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Talented, but a Douche

In a conversation about Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma University’s quarterback, several people were discussing his behavior on the field. During the course of the season, he has had several questionable moments.

Following along with the feed, I couldn’t help but think about the bigger issues – sportsmanship, integrity and the culture of winning we have created in the US. Can we not do both? Can we not be both a good sport and win?

Here are some thoughts on Baker Mayfield and how he represents the issue all leaders need to think about and address:

“Take the discussion away from the player – the person – and football. Talk about sportsmanship. What does that look like? What does someone do that tells us they are a great sport? What does someone do that makes us think otherwise?

Now, which of those sets of behaviors does Baker exhibit?
That’s my point. He’s not a role model. He not a good sportsman. He’s talented for sure. I don’t think people have questioned that.

He’s just a douche. Will he grow out of it? Maybe. Maybe not.
If he weren’t a great athlete, we’d call him a douche. Because he’s a great athlete, we describe him as spirited, competitive and energetic. We say he’s motivating his teammates and encouraging the crowd. We do that for athletes – we make excuses for their behavior. Under these conditions, we accept your actions, when we wouldn’t brag about his actions if he were off the field and dating someone’s sister. We’d call him a douche.

I don’t know the guy. I only see what everybody else sees – his public actions as presented on national TV. I’m sure it’s crazy to deal with the fame, the expectations and the pressure of winning every single week. He’s still young. It’s a lot. Right now though, on TV during and immediately proceeding / following games, he has a tendency to act like a douche.

A coach (or a parent) needs to sit him down and help him understand that. A coach (or a parent) needs to say it’s embarrassing for him to act that way. A coach needs to tell him if he continues, he won’t get to play. But wait. That requires integrity.

We all want the W. So we tolerate the behavior (any of our NCAA Division I coaches would) and let him act the fool. We let him act like a douche, because he’s a great athlete.

It should also be said he’s not the only one. We do it for celebrities, for anyone who excels at what they do (ok, maybe not science geeks), because we want them on our team, because we want to win. Winning feels better than losing. It just doesn’t always produce good people. Sometimes, it creates a douche.

Now, bring this home and back to business.

I always tell clients that culture is the outcome of our values when they’re lived. Culture is also what we will tolerate.

What behaviors are you tolerating because the teammate is good (or even great) at the work they perform, although the behavior doesn’t represent your values and the kind of company you want to build?

What behaviors are YOU exhibiting (that if made public, would cause people to pause and give you a side eye) because you own the business, and no one can tell you what to do?

What are you going to do about it in 2018? Well, that’s the real question. Let’s watch.

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