If you carry a grudge off the field you didn't play hard enough
Updated: Nov 15, 2017
A wizened elder rugby player in his striped and muddied jersey made life profoundly simple for this youngster after a hard-fought contest. New to the game, I was marveling how opponents who were beating the tar out of one another an hour before, were now socializing and celebrating their common bond.
Standing six foot, five inches and missing his two front teeth, the aging bear explained, “Rugby is a physical sport with 15 players per side, yet only one referee. The game is hard enough without resorting to cheating and violence, and if you carry a grudge off the field you didn’t play hard enough. An unsettled score can wait until the next match."
Are you becoming resentful over something?
Fast-forwarding nearly forty years, I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated over an interpersonal dynamic, but then had to admit to myself that I had not had the resolve to confront the real issues. The rugby conversation came to mind, reminding me of the ethos of hard-fought but honorable conflict. Was I willing to have a necessary and long-overdue intervention?
Thinking through life-strategies for myself and others, I concluded that in confrontation we have four choices that will ultimately define who we are. We can conduct ourselves with courage and respect, or settle and become less than we might.
Do we tackle the challenge?
Do we hold back and allow others to take the hit?
Do we quit on ourselves?
Do we quit the team?
Will you tackle the challenge?
As the phrase goes, “Deal with it.” Are you willing to live by a set of noble values, honor commitments, have the difficult conversations, pay the price and set the example?
Yes, there are times when the situation is not just and your best efforts may never be enough. Facing the challenge may mean a necessary ending. Make a decision. Take action. Be the one and get it done.
At the same time, do you make it safe for others to question or correct you? Are you approachable and accountable? Or, do you set the conditions for the behaviors below?
Do you hold back and allow others take the hit?
You might wear the jersey, but are you there in support when the going gets tough? Or, do you hold back while others take the beating?
As a leader, what are the standards? What are the expectations? Do you deal with under-performers?
Have you quit on yourself?
Have you thrown in the towel altogether? At what point did you lose hope, become a resister or a skeptic, and how did that occur? Are others now responsible for your outcomes while you criticize or languish?
Where there is no vision the people perish. Leaders, do those in your charge recognize their value? Are they accountable to put in a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay? Do they see where they fit in and what they can do to achieve the goal? Is there justice within the system or do people lose hope?
Will you quit the team?
There are legitimate times to move on, but there are also those who cannot take a rebuke or be held accountable without drama. Those with their own agenda are prone to place blame and walk away.
Leaders, it may be that your role is to force a decision by someone who does not share the mission, vision and values. Selections and necessary endings are part of a winning team.
Win or lose, can you walk off the field with your head held high?
When the final whistle blows, who will you have been? Which strategy will have defined you? Did you play hard? Were you there for your mates? Did you do your best? Did you fight to the end?
George Henderson consults with mid-sized to Fortune 500 companies on strategy, organizational development and continuous improvement. He has a track record of delivering 10:1 returns and a >90% strategy execution success rate based on developing people rather than outsourcing the problem(s). Most recently he facilitated USA Rugby’s Strategy 2020 and founded the Rugby Business Executives Association (RBEA).