business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

In a time of heightened labor challenges - shortages, staffing complexity and tons more - the role of front line managers is being stressed like never before.

Virtually every survey of staffers always finds the same thing. The number one reason people leave jobs isn’t about money or their company’s policies on any number of issues. Rather it’s how they are treated or mistreated by their direct supervisor.

And that makes managerial skills more important than ever because the easiest way to address the shortage is to keep the good people you already have.

This is precisely the point that KC talks about in FaceTime this morning, as an Amazon warehouse employee told him why he believed there was no labor strife at his facility.  (Watch it above.)

Interestingly, there were several articles in the past week focused on two well-known sports coaches with radically different styles of doing their jobs. It won’t surprise you that one is wildly successful, while the other is struggling, but the stories are so different that they present important lessons to consider.

The first article, appeared in The Athletic (which serves as the New York Times sports department) and focused on Pete Carroll, the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks football team.

Carroll is the oldest coach in the National Football League and actually the second oldest coach currently of any professional team. But his style is anything but old.

Players talk about his unconventional ways of creating energy and camaraderie in meetings, finding endless ways to ease the pressure on his players and prepare them for games, even finding ways to break the tension before the most important contests. Many players quoted in the article say they find Carroll’s unorthodox approach and manner radically different from any they received elsewhere, which makes them want to play for Carroll.  

Granted, you might not want deli managers imitating everything Carroll does such as holding basketball shooting competitions to determine work schedules, but there’s something admirable in his attempt to use energy and humor to keep his team loose and focused on the tasks at hand.

In many ways, this approach blends with many management studies that point out the importance of clear, steady communication with a focus on fairness and sharing as strong attributes for front-line managers. It’s also important for managers to create team spirit, something that Carroll clearly emphasizes.

On the flip side, The Athletic profiled John Calipari, the head basketball coach at the University of Kentucky, and asked why the long-successful coach and program has been in a seven-year funk, which for the storied program means no championships.

The Calipari profile focused on a single critical game that a massively favored Kentucky lost in 2016. That one game seemed to be a turning point for Calipari. Since that game, the coach has become increasingly strident with his players, assistant coaches and others, burning bridges all around and seemingly losing his ability to achieve anything resembling past success.

Here again, the parallel to front-line managers is clear. The least successful managers seem to be those who over or micro manage, frustrating their staffers endlessly. Likewise those managers, who fail to communicate clear goals and objectives and readily spread the blame, but never the credit, also create a range of problems.

Obviously, the worlds in which Carroll and Calipari exist are far different than what takes place in your stores or warehouses, but the basic people skills are similar. The bottom line is that the difference between success and failure in coaching sports or work teams is so small. It comes down to better communication and simply better leadership.

Given the stakes these days, it makes sense for companies to look for programs to help managers be more like Carroll and less like Calipari. The results could be incredible as you try to build a winning team.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at

His book, “THE BIG PICTURE:  Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available here.

And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon here.

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