Setbacks happen - but stick to the plan

Tyrone goalkeeper Niall Morgan got roasted in Killarney, chipped from 40 odd yards out, but didn't wilt, trusting that sometimes things just go wrong
Barry Shannon

From being knocked out early in the Ulster Championship and a subsequent dearth of recognition in 2020, Tyrone now have 15 All-Star and two out of the three player of the year nominations following their victorious All Ireland campaign in 2021.

There is an old saying that sport mirrors life and, if true, perhaps that remarkable turnaround in fortunes is worth delving a little deeper into and seeing if there are any lessons that we can take into the workplace.

• Setbacks should be kept in context: Niall Morgan got roasted in Killarney. Chipped from 40 odd yards out. He could have wilted. He didn't. He trusted that sometimes things just go wrong, but if the overall concept is sound then you learn and keep going. He continued to play a sweeper role, making less mistakes and having increasingly greater impact to the extent he was in conversation for man of the match on several occasions, including the final. At work we need to apply the same principle. Setbacks happen, it's what we do afterwards that counts. We need to analyse what went wrong, take learnings from it, refine and move on. If the base concept is sound, then trust in the process.

• Stick to the plan: Tyrone didn't do panic. If they went behind, they kept shape, maintained tactical discipline, because they believed in the plan and ground down the opposition. No one went rogue. No one panicked. In business, things may take time to get moving, to show the level of results you need. If you have trust in what your strategy is then you stick with it, you have faith. You continue to execute.

• A new voice can bring a different dynamic: Sometimes the loss of familiarity can have an energising effect. Players who perhaps felt they were not as trusted before, now feel they have a clean slate to impress. The old favourites gain new motivation to reject complacency and go out and prove why they were regulars in the first place. Perception has changed, fresh impetus has been dealt out, hope becomes the new currency. In the workplace adding a new voice can help challenge the orthodoxy, coaxing out different ideas. More importantly it can give hope to anyone feeling disenfranchised and shake up any status quo that has perhaps developed.

• Refinement can be as effective as wholesale change: Tyrone didn't, as many projected, suddenly become a free-flowing attacking entity. They were still recognisable as ‘Tyrone' but with certain modifications. Not everything needs dramatic change. Very often refinement and modification are all that's required. There is a danger in quickly discarding the foundations of what has made you successful, simply to make a statement, rather than evolving at a suitable pace.

• Have a clear vision: To develop that trust in each other, in the system, in the new management team, there had to be a clear vision for everyone to buy into. Tyrone didn't feel (or play) like they were nearly men, or that they couldn't dine with the top 3. They knew they were capable of winning it all. The new management gave them a blueprint for success; a methodology to achieve that. Without having a clear vision in business it's almost impossible to attain true buy in, to co-ordinate or motivate.

• Have clear roles: Everyone in that Tyrone team knew what their jobs were, what they were supposed to do, who they marked, what they did with (and without) the ball, when to improvise and when to play safe. They carried these out to perfection. At work it's vital that employees understand what they are being asked to do, what authority they have to make decisions and how they fit into the overall plan. Each employee should understand how they contribute to the overall success of the organisation and feel valued because of that.

• Leave ego at the door: Cathal McShane is one of the best forwards in Ireland, Darragh Canavan one of our most promising young footballers. They spent most of the year on the bench, only coming on to help finish out games. They didn't complain, ruin group cohesion or act the prima donna. They got on with things and were vital to helping Tyrone over the line. Both now have senior All Ireland winner medals in their back pockets.

The cult of ‘me' can be incredibly destructive if not addressed. Yes, you will always have high flying individuals who need to be able to show off their talent, but care must be taken to ensure they are managed correctly. Groups can only truly succeed by working together, and accordingly, harmony is rarely worth sacrificing on the alter of ego

All told then, 2021 has been an inspiration. Who knows what the 2022 champions will teach us next year.

:: Barry Shannon is head of HR at STATSports

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