Some years ago, I attended a football game between my alma mater, Monmouth University and Wagner College. As a student at Monmouth, I was sports director of the radio station there, so I made my way up to the press box to say hello to the most current generation of play-by-play and color commentators on WMCX-FM. While there I met a professional scout who was there to take a look at the Monmouth quarterback.
We struck up a conversation, as I was interested in learning all I could about someone who made a living going to college football games.
About mid-way through the second quarter, the Monmouth quarterback threw an interception. I glanced over at my new acquaintance to assess his reaction. What he said surprised me.
It seems he was glad to see his young subject make this mistake, for now he was able to make an important evaluation. “All quarterbacks throw interceptions-that’s nothing new” he said. “What really matters is what happens next.”
He explained that it isn’t so much about a quarterback making mistakes (“he handles the ball on every offensive play, so mistakes are bound to happen”) but how he reacts to making that mistake the very next time he takes the field. Is he tentative or does he stay in the pocket and focus downfield? Does the play-calling become more conservative, indicating a loss of confidence on the part of the coaching staff? Does his demeanor and body language change (“a sharp defense will be looking for signs of that”). No, it’s not the mistake that matters, but how you bounce back.
As the leader of your organization, you “touch the ball” on just about every play. Leading a business through the challenges and changes you face every day can be a daunting exercise and there is often no playbook to follow. Mistakes are bound to happen, some minor, some more meaningful. The ability to bounce back from these and keep focused “downfield” could be what ultimately sets you apart from the competition.
And while the Monmouth quarterback did not distinguish himself that day, it was not a total loss for my new friend. Seems that in the scouting business, you never know when someone will unexpectedly make you take notice. He told me “That wide-receiver caught my eye-I’ll be back to see that kid again.” That kid was Miles Austin, all-pro wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys.