It’s 4th and Goal: Can You Win the Game?

Imagine you’re the head coach of a professional American football team. You’re playing in front of 70,000 people, and there’s millions more watching on T.V. Suddenly, your team’s in a unique situation: It’s 4th down, and you’re just a couple of yards from the end zone. Do you take the risk and go for it? The crowd is in a frenzy! They’re chanting “Run! Run! Run!” But you also know that if you do – and fail – you’ll be fried like southern catfish on the Monday morning talk shows.
So you do what most coaches do: You play it safe – and kick.

Guess what? If you had gone for it, research shows you would have measurably increased your chances of winning the game. David Romer of the University of California, Berkeley, analyzed over 700 football games between 1998 and 2000. His work revealed that those teams who go for it on 4th down increase their overall chance of success compared with those teams who don’t.*

So why don’t more coaches “go for it” when they find themselves in such a situation? Perhaps more importantly, why don’t more people in your organization “go for it” when they have an opportunity to take a risk and advance the cause of the organization?

The answer is not that people are afraid of making a mistake; the answer is that people are afraid of the consequences from others when they make a mistake.

Just as the football coach has to face the chorus of boos from the home crowd – and the blistering analysis in the media – when his team fails, so do people like you have to face the judgment of others when you step up and try something… and fail.

It’s easy to consider how we feel our colleagues will respond to the “mistakes” we make. But that’s not the point. The challenge is this: How do you and others respond when someone else takes a risk? Do you boo – or cheer?

In a very real way, the crowd of 70,000 and the media talk shows represent your culture. Does your culture support others when they “go for it” on 4th down? Do your part today to make sure it does.




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