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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The NY Jets Release of Running Back LeVeon Bell Provides a Classic Lesson in (a Lack of) Emotional Intelligence

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GettyImages 1266309035 446405 The NY Jets Release of Running Back LeVeon Bell Provides a Classic Lesson in (a Lack of) Emotional Intelligence

Last year the New York Jets sighed Le-Veon Bell to a four-year, $52.5 million contract, with $35 million of it guaranteed. (Contracts in the NFL aren’t always what they seem; the only money a player can be sure of receiving is the guaranteed portion. A four-year deal isn’t really a four-year deal unless a team decides to employ you for all four years.)

Lot of money? Yep. Was Bell happy with the deal? Assumedly so; he was a free agent and could have signed with any team. 

But with the Jets record at 0-5 this year, and those losses by double-digit margins, Bell took his displeasure to social media by “liking” tweets that mentioned he was only a passing target once in the team’s loss against Arizona.

Jets head coach Adam Gase wasn’t a fan of the way Bell chose to communicate.

“I hate that’s the route that we go with all of this instead of just talking to me about it,” Gase said, “but it is the way guys want to do it nowadays.”

“I haven’t had a chance to speak with him on those specific topics yet,” Gase said. “It is what it is.”

Maybe so — but only if you let it be.

For coaches, soft skills matter. But no level of appreciation for outstanding soft skills can offset losses, at least, not for long. Professional sports, for coaches (and players) are almost totally results-driven.

Gase’s job is to get results.

Which he can only do through, and more importantly with, his players.

The best coaches — like the best leaders in any industry — tend to be great teachers. Putting themselves in other people’s shoes. Understanding how different people learn, and tailoring their approach to those needs. Teaching other people how to learn. Fostering a growth mindset that gives people the opportunity to make mistakes — and not be punished, but instead use those mistakes to make themselves better players. Or better employees.

And maybe even better people.

Plus, coaching — like leading — is negotiation. Great leaders give, and also take.

Players love when their coaches listen to them and sometimes take their advice. Employees love when their boss listens to them and sometimes takes their advice. 

Because no one person, regardless of authority conferred, has all the answers. And no great leader acts as if he or she has all the answers.

All of the above — and a lot more — requires emotional intelligence and its close cousin, communication: Not just talking, but listening.

So why did Bell share his feelings on social media instead of speaking to Gase? Maybe that’s just Bell being Bell. Maybe he, like some employees, likes to complain to others instead of to his boss.

But that’s something Gase should know.

If you know your people, you know whether they’re likely to come to you when there’s a problem, or whether you should regularly check in on them, especially when you know circumstances exist that could create problems. (Bell, rightly or wrongly, sees himself as a superstar; only getting 13 carries and one reception was unlikely to make him feel involved, much less featured in the Jets offense.)

Where Bell is concerned, it’s now a moot point. He was released by the Jets earlier this week.

But for Gase, the larger problem still exists. 

When your employees prefer to complain about you than to you… you definitely have a problem.

One that transcends wins and losses, because it ultimately drives wins and losses.

On on the field or, in for you , on your profit-and-loss statement.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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