Oops!

We all make mistakes of many kinds. We are human. No one gets it right every time. We all can agree on this. Yesterday, some things happened in the Jets-Bills’ game that served to remind me of our human frailties and failings.

This story is about Stevie Johnson, the Bills’ number one receiver. Now, let me first say that Johnson is a good player. He made quite a few good plays and really challenged Darrelle Revis yesterday. Revis was the Jets’ star defensive back assigned to cover Johnson all day. Stevie Johnson had a number of timely catches. None were spectacular. Most just moved the chains and kept drives alive. Johnson did a nice job.

In the first half Johnson caught a quick slant for a touchdown on Revis. This gave Buffalo all the momentum and the lead 14-7. Johnson then proceeded to mimic accidentally shooting himself in the leg. This was significant in that Jets’ receiver, Plaxico Burress had shot himself in the leg a couple of years ago and served two years in prison for carrying a concealed weapon in New York City. Johnson continued his post-touchdown antics by mimicking a plane with his arms out to the sides. This is something that the Jets do to celebrate touchdowns. Only Johnson took it a step further and pretended to crash. All this led to a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty against Buffalo which was enforced on the following kickoff.

The Bills kicked off from their 20-yard line instead of the usual 35-yard line. Dave Rayner, the Buffalo kicker, was instructed to squib kick the ball because of the penalty and mis-hit the ball and it nailed a frontline player for the Jets and the Jets recovered the ball at about the Bills’ 30-yard line. New York easily scored from this position to tie the game before the half. The Bills prior to this point had control of the game and lost that control.

Fast-forward to the end of the game. With less than thirty seconds and the Bills down by four point, Buffalo quarterback seemingly threw a pass that would have put the Bills in the lead and likely win the game…but Stevie Johnson dropped it. It went right through his hands…game over.

Two mistakes…both cost his team dearly. To Johnson’s credit, he has admitted his fault, but this requires a deeper look. Both mistakes were caused by one player. Both were debilitating. Both were very different from each other.

One mistake was a lapse in judgment, sheer stupidity. Mimicking someone getting shot as part of a celebration was simply out-of-line and hurt the whole team. The other mistake was a physical error, misjudging the flight and speed of the ball and not catching it. It hurt the whole team. Both were mistakes.

There are different kinds of errors and as a leader it is important to understand how to deal with these different types of mistakes. Let’s take a deeper look.

Errors in Judgment: These are mistakes that involve poor judgment and come from a poor attitude, usually self-centeredness. This is often due to immaturity. These can and need to be corrected right away or they tear the team apart. What Johnson did was by his own account “just having fun.” As a parent, you may have heard that reasoning before. “Son, why did you drive 70mph in a 35mph zone?” He answers, “I was just having fun.” This happens in the work place, too. Inappropriate fun at the expense of others and/or productivity leads to lawsuits and shoddy work. You can fix this and you must, quickly. Lay down the law as you have the leverage.

Mental Errors: These are mistakes in mental judgment and come from a lack of preparation or experience. These come from fatigue or lack of concentration. These can be corrected but may take time. These get fixed through training and being properly prepared. Most of these errors have more to do with aptitude rather than attitude. These can be fixed.

Physical Errors: These are mistakes in physical judgment. These happen more often in active jobs like construction. These mistakes could involve dropping an item or losing control of a tool. These may involve muscle fatigue, lack of strength, or lack of perception. Lack of concentration and focus can be issues as well. These may be harder to fix and will involve repetitive training. Some people with great attitudes and mental focus may not be able to handle the physical nature of their task for many reasons. These may or may not be fixed.

Here is the point. Stevie Johnson cost is team both because of errors in judgment related to his attitude and his inability to catch a deep post. The coaches’ job in Buffalo will be to work on both. But they take different approaches. As you lead, remember that people will make mistakes. It is your job to decipher the cause and help get this fixed. Getting better is about taking the steps necessary to fix the problem and that is part of leading.

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