How do some NCAA and NFL football coaches do it?  How do they go through such emotional swings in a football game?  There are some of course who are very level and neither celebrate success nor react to failure.  Many of us who have “normal” jobs do not experience such swings of emotions in a four hour period, but some of us have days, or even whole weeks that swing wildly.  I had one of those last week and most of my buttons, both good and bad, were pushed.  I will attempt to share this experience with you and explain the following saying that guided me through.

  • Don’t make long term decisions based upon short term emotion.

We have all heard the saying plan your work and work your plan.  Most NCAA and NFL football coaches study the opposition and create a set of plays that they will run based upon what they see in film study and their knowledge of the other team and coach.  They make a plan, then execute that plan.  They will make adjustments at halftime or during other times of the game as they watch and determine the effectiveness of their plan.  They may shout, throw their visor, yell at players, but they will revert to their plan and work it.  What they will not do is completely change their plan based on any one play, or even a single series of plays.  If they detect a trend, they will then look at making an adjustment.

I had a plan for last week, and I worked it.  Last week presented many opportunities.  The first one came when I had an opportunity to present to 120 people across multiple organizations.  I love doing this and was definitely feeling fulfilled.  Then came the huge swing and some very challenging conversations late in the week.  These conversations were a result of something I put in motion, that something was very needed, but also controversial, leading to pointed conversations that kind of put me on my heels.  I went from being on top of the world, doing my very favorite professional task, to scraping the bottom of the barrel, wondering if I was even qualified to do my job any longer.  Of all the things that hit me the hardest, it was that I was not being a good listener to a very trusted member of my leadership team.  That one struck my core as I value this relationship very much.  The statement hit me as I sat by my firepit Friday night trying to focus on something other than work: don’t make long term decisions based on short term emotion.  I cannot react to either the negative or the elation of the week; rather, like a good leader or coach, go back, review, and make adjustments to the plan.  I spent a lot of the weekend “reviewing film” in my head.

I did make a few decisions, but they are in keeping with the long term goal and plan.  They will help advance the organization to meet its mission.  The decision was what that trusted team member was trying to tell me all along but finally gave up – I guess I had to come to the conclusion on my own.

The other tool I leaned on over the weekend of reflection related to priorities.  The main priority of my life is my relationship with others; I value this far more than any specific job or organization.  After further review … I have made an adjustment to my plan and will be more intentional about listening and responding appropriately.  How to do this is another blog post altogether but it starts with eye contact, no smart phone, and getting out from behind my desk.

There remains for me a few thoughts from the week:

  • When in the past have I made long term decisions based upon short term circumstance or emotion?
  • How can I better recognize when I might be doing this?
  • How can I effectively point this out to someone close to me when I see them do this?

The key to unlocking these insights lies in the relationships that we develop over time. If you are a leader, cultivate relationships around you.  If you are not a leader, cultivate relationships around you.  Regardless of your role, empower people around you to tell it like it is, this will help you make successful adjustments and avoid making poor long term decisions based upon short term emotion.


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