Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Playing positions

It’s a so much fun to watch the kids play football (soccer)…specially the 5-11 yr olds. Every player has one simple objective… kick the ball. Everywhere the ball goes, ALL the players go…and kick the ball. Somehow the ball gets kicked out of the big group of players and once again the cycle starts. Not too many goals are scored, but everybody has a lot of fun! Of course the game has to stop, every time some kid gets kicked on the shin!

Contrast it to a game of soccer between two professional teams…even a well-coached school team. There’s hardly any time that the ball has more than 2 –3 players at it. Everybody seems to know the ‘square’ in which they have to play…

It’s a feature that you’ll see repeat itself all over the place. A place where people play their position will seem to have more productivity and less chaos….less noise, less tempers flaying and more customers being served.

So many times this happens in well-set organizations. People start to play too many positions, moving from one to another…creating confusion, and doubt. This makes it hard for others to pass the ball to them, as it’s not clear what position they may be playing. It also makes it hard to pass the ball to others, who may actually be playing their position, since there’s confusion. Result is a loss of productivity and perhaps a loss of peace as well.

Sometimes, it’s eagerness to ‘grab opportunity’…sometimes it’s just a force of habit, when you think ‘you can fix everything’ and sometimes, it’s genuine desire to ‘help out’. Either way, when you leave your position and move into another person’s square…it must be done discreetly and with better understanding in place.

In order to play a position, you need to first know what position you are supposed to be playing…and many people in the org, just don’t know it. Hence they don’t know the expectation and regardless keep working…. making it harder for themselves and for others around them.

Playing positions is another skill that sportsmen display all the time, and is another great take away from playing team sports, and a big reason for every kid to play team sports, even though it’s becoming harder and harder in today’s urban living.

If you are looking for a New Year gift for your child, get him or her enrolled into a team sport.

For yourself, identify what position you are supposed to play, and what skills are required for it. Find your ‘square’ and pass the ball where others can play it better.  And you may also avoid getting kicked on the shin.

Wish you make all the goals in 2011. Happy New Year.


  1. Hi Rahul,
    Once again an admirable write up. I have a query.
    Q: If one plays in his respective square and does not try to play in other positions then won't it be difficult for the person to transition to the next level.
    Should one just watch and learn or try to get some experience by hoping to other positions.

    I know this topic is subjective, but would like your views on this.


  2. Hi Amit,
    Thanks for your kind words and encouragement.

    It's really about timing, and opportunity. There would be practise sessions where you can try newer positions to play...to test out a new skill or a formation. And then there would be some real situations when you'll get to play more than your position. In work life, there would be less critical times when experimentation with positions can be done. Or an assisting role can be played.

    You can cross your square to assist the key player in the other square, but with a clear understanding of what your role is in that square.

    Most people love to get help, as long as it is percieved as that and not as turf encroachment.