Sunday, April 27, 2014

Winning Relationships

When speaking about his relationship with his new coach, Tom Coughlin, after the 2004 pro-football season, Michael Strahan describes an overall feeling of hatred. Tom Coughlin is a no-nonsense, if-you're-not-five-minutes-early-you're-ten-minutes-late kind of guy. He was hard on his players. He had high expectations and a lot of rules. He was often seen as somewhat of a tyrant. It's his way or the highway. In his first year with the New York Giants, his attitude was this is how it's going to be. No questions, no room for discussion. Since that first year, a great deal has changed with Coughlin, a man now widely considered to be one of the greatest coaches in NFL history. The reason why I use this anecdote when talking about winning relationships is because of how both men handled team adversity.

Strahan was ready to quit after Coughlin's first year with the team. That is how much he hated this man, with his beliefs and attitude. But he didn't. Strahan often makes reference to a line in the Coldplay song, "Clocks." There is a thought-provoking line in the song: "Am I part of the cure, or am I part of the disease?" This got Strahan thinking, as it should with all of us that may have struggles with members of our own teams.

As teachers, we all work on teams, from our grade-level teams to district committees. No team is perfect or without flaws. There are disagreements, differences in philosophies, and at times, there are members we feel we could succeed without. I have been there and you probably have too. Ask yourself, though, were you really doing anything to make that team better? Unfortunately many people resort to simply complaining,  rebelling or even lashing out at members they deem detriments to the team. None of that helps the situation, does it? What needs to be realized is that everyone on a team shares a common goal or in some cases, many goals. That is what Strahan realized. He and Coughlin both shared similar goals: They both wanted to win. With that, Strahan noticed several other things they shared: Belief in hard work, the value of strong leadership, and a love of football. He was finally seeing the man he once hated so much, in a completely different light.

Every team is going to face challenges, but never take your eye off the prize: The common goals that are shared by every member of the team. You also need to stop and ask yourself that same question that Strahan pondered, about being part of the problem or part of the solution. This player wasn't the only one who came to some kind of realization after the 2004 season. Tom Coughlin began to see how his players felt about him. He realized that he needed to change some of his ways and perhaps see his players in a different light. And boy did he. He finally loosened-up a bit. He begin to show his lighter side. He never changed his core beliefs or philosophies, but he allowed his players to take on more responsibility, gave them a say, and he helped those who wanted to become leaders, lead.

What does Strahan think of Coughlin now, nine years and a Super Bowl Championship later? He proudly states, "I love this man, and if I could, I would play for him any day. And together, we would win."

I am not saying every relationship is going to be like Strahan and Coughlin's, but there is a very clear message here. Winning relationships take work. They require all parties to stop and reflect on their own contributions. They require commitment and dedication to that common goal.

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