When I was publicly demoted…

Estimated read time: 3 minutes

IMG_1615There’s power behind making public statements – even when they don’t feel good.

By way of example…

Football players get demoted and promoted publicly all the time. And to make it even more “fun”, sports writers and fans all get to share their opinions and alleged knowledge about the moves.

I was there once. When I was on the University of Iowa football team in the 1990s, things weren’t going great for myself or the team. After a 7-0 start (and 7-5 finish) my freshman year, things were going downhill fast my sophomore year. Yet, I was getting a shot at being on the two-deep. I was listed as the No. 2 center. Many people were getting shots at playing time.

But then, performances didn’t live up to hopes and dreams – including for me. Before I knew it I showed up at the Iowa Football Complex in Iowa City and looked at the depth chart posted for all to see.

I had been bumped to No. 3. Ouch.

I’m tempted here to explain it away. That’s what we humans do. There’s always a reason for everything.

I wasn’t the only one.

I didn’t feel good.
I was sick.
The coaches!!!

But I won’t go there. We all do it. Explain things away. Stop it! #done Own it!

There was locker room talk about what happened. It didn’t feel good to say the least. But looking back at it 20 years later, there are some things that can be learned from it.

Posting things like that puts everyone on the same page.

The coaches say: You fit here.

There’s no guessing because leaders aren’t sending mixed messages. Has that ever happened to anyone in the business world? Ha.

Once you have that opinion on black and white and everyone is getting the same clear message, you can agree, disagree or figure out how to improve the situation.

At the very least you know where the leaders stand.

Of course, this has been a long-established practice in football and is accepted. When people move up the depth chart that is also posted and can be celebrated.

Another thing that’s nice and clear about depth charts: They don’t bury the lead. They are not like those long and fluffy emails send by executives at 5 on a Friday afternoon that tell you bad news after trying to sugarcoat it for the first half of the email.

Depth charts get to the point and are understood:

Player 1
Player 2
C. Trappe

They don’t even have to add context and remind you where everyone was last week. We know and remember!

After posting depth charts, I remember coaches standing in front of the team and explaining their decisions.

Now, posting depth charts at companies around the globe might be a problem privacy-wise and we wouldn’t want to dare to ever be realistic about people’s performance in public. It might hurt. 🙂

I would likely have an issue with it too. Heck, today, if I would get demoted like that I might even blog about it. Let’s hope it would be educational and I wouldn’t just try to explain it away. Or blame somebody else.

Even though a complete implementation like that is unlikely in the business world and maybe even unneeded. There certainly are things business leaders (and employees, too) can learn here:

Make communication simple
Be honest
Get to the point
Explain but don’t over explain or make excuses.

Let’s hope all career moves for all of us are only positive but in the case they aren’t (and even when they are) clear communication is best.

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