Management Tips

What Unsportsmanlike Conduct and a Hasbro toy taught me about Professionalism

Unsportsmanlike conduct is a well known term to us all. Its cousin, unnecessary roughness, primarily used in football, fits into the same category both depicting a situation that violates the standard rules of play. They are equally ubiquitous to the heat of the moment pressure cooker world of pro sports. If you surf (the internet that is) you will find there are tons of documented examples to entertain you. In fact, there are a myriad of Top 10 videos (ironically called bloopers) that you can watch. Classic stuff (hardly).

Why am I writing about this negative crap and how does a toy fit in?

You’ll see.

Let’s think about what happens in the heat of the moment.

We have all had heat of the moment type situations in our lives. Under pressure we are not always as cool as an English cuke [kyook] but what drives one to be unsportsmanlike? Why does someone lose the ability for fairness, courtesy and good temper? A personal dig, a dismissive comment, stomping on someone’s arm (what?) or swearing at the customer service person on the phone after not getting what you need could be sees as average joe type unsportsmanlike conduct moves (except for the arm stomping. Ah duh, right?). But what is it about those pro athlete guys? They generally get paid extremely well for their skills and they are actually purported as professionals, hence the PRO in pro sports. So what is it with guys like the rookie, Ndamukong Suh , (Mr. Stomps on a guys arm) or the superstar, Zdeno Chara whose hit on Max Pacioretty last year was epic?

What is it about PROfessional that they don’t get?

Is it because they are stars and the rules don’t apply? Not even close. Rules are rules and these are heat of the moment type situations that have somehow defied the standards of fair conduct. Can you imagine the pro sports world as a testosterone driven and egocentric place abundant with arrogance and lacking in self discipline? Likely it’s not quite like that but hey, in some cases, maybe so.

Is it that proverbial star power?

We, as the consumerist fan, get to see and experience the giving nature that the propaganda machine purports to avert attention to the nature of negative star power. Yeah, I am making some big assumptions here but we all know that the rarest of the pro athlete is the humble, giving and selfless player. So much so it is sensationalized in the media when it happens. Why is that? Because like the rarest beast; it doesn’t come around that often.

I really don’t hate pro sports.

On the contrary, I love watching a game here and there (kinda partial to NFL football). So, this is not about slagging pro sports. There are a lot of positive examples that come from emulating a system where a group of people are working in unison to achieve a goal; however, there is a thin line when placing value on the star athlete’s unique talent. Teams are built around that talent and the expectation and the pressure that comes with that is incredibly intense. We know it’s there, they know it’s there, the management rewards it and round and round we go. The player has to have a high level of confidence to survive in this type of system particularly at its level of media exposure. Confidence in personal ability is the lifeblood of success but losing control of the ego is the lifeblood of arrogance.

What do you know? You’re no pro athlete.

Far from it. I do know that you have to be IN IT to really get it but when you consider the parallel of being a professional no matter what you do then being IN IT is really where we all live. Every day of the week you are put under pressure to respond to situations, aren’t you? Yeah, it’s not like your down a goal, there’s 30 second left and if you lose your season is over but it might be like if you don’t get the next job, win that contract or deliver on your promises the client might look elsewhere and your firm or reputation suffers. We can argue the parallels all day long but no matter what side of the fence you’re on unsportsmanlike conduct doesn’t get you nearly as far to your destination as being respectful does.

So, what happens when YOU are the superstar?

We all have the ability to become the superstar and when you get there all the bright lights, attention and power can be very intoxicating. Yeah, drawing parallels to pro sports and everyday life is a bit of a stretch but in reality as we progress and grow in our careers we have to keep a keen eye out for how we are responding to authority; ours and what is given to us though our actions.

Fair play, courtesy and good temper go a long way to keeping the wheels greased. No matter how reliant your team is on your leadership and no matter how good you really are we don’t live in the stats driven, over analysed, highly saturated world of pro sports and we are not constantly under a microscope. No one wants to interview you after every proposal submission, client presentation or drawing submission to talk play by play on how your performance affected the project. We really have no excuse to stomp on someone’s arm, hit a guy from behind, pick a fight or be a dick.

So, how does Hasbro fit into the picture then?

Hasbro, huh? Yes, yes, they make toys and games like Mr. Potato Head (sort of fitting), Twister, Monopoly and Scrabble to name a few. What they don’t make is respect which, in the world of any profession, is a given and is a right. You as a leader, star player, numero uno are the one guy on the team that needs to be like Play-Doh (another Hasbro product); soft, malleable and gooey. KIDDING but really the one property of Play-Doh (oddly, I hear Homer Simpson in my head) that is synonymous with leadership is flexibility. Flexibility to elevate and show your team the way, flexibility to allow yourself to see the changing tide before it soaks your shoes and flexibility to roll with the punches (so to speak) as your team responds to the peaks and valleys of daily life. There’s no room in there for unsportsmanlike conduct or unnecessary roughness.

Not shaking a guy’s hand because you had a dust up in a game? Really Mr. Brodeur? Like it means THAT MUCH to you? If it happens to you (a dust up, some negative crap, whatever) all you really have to do is be the better player, take the high road and suck it up.

Now, that’s REALLY tough.

 Do you have any wins that you want to share?

How have you handled conduct unbecoming of a professional?

Do the properties of Play-Doh inspire any other parallels to professionalism for you?


About rdopping

interior design guy who loves other stuff; social media, photography, film, food and anything that is good for the growth of the self


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