Patriots’ record sat at 5-3 including two losses in a row and the end of their streak of wins at home.

In response to these stumbles, the public and the sports commentators have loudly predicted an end of the Patriots’ era of dominance and called for shakeups in the starting line and criticized coach, Bill Belichick.

Instead of giving into these suggestions, however, members of the team noted that in the days leading up to last Sunday’s game against longtime rival, the New York Jets, they relaxed, stuck with their game plan and actually had more fun in practice than they had yet this season.

The Patriots ended up beating the Jets decisively and are now at the top of the Eastern division. The players largely credited Belichick and his consistent coaching for the victory.

This scenario reminded me of scenes I have seen play out in other workplaces that are less in the public eye. It is human nature to make judgments based on the most recent reality. Therefore, even a team or an employee with a strong track record can be quickly called into question as soon as their results start to falter.

In some work environments, this attitude can lead to unnecessary staffing shakeups or undue pressure on key employees which will often exacerbate existing problems as people lose sight of the qualities that made them successful in the first place and lose the ability to simply relax and “play their own game”.

There are going to be instances where shakeups are necessary. The job of a good manager is to recognize when stumbles are blips that will correct themselves versus the beginning of a downward slide that requires more significant action.

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