My daughter recently began playing soccer for the first time on the 3 and 4 year old team. As you might imagine, the games are both fun and quite hysterical. At that age, the kids may (loosely) learn something about the actual sport but what they are really learning is a foundation of lessons that will serve them well throughout their lives. They are learning about individual contribution in the context of team and how to support one another to a common goal. They are learning that success takes practice and commitment, that there are rules and yes, that there is such a thing as winning and losing.
Unfortunately, this past Saturday they also learned that it’s ok for “special people” to break the rules and that sometimes winning matters more than “how you win.”
You see, on Saturday one of the opposing players happened to have a HUGE struggle with not stopping the ball with his hands (I’ll call him Sam). Occasionally, his coach would try to “correct” the behavior nicely from the sidelines but more often than not, when he stopped the ball with his hands he would then kick the ball in for a score for which he would receive tons of praise and hoopla. He was actually a good little soccer player if you ignored the whole “stopping-the-ball-with-your-hands-thing”.
Oh! Did I forget to mention that he was ALSO the coaches son?
So what lesson do YOU think Sam learned that day? And what lesson do you think all the REST of the kids learned?
As the game unfolded, I could not help but correlate what I was witnessing to what occurs all too frequently (and unfortunately) in Corporate America. How often are employees left defeated and deflated in environments that honor “winning at all costs”. Think Enron and the banking collapse….
But here’s the rest of the story: This isn’t just about Sam, his dad and the referee – it is also about me, our coach, my husband and every other parent and adult who sat by and LET IT HAPPEN because none of us wanted to be the bad guy – after all, the kid WAS only four and it is JUST a game, right? JUST LIKE, that leader in your organization is a “super” nice guy or well liked or whatever it is that makes it a challenge for you to speak up about what you see.
It is not only important but critical that if our work environments are going to change then it is up to us to find ways to use our voices effectively to make that difference.
As for me and my daughter, I realized that sitting on the sidelines trying to overlook the situation while I secretly “seethed” is most certainly not the solution (and not in my nature). Nor is complaining about the coach or the referee to the other parents. I was reminded once again that sometimes, doing the right thing can be unpopular but it isn’t about what you do, it’s about how you do it.
Next time, I stand up.
Continue to be great!