Life Isn’t Always an ESPN Highlight



We love those grandstand moments. We watch athletes hit the winning shot, hit the long home run, make the birdie putt. Those are terrific highlights, but they don’t reflect the whole game nor do they reflect the benefits that come from non-highlight moments—the timely pass to the shooter, the patience of the hitter in front of the big bopper, or the caddy’s advice and study of the green long before the winning golfer ate breakfast.

Looking around our landscape I find more and more leaders missing those non-highlight moments. They continually look only for home runs and sure things and often ignore the “singles and doubles” that consistently contribute to the gross margin, employee satisfaction and stock price of the organization.

If we as leaders take the time to hire good people, we can’t limit them to just hitting homers and creating corporate ESPN highlights. We need to coach, mentor, teach and be patient as they spread their wings and contribute. The idea of always seeking a “highlight” can easily dampen creativity and overall morale.

Kouzes and Posner, in their landmark leadership book, The Leadership Challenge, put a fine point on it:

Make sure to reward good attempts, not just successes. Well-intentioned efforts that don’t work out are just as important as those that do. Many, if not most, innovations fail. If people are going to continue to contribute new ideas, they need to see that failure doesn’t result in banishment to Siberia.[1]

Strikeouts, missed putts, and rimmed-out shots matter. We can learn from those mistakes and move forward. Employees can learn from those misses and become extremely valuable contributors.

We can also move the organization forward with singles and doubles. We don’t need the longest hitter off the tee, Oftentimes we just need to be in the fairway. When you add up what a string of singles and doubles can do (or even hitting every fairway) a team or organization can rack up a lot of runs (or birdies).

Life isn’t always an ESPN special moment. It’s a series of wins, losses, home runs, singles, doubles and a team that has the character to advance through them all to reach the shared vision.

[1] James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, The Leadership Challenge, (New York: Jossey-Bass, 1995), 84


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Trust is the winsome wedding of faith and hope.

Brennan Manning

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