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Sunday, July 22, 2018

Everybody's Got a Manager

     Danny Amendola just moved from a consistently winning team to an occasional also-ran, and he couldn’t be happier.
     Amendola was a star performer on a New England Patriots football team that won the league championship two years ago and made it to the Super Bowl again last year. Now he has just gone to the Miami Dolphins, winless in their three trips to the playoffs in the past decade.
      Amendola is a poster boy for the saying, “People don’t leave organizations – they leave managers.”
     This week, the Associated Press quoted him gushing about his new coach, Adam Gase:
     “It’s almost like Coach Gase is one of the guys, one of the boys and you wanna fight hard for your boys. Back in New England it’s almost like you got a principal and a principal’s office . . . you know, in a good way and in a bad way, too.”

     New England’s “principal,” Head Coach Bill Belichick, has won five Super Bowls since his arrival in 2000, and his team is always in the front rank of league winners.
     He has plenty of fans. Veteran linebacker James Harrison joined the Patriots last midseason after a messy end to his longtime tenure with the Pittsburgh Steelers. In a television interview, he compared Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin unfavorably to Belichick:
     "Mike Tomlin's good as a head coach," said Harrison. "He's a player's coach. I think he needs to be a little bit more disciplined.
     "The big thing with Belichick is he's very regimented, he's disciplined. Everyone is going to be on the same page. It's not going to be anything as far as someone doing their own thing."
     You have to allow for Harrison’s subjectivity, of course, considering the circumstances. His admiration for the new place/guy has to arise in some degree from his sour feelings about the previous situation.

     But don’t discount subjectivity. It has everything to do with commitment.
     When people consider something highly important, they are capable of devoting themselves to it. That is, they are motivated to act on it and stick with it – fulfill a commitment.
     Football at the professional level calls for exceptional talent and skill, but there must be equal determination and effort. It demands very immediate, very personal and very physical actions in direct competition with strong, determined, skilled opponents.
     Newcomers to the Patriots have often remarked upon the unswerving focus of the organization and the remarkable discipline of players like perennial MVP Tom Brady.
      But lately there have been stirrings of discontent, including talk that all is not well between Brady and Belichick. The coach’s string of excellence began with Brady’s accession to the quarterback position, but there is word that Belichick’s iron rule is no longer OK with his hitherto supportive star player.
     Brady denies that, and Harrison says he saw no sign of friction when he arrived in the locker room curious to see what the atmosphere was.

     Still, there have been decisions that reportedly caused friction between Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft. Some stars have unexpectedly been traded, and some, like Amendola and, earlier, Wes Welker, have moved on voluntarily, making no secret that Belichick was their reason for leaving.
     I, like everyone who opines about management, have written my share of pieces about the specifics of the skill set, particularly the observable markers of a good manager: Fairness, decision making, active listening, etc.
     When you do all those things well – or at least acceptably – people will work for you, and you will earn results that should guarantee your security in the position.
     But I’ve come to understand that there’s a nuanced and difficult challenge that may be the most important of all:
     Do your decisions and your manner create a working atmosphere in which the kind of people you need are inspired to commit themselves to excellence? Every senior manager does it differently, so all workplaces are different.
     It takes a certain kind of person to thrive under a manager like Bill Belichick. That certainly has been true for Brady, but he skipped voluntary offseason workouts this year. The Patriots reportedly have taken team access privileges away from Alex Guerrero, Brady’s trainer and business partner.
     Every manager has a manager – ideally, someone empowered and obligated to monitor, evaluate and affect that manager’s performance.
     This is not frivolous. Over the decades, I have worked under managers who were lovable incompetents, and there have been grim overachievers. Mostly, real commitment was up to me.
     With the Patriots, everybody knows who’s the boss, and you’d better be sure you’re clear on what the boss wants. You all answer to Bill Belichick, and he answers to Robert Kraft.
     And Kraft? He has uncounted thousands of decision makers to answer to, the Patriots fans. They are knowledgeable – and vocal – about anything related to the team. What do they want? Lots, but very clearly one thing: A winner.
     So far so good, Robert. Good luck with it.

HAVE YOUR SAY: How do you rate the managers of your experience?

SEE ALSO:  Good Leader: Why?

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