Monday, November 2, 2009

Fourth Quarter

Another week of the football season is behind us, and as always there was plenty of drama in the fourth quarter of more than a couple of games. As a football fan, I enjoy the the last minute comeback as much as the next guy. However, dramatic fourth quarters are usually a byproduct of less than satisfactory performance leading up to that point. Odds are, if a team performs optimally from the first kick-off on, the game is all but won prior to the commencement of the fourth quarter. Though I recognize well matched teams clicking on all cylinders makes the fourth quarter the only period that truly matters, that rarely happens (but when it does, it is a beautiful sight).

In the work place (at least the ones to which I have been privileged to be a part), fourth quarter heroics or failures have no place. I have personally witnessed, done my best to prevent, and maybe even unknowingly created situations where unnecessary stress and unintentional drama was experienced by valued teammates. I have never been one to procrastinate and I am chronically early to meetings and social engagements. Truth is being late tells those around us that they are not as important as the other things we are juggling (i.e. If we are late, the focus of our attention that made us late ought to be defensible).

Over the past couple of months, there have been more than a few frustrating initiatives at work that required fourth quarter heroics due to poor execution leading up to that point. What they were is not important, the fact that we "won" on each account is of interest, but the fact that those who created the need for a last minute comeback may not take note is vital. We need not wait until the wildfire is right outside our door, the night before an important test, or our car is completely out of gas before we take action. Preventive measures are always at our disposal, though with each passing moment the number of tools we have is diminished.

We live in an asynchronous world and many of us are playing multiple "games" at the same time. For the games you are playing by yourself, start playing early. For the games your juniors are playing on your behalf, frame the ground rules, listen to their feedback and give them time in the first three quarters to address game plan changes. Under no circumstances should any of us wait until the fourth quarter to begin playing with all of our heart. If we happen to be in a position to pull out a victory in the final minutes, we should only celebrate if such heroics were not forced because we backed the team into a corner due to a lack of focus/interest. If that was the case, we should merely wipe our brow, thank the hero of the day, offer our apologies to those for whom we made life unnecessarily difficult and vow to improve our process.

1 comment:

  1. Received this comment via e-mail from one of my mentors and though it worthy of sharing...

    "...there is another possible analogy; Sailors who turn on their performance in the fourth quarter of an eval reporting period. You have to be strong during all four quarters, not just the last few months of the cycle. People remember best what happened most recently, and can sometimes overlook earlier performance. It's a leadership failure when it's allowed to happen, but Sailors know that it does and will take advantage of it. When we allow it to happen and reward the behavior, it's only reinforced."