Will Muschamp on Being a Team Player (Even When You Don’t Want to Be)

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Remember the last time you didn’t get your way? What was your reaction? Did you accept the rejection, learn from it, and move on OR pout, stomp your feet, and go home? Leon Orr chose the latter.

This past weekend, the University of Florida football team was preparing for a big game against Vanderbilt University. After the starting lineup was announced, defensive tackle Leon Orr was upset to learn that he would not be starting. According to Florida’s head coach, Will Muschamp,

[Orr] hadn’t started all week in practice. He came to me and didn’t understand why he wasn’t starting. Said he was going to go home. That was his decision. I said, ‘If you go home, you’re done. You’re not a Florida Gator anymore.’

After having this conversation, with mere hours from kickoff, Orr chose to board a bus in Tennessee and go back to Florida. He most likely regretted this decision once he cooled down. By then it was too late; Muschamp had been removed him from the team roster.

He was more concerned with starting than being part of the team.

We’ve all been in situations where our ego and temper get in the way. An unfavorable decision is made and we want to scream, “What’s wrong with you people???” We are passed over for a promotion and our first urge is to tell management how they’ll rue the day they crossed us. We lose a sale and want to blame the client for being so shortsighted and ignorant. At these crossroads, we are faced with a choice…a few, actually.

#1 We can succumb to our hurt feelings and tell them what we really think. This rarely goes well. Sure, it’ll feel good when the adrenaline’s pumping but this will quickly dissipate when the reality of your actions set in.

#2 We can “take our ball and go home.” Like #1, this may provide an immediate feeling of self-satisfaction, but once you leave, it is hard to return…assuming you’re welcomed back.

#3 We can take a deep breathe. Admittedly, this solution does not have the most gratifying cathartic release. However, it will give you the opportunity to maintain your composure and consider the following three questions:

What’s the big picture? Not everyone can be objective about themselves, but a true leader will take a step back and try to understand why the decision was made and how it fits into the scheme of things. These learning opportunities are not always pleasant but they will make you a better leader. A little perspective can go a long way.

How does it affect those on your team? If you expect to ever hold a leadership position, you need to be able to work on a team. This involves a certain bit of ego suppression. If your actions can reflect a sincere interest in serving the needs of the group, you will have more influence and garner respect amongst your peers.

How does is affect your future? The adage is true, it is a really small world. If you think your behaviors are isolated to one particular workplace, check out youtube where hundreds of videos are posted of people doing things that they never intended to be made public. We live in an interconnected world. If you do something outrageous, it will affect the opportunities that may or may not be extended to you.

When Orr left, Muschamp said, “Guys aren’t going to put themselves above the team. Not here.” This is true in sports and in your organization. When you don’t get what you want, be the adult. You may think about it and decide to leave anyway (research does show the benefits of quitting to find more fulfilling work) but wait until the time is right. Don’t let your temper guide your decisions and don’t ever abandon your team before the big game.

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