Here we are with less than seventeen games left in the regular season, the Giants five and a half games behind the division leading Dodgers, a full game behind the wild card Mets, and only one game ahead of the wild card Cardinals who just took the last two games in a four game series to put additional pressure on the Giants (whom they have home field advantage over, having won the season’s series).
Desperate? I would say, and increasingly so, as the second half of the season has spelled more and more doom and gloom, with fans booing the closer, relief pitchers mocking the manager, and fans, if the Giants aren’t ahead by three runs going into the eighth inning, tense over the odds of a positive outcome.
So what is leadership / management doing? Desperately looking for a good sign. Yeah, we lost yesterday but look at Matt Cain coming back from injury and pitching a good ninth where he struck out two! And even though we lost Saturday, while being ahead going into the ninth, Suarez did a great job as starter only giving up one run. And oh yeah, Buster Posey hit a home run the day before as well (after not hitting one for almost two whole months!). Look at all the good signs!
The problem with Desperately Looking For A Good Sign is that we are so needy, so hungry, yes so desperate for something positive that we will cite ANY positive occurrence as a harbinger of the near future. Things are turning around! (Sound familiar at work?)
The strategy’s not working but if we just redouble our efforts (and our risks), stay the course, see the good things that are happening and minimize the negatives (let’s not rock the boat). Joe’s not responding to my feedback, but he listened for the first time (so what if it was our fourth discussion)! Suzie left and took a new job, but others are picking up for her and we needed to upgrade her position anyway (she was the fourth to leave in two months)! Customers are not renewing their subscriptions but we’re after a different clientele!
In other words, when we desperately look for a positive in a sea of negatives, we miss the overarching whole picture, we see good in superficialities that aren’t sustained over time, we even make up positives that don’t truly exist, and of course, we do nothing about the real and often times obvious (to all others), root causes of the issues. We not only abandon our good judgment, we neglect our responsibility as stewards of the enterprise or leaders of the team, which only accelerates the downward spiral.
When Romo reacted to being pulled in the eighth inning, and made faces to the cameras in the dugout, the Giants truly hit (another) bottom – not just in terms of the game or series, but in terms of trust and confidence (and respect) in management. There had been too many instances of desperately looking for good signs, leading to constant rationalization, denial, inaction, and yes, calling out trivial matters as good signs of an impending upturn in fortunes of the team.
Leadership denial and inaction, obfuscation, rationalization almost always leads to loss of confidence and loss of leadership credibility.
Look for (and accept) the facts. Be clinically objective in times of duress. Be courageous and make the tough decisions. Remember leadership is not a popularity contest or even a balancing of different stakeholder interests (its staying true to your mission and principles in times of adversity). Know (and be sensitive) that your decisions, behavior, symbolism are sending signals to your followers, whatever your intent. Confidence and credibility once lost, is very difficult to retrieve.