I just finished watching the wild card NFL game between the defending Champion New Orleans Saints and the Seattle Seahawks. The game was played in Seattle and the Seahawks were 11-point underdogs. In short, they just weren’t supposed to win, but they did. The turning point of the game was in the fourth quarter when with 3:37 left Marshawn Lynch made a 67-yard run to the end zone, basically sealing the fate of the Saints. Not only was the run significant, but also I believe more significant was how it was executed. On his way down the field Lynch escaped at least five tackles and it was a most impressive display of broken field running. The poignant part of the whole play for me was who arrived in the end zone with Lynch. He was accompanied by Matt Hasselbeck and Tyler Polumbus. For those of you who don’t follow football, Matt Hasselbeck is the first string quarterback for the Seahawks and Polumbus plays offensive line. One would not expect to see either of those individuals in the end zone 67 yards from where the play was initiated. Why did they end up there? Both were blocking for Polumbus as he made his way downfield. What struck me as significant was the way in which these two players defined their roles on the field. One would have expected Hasselbeck the quarterback to hand the ball off to Lynch the running back , perhaps make a fake and then either stopped moving or made his way to the side of the field, or at that point in the play simply stood and watched the action. Polumbus is a six foot eight inch, 300-pound behemoth from the Seahawk offensive line. Hasselbeck makes $6,256,240 and Polumbus receives $391,890 per season. One is a finesse player and one grinds it out bumping opposition bodies at the line of scrimmage on a weekly basis. The thing that struck me was both of these players at first glimpse looked out of place in the end zone. If you were to read the job descriptions of these players Hasselbeck’s would say something about his duty to receive the snap from the Center and then get it to the player that in his judgment has the best opportunity for yardage gain. Polumbus’s description would say something about blocking the opposition players from having access to the quarterback or pushing back and making room for a running back to make his way through the line. Neither player would have anything in their job descriptions that would say anything about responsibilities for running down the field to block for a running back. Quarterbacks are always treated with kid gloves due to their hefty price tag and when they come out of the pocket and decide to run, it is almost always with the intention of making a feet first grounding before the opposition will have any chance to touch them. Linesman are expected to stay relatively close to the line of scrimmage and their job is well delineated and defined. But both of these players ended up in the end zone with the running back Lynch.
Both Hasselbeck and Polumbus had redefined what the historical job descriptions of their positions were. It struck me that they had not allowed themselves to be limited by what would normally be expected of them playing their respective positions. Obviously in their own minds, their job description is to do what it took either inside or outside of the normal expectations to allow their organizations to be successful and win the game. They did not suffer from thoughts of “that’s not my job”, or “somebody else will take care of it.” They took matters into their own hands and executed because obviously the job description in their minds was “My job is to do whatever it takes to win this game. No other outcome would define success for them. I will not be limited by historical expectations or what might be expected of me operationally. I am a big picture guy and in the big picture success is winning this game and advancing to the next round of the playoffs.” In short, both of these gentlemen have the esoteric ability to think outside normal processes and do whatever it takes and not limit themselves or their team by allowing traditional expectations rule their conduct.
What about your job description in your Organization? Are you limiting your performance because of what you think your job description is? Are you too narrow in you perceptions, and is it having a negative on your performance and thereby affecting the ability of your business to succeed?
I thought about my own situation and how I respond and I perceive my role in any given business circumstance. I had the opportunity to chat with some people that I have had a business association with for many years this week. In the past 18 months, our business has seen many changes and my role in the business has changed markedly as well. I was asked the question, “What am I doing now as a result of those changes and what are my new responsibilities?” I responded that I am doing a number of different things than I was previously. In fact that morning I said I had spent a fair amount of time cleaning up dog excrement in our office. This probably wouldn’t show up on the job descriptions of many company presidents but that is in fact what had happened. My wife and I are the proud new owners of (and of course with personal biases aside) a brand new puppy who if not the cutest pup in the land, quite close to it. On occasion I take the pup with me to the office depending on what my day looks like. Suffice it to say that we are still in the process of toilet training the puppy and there are quite a number of “accidents” to be dealt with as this process evolves. I could have said that the mess was the job of the cleaning lady (who happens to be my daughter) as her job description is to keep the office neat and professionally presentable. Self-preservation and not good business aptitude dictated that I would clean up my own dog’s mess but I think that the analogy is valid as I did not hand off the job of cleaning up after my puppy even though it wasn’t part of my job description. The task needed to be accomplished to allow the presentation of a professional business environment and so I picked up the poop. Going a bit further down this introspective road I asked myself “Am I prepared to do whatever is necessary to give our business every opportunity to succeed or am I stuck in the “Role and Responsibility Rut?” where narrow definitions and minimum compliance rule the day?
I think as a result of this introspective analysis, I am going to change my business card. I am going to remove my educational designation and my corporate title. To replace what is presently there I have three options: I can just put my name on the card and nothing else, I could put “Team member in charge of puppy excrement control” on it although realistically I do more in the business than shovel puppy poop, or I could put “Team member who does whatever it takes to make the Business Successful.” I want to change the card to give myself a constant and recurring reminder of what it is I am attempting to achieve and how I am attempting to achieve it.
In small business we have the challenges of needing to be jack of all trades and master of none on a daily basis because we lack the economies of scale to do otherwise, but by broadening our horizons consciously and in a deliberate manner and not allowing ourselves to be limited to narrow guidelines and expectations, I think that we are better business people and that will give our businesses a greater chance at success. Had you told me just a few years ago that I would be writing a weekly article for a website I would have thought you daft. If nothing else this activity makes me examine who I am and what my role is in our organization. I truly thank all of you for your comments and for sharing this journey. I hope that you are provided with food for thought and discussion as I have been over the past number of months.
So from now on when I am picking up puppy poop I will tell myself that the reason I am doing it is because I am a big picture guy that will not limit himself and will attempt to fulfill whatever the needs of the organization are. If you make this effort hopefully this attitude will be contagious and all in the organization will realize new found satisfaction by exploring new horizons thereby helping the organization to achieve it’s goals.