The Antonio Brown saga has dominated the sports news in America over the last two weeks. Most of the story has showcased an erratic behavior and social media outbursts. The Oakland Raiders took a calculated risk spending money and draft capital to acquire the talented yet volatile wide receiver. Buying low allowed the Raiders to convince themselves that they could make the problems disappear. And a change of scenery would enable Brown to resume his talented ways on the field.
From day one, Antonio Brown has been an enormous headache. Failing to show up for his off-season workouts, to complaining about his helmet, his frozen feet, and more, Brown was constant unfortunate news for the Raiders' organization. What can we all learn from this fiasco experience? First and foremost, we all believe we can change people, uniquely talented people so, therefore, our ego takes center stage. Never allow your ego to think you can change the unchangeable. When our ego takes over, instead of being observant of the behavior, we tend to personalize the problem. Believing in our skills as a leader is the one thing missing in this talented but "risky" employees life.
Here are some ways to help us all navigate the talented and volatile people we must lead.
- SET THE EXPECTATIONS—BE HONEST. Communicate before the hiring process, making sure there are no ambiguities. You must lay out the plan in detail and explain the plan directly to the person. Never allow anyone else to speak on behalf of the organization. Have his/her lawyer present, have as many people in the room as needed, but always be direct, honest, and transparent. You must be firm when dealing with someone of talent who tends to operate outside the boundaries of the team. When taking on risks, a leader cannot be expected to navigate those risks alone—the person who presents the risk, and their representatives need to be heavily involved.
- BEHAVIORAL FEEDBACK. All eyes need to be on the problem, and each day the "risky" employee must be evaluated. There can be no misunderstandings—direct feedback is vital whether it's positive or negative. People have a stronger tendency to behave when being watched and given immediate feedback.
- CONSISTENT. Once the rules are set, then every action must be consistent. There cannot be any lines drawn in the sand. There can be no second chances or misunderstandings. Being honest and steadfast is essential to this "risky" proposition working out.
- CONSEQUENCES. There must be a comprehensive plan of action that will take place once the "risky" employee violates the expectations. Delaying accountability can be detrimental to the overall culture of the team and organization.
- HAVE COURAGE. Don’t allow the talent to fool you. As Bill Parcells once said, once a player shows you who he/she is, then believe him. Don’t make excuses, don’t worry about the negative public relations. Always do what helps the team win. Winning is more critical than optics.
Problems with talent will always arise, never believe you can change a person’s behavior, or allow your ego to take over.
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