You Can Be Wrong – It Doesn’t Hurt

One of the great myths in coaching/leadership is that being wrong is a sign of weakness.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  The challenge is, in a world where competition is so powerful, it’s almost natural to see things strictly through the lenses of win or lose; strength or weakness.  If that were the only option, it would follow that if I’m wrong, I’m weak.  Pretty harsh, so let’s not buy into it yet.Sometimes being wrong is the only way we can learn

Let’s look at a story of how being wrong led to success.  Gary Patterson, head coach at TCU, used to have a deliberate approach to running an offense.  It worked well for years.  In fact, TCU made it to the Rose Bowl in 2011 and won.

That win paved the way a couple of years later for TCU to make the leap to the Big 12 to play with the big boys.  Coach P’s deliberate approach to offense that had worked so well in the past was a disaster in the new era. The team went 2-7 in their conference debut.  What had been right in the past became really wrong.

Let’s pause the story for a minute and consider – if I see life as a competition, what is my response to being wrong?  I’m likely to experience denial, rationalization and often disbelief (must be some mistake, I’ll just try again.)  I may begin to act as though my identity, my character is tied to being wrong.  It becomes personal.  Think of a time when someone told you – “you’re doing it wrong.”  Was your first response to be curious or was your response like mine – justify my actions, blame some outside influence and make excuses?  Getting hooked by “I can’t be the one who’s wrong!” is a gargantuan waste of time and energy.

GP didn’t get wrapped up in the right and wrongness.  He got curious, assessed the situation, hired new fast-paced-offense coaches and handed offensive responsibility over to them – a coaching act of faith.  TCU went 12 – 1 (8-1) the next year.

Let’s go back to the myth:  being wrong is a sign of weakness.  If I worry about how I am seen, that in itself becomes the problem.  I waste time focusing on looking good instead of addressing what is not working.  Tip of the hat to Gary Patterson.  He didn’t go there.

The lesson is to choose curiosity over defensiveness and judgment. Being wrong is not a failing – it’s a failure and our job is to recover.

 

 

Control When It Counts

I am sitting in my office saddened by the behavior of young athletes during this bowl season. The latest casualty of “stupid college student behavior” is a young man who had a bright future in professional sports. Perhaps he still does, but he has tarnished his reputation and could have cost his team a bowl win by his immature behavior.  He certainly ended his college football career prematurely.

It started in a bar – that was just the first place emotional self-control could have helped.  It escalated into shoving bar employees around.  It Controlended as friends were trying to drag the belligerent athlete back to his hotel. The police arrived and our erstwhile QB was totally out of control.  He was throwing punches and one landed in the direction of a police officer.

I always get a sick feeling when I think of the ways incidents like this could have been avoided.  That’s the real reason I am dedicated to teaching emotional intelligence – the brain science and the social science – to young athletes and their coaches.  I teach to give them a competitive advantage in their sport and to give them skills to avoid events like this. Understanding our behaviors so we can avoid emotional hijacks is critical to any success – on the football field, in the boardroom, or in a bar before an important game.

Emotional intelligence happens over time, not overnight. If you want to create a team culture (sports or otherwise) that understands its triggers and can choose self-control, the time to start is now – well before the championship games, the starting gun, or the beginning of the season. It’s a great New Year’s resolution – to teach people the art and science of self-understanding and self-control. It’s our responsibility.

Because when the pressure’s on, being in control is critical.