The search for the mythical perfection

This week two head coaches were fired – Dennis Allen of the Oakland Raiders in the NFL and Charlie Weis of the University of Kansas. It’s September – the season just started. Who does that?;


Both of these men are proven leaders in their fields. I understand that both coaches had terrible records with these most recent teams, but after only two years and a month. Building a team takes time, and a little bit of luck. Unless the head coach has been unethical or proven to have no connection to the team, it undermines team morale for their leader to be fired in the very beginning of the season, making success an even greater challenge.

I believe this demonstrates two problems with many organizations in this country – a search for perfection and a lack of tolerance for mistakes. Neither makes sense. Perfection is a myth and success cannot always be defined as being the best. I understand that winning is the primary goal of football teams, but there are other goals. Only one team can win a game. Leading a team requires celebrating all successes, both big and small. It also requires allowing the team members and the leaders to make mistakes. How many of us teach kids that mistakes are their best education? What about quotes that it’s not how many times you get knocked down that matter it’s how many times you get back up? What about the entire basis behind R&D – using trial and error until you find a formula that works? What about the fact that these coaches are leading HUMAN BEINGS? Anyone who has been a leader knows that there is no perfect formula for leading people. Instead, you must lead (and coach) people in all their HUMANNESS; sometimes it comes together for success, other times it’s a colossal mess. Further, when your team is ever changing, your leadership formula may also change. Building a team takes time, and it isn’t always going to lead to perfection. I love the point behind this article, similar to what I’m saying. We should all work (and play) in a place where perfection isn’t the goal, and mistakes are seen as a learning tool:

It is also worth stating that people are doomed to fail when they are not empowered. Rex Ryan of the NY Jets appears to have no autonomy over coaching his team. He’s the head freakin’ coach and yet the owners appear to be making the coaching decisions. Makes no sense. When a leader is not given true authority over their team and room for trial and error, the only result is failure. That is not the leader’s failure; it is the organizations’ failure. The Washington Redskins experienced this with coaching great Mike Shanahan.

On the flip side, the New York Giants have given coaching legend Tom Coughlin plenty of room for failure and success over the last 10 years. He’s led the team to two super bowl wins, had losing seasons, and a lot of average years. This year they started out shaky, but came back with a big win last week over (ironically) Washington. This same tolerance has been passed on to their QB Eli Manning, and many of their players. Kudos to the Giants leadership! At some point this tolerance will end, but it is my sincere hope that when they do move on to a new coach and new QB, that they will maintain their leadership style, giving the new coaches and players time to build a team, find success and allow for failures.

My point? Perfection is not a realistic goal. Success and perfection are not the same thing. Success and team building takes time, especially when you have constantly moving parts. This 2-3 year limit for head coaches to be top level winners and then stay there is in my opinion ridiculous, unrealistic, and will ultimately lead to long term failure for the organization. I’m sure both Dennis Allen and Charlie Weis will land on their feet. It is my sincere hope that they will look for a place that empowers them to lead, allows time to build success, and tolerates imperfection.


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