Be A Professional—Kaepernick’s New Aspiration?

By now even the casual football fan is aware of the travails of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. His recent performance (the word abysmal comes to mine) on the football field is a head-scratcher for many of us. His success in earlier years belies the types of disappointing performances we’ve seen from him in 2014. It’s a fall from grace. (Note: the 49ers, in general, are having an extremely disappointing year as well. That said, it is widely acknowledged by football insiders that something is clearly ‘off’ in Kaepernick’s game.)

To add insult to injury, Kaepernick’s on-field performance has shined when compared to how he’s handled the media. In a nutshell it appears that Kaepernick views the media as the enemy (much like his boss—coach Jim Harbaugh—seemingly does).

During a recent press conference, Kaepernick responded to 32 questions with only 87 words. From his demeanor and body language you’d think Kaepernick would rather endure a root-canal than spend another second with the press. Defensive, petulant, aloof, are just a few of the adjectives that come to mind that characterize how Kaepernick comes across with the press. It’s painful to watch. Treat the press as your enemy and they’ll soon become such.

To me, Kaepernick’s act has gotten old (Harbaugh’s too). These two are the primary faces of the organization to the public. They need to positively represent their organization. At the moment, the impression they create leaves a lot to be desired. Sure the media can be a pain to deal with, but ‘media management’ (otherwise known as PR) is an important part of the job—especially for a NFL quarterback.

Hall of Famer Jerry Rice was asked by a Bay Area radio host what advice he’d give Kaepernick. Turns out, Jerry once had a problem with being defensive with the media early in his career as well. At the time he finally realized, “You know, I need to be a better professional.” (click here for more on Jerry’s comments) Simply put, Jerry realized that he wasn’t handling the media as a professional would.

‘Be a professional’…that was Jerry’s advice to Kaepernick. I don’t know if Jerry spoke to Kaepernick after the radio interview or if Kaepernick heard the interview. But what I do know is….

….the very next day after Jerry’s comments Kaepernick was downright charming with the media. Read more about that here. He was vulnerable and even empathetic towards many of the ‘media types’ he presumably loathed. All of a sudden the guy ‘shows up’ in a more effective, more helpful way. He puts a more engaging, more upbeat face on the 49ers organization. No doubt, that’s something that the 49ers had long wished would emerge from one of the NFL’s most public personalities.

For everyone involved, undesired behavior in the workplace is maddening. Gazillions of dollars are spent every year in prevention, investigation, and remediation. Yet it’s amazing how effective the admonition—’be a professional’—can remedy undesired behavior in the workplace.

Whether this contributed to Kaepernick’s ‘about-face’ is unknown (at least by me). But I’ve personally seen dozens and dozens of such cases ‘fixed’ with just such an admonition.

Can I Get A Copy of That Recipe?

I’ll bet you’ve heard that question asked around the Thanksgiving table. I did last Thursday. What prompted the recipe request? My daughter’s pumpkin cheesecake.

Her desert was delicious. Naturally people wanted ‘in’ on how to make it….and perhaps secretly hoping to get the types of kudos my daughter did when they make theirs.

This type of thing happens all the time in organizational life—that is, managers shopping for recipes. After all, why re-invent the wheel? On the surface, the approach seems to make sense. Trouble is, in organizational life recipes (think: things like best practices) don’t always transfer well. Sometimes they fall flat on their face—even after being wildly successful in a different environment.

Do this, add that, wait two weeks…and voila, you get the elusive desired result you’ve been desperately seeking. Recipes are tempting. Busy managers succumb to recipes all the time.

The trouble with adopting recipes in organizational settings is that when they’re adopted blindly they require little, if any, critical thinking. Seeking recipes and adopting them blindly is akin to outsourcing your thinking. Too many managers don’t take the time and energy to engage in the type of critical thinking that will enable their organization (let alone their newfound recipe) to flourish. In the case of the recipe they don’t consider how it fits into the unique circumstances (think: culture) of their organization.

Managers should be asking themselves questions like:

***what assumptions are we holding about why the recipe worked for others and what are our own assumptions about why we think it will work for us?

*** what is different about our situation than others situation that have had success with this recipe?

*** after successfully adopting (and adapting) the recipe, how else can we benefit from the fruits of this recipe?

Managers: don’t outsource your thinking. It’s one of your most important responsibilities. There’s nothing wrong with seeking out recipes that others have had success with. Just be prepared to do the critical thinking of what it’ll take to make that recipe successful for you.

In the meantime, I gotta give a shout-out for my daughter’s pumpkin cheesecake. Great recipe, even better daughter.

Want Confidence? Start With Your Identity as a Professional

In a recent article on LinkedIn, author Jan Johnston Osburn advocates that when it comes to success  ‘Confidence Trumps Talent‘.  As I’ve written previously, for most of us what constitutes ‘success’ is largely subjective. That said, I believe that Osburn makes an important point.  

And one of the most powerful sources of confidence comes from one’s identity—as I wrote about in The Power of Professionalism.     

It’s exciting to see the transformative power that comes about when people internalize the notion that they’re professionals—or start down the road in becoming one.  ‘Professional’ suddenly becomes an integral part of their identity. How have I seen this manifested on a practical level?

***languishing employees become stellar

***rudderless students find their purpose and thrive

***stubborn and incorrigible staffers become motivated (and act) to show their ‘best self’  

Did these people suddenly become more talented? No. But they suddenly found themselves, becoming more focused, more productive, more energetic—thanks largely to their new-found confidence. 

Identity matters.  





Professional Values Under Attack–A Sobering Look At Healthcare

Why Doctors Are Sick of Their Profession is an article that ran recently in the Wall Street Journal.  It’s a sobering look at the human side of the current dysfunction we call healthcare.

The article’s author Sandeep Jauhar MD makes the point that he and many of his physician colleagues are ‘struggling with the loss of their professional values’.  He suggests that in many ways he has become the doctor he never thought he would be: impatient, occasionally indifferent, at times dismissive or paternalistic.  Whether he’s being too hard on himself, I don’t pretend to know.

The causes for the trend are varied and, in many cases, deeply rooted within an industry in need of reform. In many ways the system has beaten down the doctors—imparting cynicism in place of their once noble aspirations.

The doctors are largely part of a system they can’t beat and many don’t want to be a part of.  This article is instructive in two important ways:

***First: it demonstrates how important professionals really are—healthcare just happens to be today’s example.  Absent professional values, things ‘go south’ fast for all stakeholders.  As Jauhar points out, naturally the patient’s experience is negatively impacted when the doctor’s professional values slip.

***Second: to me the answer to having a system ‘beat you down’  is (in part) to remember why you entered the profession in the first place.  In other words, never forget what your purpose is.  Tattoo it on your forehead if you must.  For one’s own mental health, a compelling purpose (on most days) will typically trump a bad system.

It’s interesting to note, from a systemic point of view, that the author suggests emphasizing professional values in the next generation.  That means ‘instilling professional values early on’ in medical school. Couldn’t agree more.  That’s precisely what we’ve helped do at the West Coast Ultrasound Institute. The results are exciting.

Professional values: without them, eventually we’ll all be sick. With them, we’ve got an invaluable  formula for health.