Press Play

You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation – Richard Lingard.
I played football this week after an 8-year hiatus. My muscles are currently paying me back in full.
I mostly play board games these days, but playing football again was fun. Oh, did I mention it was against ladies? Yes, and we, “the men”, “the leadership team men”, lost. Many reasons can be given, but despite our best efforts we lost. Interestingly, if you strolled in at the end of the game, you would have had some difficulty telling which team won and which lost, as we were all ecstatic. The final score matters, at least for bragging rights, but the stories that followed were never about the score, the various plays were more important and in them, priceless moments and memories.
These are the different people I have met through various moments I have pressed play.
The confident and successful: These people start the game sure of their capability and based on past performance, brag about their imminent success. Hate them or love them, they win, just as they said they would. They don’t get much cheer, but that has never affected their game time performance.
The confident and unsuccessful: These people talk a good game but fail woefully. They typically hold on to their confidence, blaming remote circumstances that have contributed to their failure. They offer quite a good dose of laughter to all participants as their confidence comes across as unbelievably stupid. Not to them though. They are waiting for the win that will shut everyone up.
The clown: These people seem to be here just for the fun, but don’t take their kidding around for a lack of purpose. They play to win. The jokes are there as a distraction. When they win, everyone cheers, when they lose, it’s all good. They never took it seriously anyway, or so it seems.
The unsure and unsuccessful: These people start the game quiet, not knowing how it will swing. They laugh at the jokes and go with the flow. Win or lose, they’re safe. They lose, like they should and are a good member of the crowd for laughs, jeers and cheers.
The unsure and successful: These are the classic lucky streak people. They can quickly switch to confident and unsuccessful, thinking their good game must have been hinged on ability. They still get quite a bit of cheer, because they come across as the underdog.
The know-it-all with no skin in the game: These people know the rules, know the perfect plays, know the thoughts of all players, know the end game, but do not take part. They are part of the crowd. They are the critics, the analysts, the noisy laughter, the loud clap. They are typically good for the moment but not really memorable.
The know-it-all with no more skin in the game: These people have no more skin in the game. They wear their bruises well. They’ve paid their dues. But they still talk, make sounds, give eye signals, clear their throats often and drop gentle hints to advise the players on possible moves and pitfalls. They have the respect of all players and each player regularly looks up to them for a nod of approval.
The humble and successful: These people do not wear past success on their sleeves. They come for the new play with no introduction, but they can be ruthless in execution. They leave the bragging to others. They just love to play and win. For them, everything before and after the game, fades.
The humble and unsuccessful: These people have met past success but they understand the role of luck in it. They are willing to embrace success or failure with the same passion. No one really digs at them and most people mistake them for the unsure and unsuccessful. They’re not. Their play is more purposeful.
The grouch: These people are always unhappy and wonder why everyone is happy or excited. They find a way to cast a shadow over everything and anything. They make winning sour and losing bitter. They complain about everything. You wonder why they bother playing, but they always show up and stay the whole game. You need a very good clown or a mature know-it-all with no more skin in the game to overcome these people or it is best to just end the game.
The benevolent: These are the people that seem to play for others to win. Offering advice to others, even at their own detriment. Typically, they are on the path to know-it-all with no more skin in the game. Win or lose, they always win. They celebrate with the winner because they were a part of their play; they comfort the losers, because they understand. When they win, they play it down, citing the various lucky breaks they had, because of the failings of others. When they lose, it doesn’t matter. They are loved either way.
High performance organizations consciously press play for their teams. It is part of the formal expectations. They understand that to truly be a learning, growing and innovative team, we must play.
Other organizations keep play as a once a year activity or during workshops and trainings.
Workshops on unleashing the potential of your team always include play. Why then is play not an integral part of your work processes?
Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing – Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.
To stretch Oliver’s thought – Organizations do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.
Play is one of the means by which people can build on their strengths, expose their vulnerabilities, work together on areas of concern and have fun.
Everyone wants to play. They’re just afraid of looking stupid. But you know what’s stupid? Not trying. So just…try – Victoria Scott.
Press Play.
– Osasu Oviawe

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