The Perils of Playing Down

Everyone has down this at some point in your life.

You are competing against an individual, team, company that is not nearly as good as you are so you play down.

You come down to their level because you know eventually the outcome will be the same — you’ll win, you’ll be selected, you’ll beat them.

But what you beat them with wasn’t your best game, it wasn’t even your 75% game, it was maybe your 35% game.

And that shouldn’t be enough.

When you have a strong team, keeping them challenged can be a neverending, difficult task — but guess what — that’s what you signed up for and that’s what your team needs from you.

They don’t need another meaningless win or display of how they are better than another team — they already know that.

When your team plays down they start to develop the bad habits they need to have in place for when they go up against the tough challenges — the brutal RFPs, the customer selection process that goes through multiple iterations, the product development fixes that need to go out the door and be near perfect.

Are you currently letting your team play down?

There are some simple clues to know if you are inadvertently letting your team play down.

  1. Are they getting lazy? Work is submitted late, it’s not as polished as it used to be, the extra effort and drive are all but gone?
  2. Are they making more mistakes than normal? This is an easy one, if the bug count is going up, they are getting bored.
  3. Have they lost their edge and desire? Everyone knows what it’s like to want something and everyone knows what it’s like to watch a team that doesn’t want it. It’s not hard and there is a difference between a team being burnt out and a team has no desire to go after what is theirs.
  4. Do they falter? When they are learning new skills are they falling over themselves to learn them? Have they not been able to learn the basics that now they can’t handle the more advanced work coming at them?
  5. They aren’t growing.

That last one needs no explanation. If you have a team that is not growing, if you are leading that team and you see no indication in growth as to the number of concurrent demands they can handle, how they work with others, what the quality of their work is or simply the sheer excitement they have at learning something new then they are not growing.

And if your team is not growing, then you are not leading them to where they need to be.

Don’t ever let your team play down, once you let them do it once, it will become the norm that will require twice as much effort to recover from.