I don’t remember the exact moment when it happened, but I know I’ve felt this way for a long time, and I am pretty sure it started long before he started losing. I know it’s been a while since I came to the conclusion that I don’t really care for NY Giants Head Coach Ben McAdoo.
But though I’m fuzzy on the timing, I do remember the reason very well — it was the way he treated the sports reporters during his post-game press conferences. Now, being abrupt with the press is nothing new. In fact, New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick has made it a virtual calling card. Of course, Belichick is probably the greatest coach in the history of football, so that gets you some slack.
But when you don’t have much of a track record, being rude to those just trying to do their jobs comes off as arrogance unbefitting an upstart. And, though he may have been winning when he slipped into this mode of operating (the Giants were 11-5 last year and made the playoffs) now he’s losing, big time. As of the writing of this article, the Giants are 1-7 (as of its editing they are 1-8), having been blown out at home against the Rams in one of their more embarrassing losses in recent memory. The following week they came up short against the San Francisco 49ers in an equally embarrassing, though for different reasons, type of loss. The 49ers were 0-9 coming into the game.
The Giants, in short, stink, and now all the ill will that McAdoo engendered in his treatment of the press is paying negative dividends. As soon as the team started what has turned out to be an extended dive to the bottom, the press saw its opportunity for revenge and, much like a prisoner who suddenly realizes his tormentor is vulnerable, they sat down at their computers and plunged keystroke after keystroke into the coach with alacrity.
Of course, all this has done is make McAdoo angrier with the press, less likely to answer their questions in any meaningful way, and thus the process spirals downward, a la Nixon. It’s the old self-fulfilling prophecy in which, for example, McAdoo’s paranoid thoughts of being treated unfairly by the press cause him to act in a way that results in the press actually becoming his enemy.
I often, in fact, usually, write about leadership in these columns and McAdoo reminds me of a new leader I knew long ago — me. When I got my first job being in charge, I was intoxicated with the power suddenly bestowed upon me, and instead of serving those I lead, I looked to order their production through tight control. I’d tell them what to do and then let them know if they made the grade — no feedback please, just do what you’re told. I’m the boss.
New leaders are often insecure leaders, because they don’t appreciate the fact that power comes not from an org chart but from the willingness of those you purportedly lead to follow. No matter who reports to whom, if you turn around and there’s nobody there, you’re not a leader. Yes — personal issues need to be addressed, but McAdoo’s player suspensions wreak of overreaction of, ironically, punishment over coaching. Acting the martinet doesn’t work — not even in the military.
But back to the press. A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I’d given my AWOL landscaper the benefit of the doubt about his lack of responsiveness, and how I ultimately took him back because of all the goodwill he’d built up with his previous work. With McAdoo it’s the opposite; because of his inability to appreciate the fact that those asking him questions weren’t trying to destroy him, his goodwill account had insufficient funds to cover anything — let alone a 1-8 record.
Remember something — as a leader, you are supposed to be where you want to be, and so you should be exuding some kind of joy. (McAdoo seems like he’s been sentenced to his job as some kind of punishment, and I think that pervades the locker room culture.) And with that joy, you are supposed to go about your daily duties acting generally like a pleasant human being to those around you, and it is through these pleasant and respectful interactions you will build up your goodwill account to be drawn upon when you suffer the equivalence of a losing streak.
We all suffer such streaks. The only question is whether your past behavior means anyone is rooting for you to turn things around when they happen.