Hey Coach, What’s Your Game Plan?

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By Dori Carlson, OD, FAAO, Park River, North Dakota

My youngest son has made me a football fan. Not necessarily of any major team, but of his high school team, the Park River Aggies. Through his love of the game, I’ve come to appreciate the workings of a terrific offense or defense. It’s beautiful when it works and everyone is in his place and working as a well-run machine.

Our offices are sort of like the offense or defense of a football team. We can hire people, tell them what their duties are, spend some time training them, cross our fingers, pray and hope that it all works out and people will do their jobs and are where they’re supposed to be during the onslaught of the day.

In order for our team to be a high-performance team, we have to invest in them. My son’s football coach knows all about the personal lives, personalities, strengths and challenges of each team member. In exchange that coach has a tremendous amount of respect from each of the players. In the second game of a very promising season, my son broke a rib and punctured a lung while tackling another player. The medical folks told him he was out for six weeks. His coach talked to him and encouraged him not to give up. He started weight lifting as he could, riding a bike and doing anything to be ready to join the team again. Six weeks later and on what would be the final football game of his career, my son rejoined his team and played the entire game. It was an emotional ending as my son wanted to accomplish so much more than he was able to this season. The coach pulled him aside at the end of the game and hugged him tightly, giving him words of affirmation and condolence for a season of missed chances. My son will never forget those words from his coach.

Our offices aren’t that much different. Do you know your staff members? Have you taken the time to check in with them? Do they feel valued? I still can’t believe how many times I hear people say, “What if I spend all that time training a new staff person and then he/she leaves?” What if you don’t train them and they stay?? It takes time to be engaged, find what motivates that individual and check in to see if they’re doing OK. Investing in your staff, both professionally and personally, can take your group from an ordinary team to a highly effective team that respects one another and does its part to contribute to the office on a daily basis.


Dr. Carlson, with her husband Dr. Mark Helgeson and their son, says that she’s learned more about business strategy from watching football this season.