Who Has the Responsibility for Motivation?

by Joe Lavelle on December 7, 2010

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The NFL season has seen three head coaches lose their jobs with several games on the schedule still to be played.  In the first two instances, the teams went on to win the following week, showing renewed passion and energy on the field.  If the players were capable of performing well before their coaches were fired, why did they hold back and instead spend weeks getting embarrassed on the field?  What do these examples show us about leadership and motivation?

The owner of the Dallas Cowboys, Jerry Jones, had hoped to have his team participate in Super Bowl XLV, which will be hosted in the Cowboys’ new, state-of-the-art stadium.  Instead, the team found itself with a 1-7 record capped by an embarrassing 45-7 loss to Green Bay on national television.  The coach, Wade Phillips, was fired and the following week the Cowboys went on the road and dominated their division rivals, the New York Giants.  The same men put on the uniform against Green Bay and New York, so why such different performances?

Some television analysts argued that the Cowboys showed a lack of maturity and professionalism with their obvious apathy when playing under Phillips.  You need to do your job to the best of your ability no matter what.  Others would say that the blame was squarely on Phillips’ shoulders because one of his roles as a leader was to make his players WANT to win.

In Minnesota, Vikings’ coach Brad Childress had a tense relationship with quarterback Brett Favre.  And, this strain flooded over to every other player in the locker room.  Childress lost the devotion of his team, and then lost his job.  Like the Cowboys, the Vikings came out excited the following week and won their road game.

It certainly is important for a leader in any profession to make his employees feel invested in the success of the company.  A leader needs to inspire and motivate.  I strongly feel that you can take responsibility for motivating the employees around you whatever level you are at and if you do this well you will accelerate your career growth tremendously.

But, what responsibility do employees have to foster their own motivation?  What do you think of the response these football players had to a new coach?

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