One of the toughest challenges that a player can have transitioning into the National Football League (NFL) is dealing with the coaching styles and the high stakes nature of the sport. During my college football years, I had a transformational coach who cared about our growth and how we responded both on the field and off the field. He also wanted to know how our families were doing and how we were adjusting to life in general; this was a far cry from the in your face and aggressive nature of my NFL coaches! I share this point with my readers today because it brings home a very important lesson that I have learned as I have traveled the country working with individuals and companies to develop strategies and action steps that have helped them to achieve higher productivity and breakthrough performance.
Spirit of Offense
The key lesson or common thread that I have seen over and over is how breaking the “Spirit of Offense” can lead to an immediate increase in productivity and an improved organizational culture or climate. Before going any further, let me operationalize or define “A Spirit of Offense.” The Spirit of Offense takes place when either the leader or follower will not receive constructive criticism or will not engage in healthy conflicts. While gathering data through observing staff meetings, I have seen this scenario play out when an idea is presented and rejected or when a leader lacks specific know how, but refuses to concede their authority because of pride or hubris. Each of these situational aspects of leadership or followership require both humility and a certain level of self-introspection. If not handled properly by both leader and follower, a reaction of anger, and bitterness can begin to set in, which will only lead to toxicity and decreased productivity.
Three of the Best Ways
Three of the best ways to deal with the Spirit of Offense are: 1. After the task or meeting is completed, engage in introspection. Ask yourself, is there any truth in the feedback you have received? Can you recall if this has been shared with you previously. Could you have done anything differently? Each of these questions require a certain level of maturity that seeks to answer the question, but also develops your own internal resolve as a leader or follower. 2. Engage in vulnerability and go to the person and let them know that their words, actions or deeds offended you and you just want to gain clarity while moving forward. This will allow an opportunity for healthy conflict and a point of growth for both of you. 3. Offer forgiveness immediately, whatever just took place make amends with yourself first and then to the person who you may feel has harmed you. This can immediately allow you to move forward and not harbor any anger or resentment which is the gateway to bitterness.
Strangely enough, one of the most common reasons why the Spirit of Offense is allowed to occur is because the one who is offended, simply does not say anything after the perceived offense. They will engage in negative self-talk and create a negative feedback loop that will just continue and continue until all sorts of beliefs about the other person have gained a foothold in their perception.
For many of us, perception is reality, so how could we be proactive in the beginning while short-circuiting the long term damage of offense?