Unlike many management books, Bare Knuckle People Management treats the readers like they actually have brains. The authors, O’Neil and Kulisek, show managers how to use what they already know and listen to their gut instincts in order to best manage their diverse workforces.

—Clifford A. Teller, Executive Managing Director of Global Investment Banking, Maxim Group

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Football is Complicated…So is Managing People

After the Packers’ victory over the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV, Fox’s Chris Myers interviewed Steelers’ head coach, Mike Tomlin. Those postgame interviews of the losing coach outside the locker room are often brutal, but Tomlin – if you read this blog, you know I’m a fan of his coaching style – made a noteworthy comment about broadcasters’ annoying tendency to oversimplify their postgame analysis.

When Myers asked Tomlin, “Was it about the turnovers that dug the hole? Would you size it up that simply?” Tomlin replied, It drives me bonkers when I hear a commentator or coach boil down a thrilling game to one play or one statistic that they deem singularly responsible for the game’s outcome. At the end of a basketball game decided by a single point, ESPN’s Digger Phelps will say something dumb like, “It all came down to missed free throws.” Really Digger? What about that possession in the first half in which the losing team missed three wide open jump shots? Or that awful offensive charge call early on that negated what appeared to be a three-point play? Tomlin’s response was refreshing for its thoughtful appreciation for the complexity of games and life events.

“If you’re trying to wrap a bow around it in 10 words or less, sure. But there are a lot of areas that could have swung the balance the other way. We look at every single play in all three phases when we evaluate our performances.”

Like Chris Myers and Digger Phelps, so-called leadership gurus notoriously attempt to reduce great management to one simple key – “Embrace Your People” or “Have a Plan and See it Through” or “Communicate Effectively” or “Let Them Know How Much You Appreciate Them.” Really? No, seriously…really?! Is that all there is to great management? If so, why are there so many crappy managers?

You need a simple key to great management to wrap a bow around in 10 words or less just because it makes you feel better? Here’s mine: “Don’t Oversimplify!” Appreciate that there are a lot of factors that could swing the balance of your team’s performance one way or another. And then get granular to look at every facet of your team, and break down the numerous factors that aid in and detract from team performance.

I can appreciate why TV analysts and viewers like their “keys to the game”– they make for neat packaging and succinct sound bites. But they’re not useful to those who actually need to coach or manage the team back in the trenches. In fact, they can direct attention away from other more critical flaws in a team’s performance that should be the coach’s/manager’s focus.

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