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Monday, January 18, 2016

Slip Slidin’ Away

Those who watched the weekend National Football League playoff games were treated to some unbelievably rare excitement. In particular, the Green Bay Packers/Arizona Cardinals contest. The ending was nail biting, stomach churning, heart pounding, spine tingling, and, well, there must be some other bodily functions impacted aside from ones mentioned. Oh…and blood pressure raising!

Aaron Rodgers, Mr. Double Check of State Farm commercials, made everyone do a double take on his end zone desperation pass that locked up the game in the final seconds of regulation. Since he had been backed up to his end zone with no time outs and few seconds remaining to pull off another stunner, it seemed…impossible. Rodgers has become the master of the impossible.

But then, in overtime, the aged wonders of Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald combined on another amazing play—with Fitzgerald taking a 75-yard pass to the Packers’ five yard line. Moments later, Fitzgerald would score the winning touchdown. Cue…crowd pandemonium! Even Al Michaels, who has witnessed a few miracles in his time, called the game “one for the ages.” And with that touchdown, the Packers’ season went “slip sliding away” until next fall.

The same thing happened to Kansas City fans. Tom Brady, the one no intelligent life form bets against, took away K.C.’s chief joy—a playoff win. The elusive Super Bowl trip…slip sliding away. Steeler and Seahawk faithful have put away their cheering towels for another season, too.

What stands out most in these games is quite often a level of leadership so pronounced, even desperate situations seem possible. Even likely. Most of this leadership attention falls to quarterbacks. The aforementioned Brady and Rodgers force any football fan to admit these boys can readily steal victory from the impending defeat their teams should face. It’s uncanny. The rising star of Cam Newton at Carolina shows great promise here as well.

All quarterbacks must have some leadership skills. The exceptional ones can do more. They inspire by their presence. Regardless of the few past failings, hope never comes up short in a legend’s huddle. Teammates…believe.

The reverse is happening to a significant player in the high tech world. Marissa Mayer, a one time Google golden child, has become tarnished at Yahoo. High hopes from her early days have dissipated in a string of layoffs at Yahoo. The New York Times headline a week ago names the problem in the headline, “Yahoo’s Brain Drain Shows a Loss of Faith Inside the Company.”

It was a tough 2015. More than a third of the Yahoo work force left. Mayer tried to persuade others to stay using big buck retention opportunities. That caused resentment among those who were long time faithful players.

And here’s the big challenge Marissa Mayer faces: doubts about her leadership. Claims the New York Times, “Only 34 percent of employees believe that Yahoo’s prospects are improving, according to surveys conducted by Glassdoor, a firm that collects data on jobs and employers. That compares with 61 percent who are optimistic at Twitter, another troubled tech company, and 77 percent who see a bright future at Google, Ms. Mayer’s former employer.” One analyst believes this reveals “employees losing faith” in both Mayer and the company.

You can see why. The downturn began with what some called “stealth layoffs” in 2014. Each week, a new batch of company talent came in to face the axe. Fear had a grip inside the company. Not good for morale.

In March, staff were told the cuts were done. But Mayer then changed her mind. More pink slips. More fear. Some investors are calling for another job to be cut: hers!

Marissa Mayer has her supporters, no doubt about it. But even one of her friends claimed she was “tightfisted with praise and sometimes displayed a harshness that could be demoralizing.” Another said she made people feel like they were disappointing her at all times.

Pressure can do that to a person. Leaders, however, know that even when a ship is taking on water, the captain must stay strong. Be a beacon. Value your team. Encourage them. Build…hope.

It’s tough to go down to defeat. In part, because we feel like our dreams have been shortchanged or taken away. Add to that thousands of hours of hard work, hard-nosed commitment, and shared teamwork that drove the effort. All of that…to be lost.

Paul Simon’s hit song, Slip Slidin’ Away, puts it in verse.

Whoah, God only knows, God makes His plan.
The information's unavailable to the mortal man.
We’re workin' our jobs, collect our pay.
Believe we're gliding down the highway, when in fact we're slip sliding away.

The wisdom of Solomon prevails here, saying “Mortals make elaborate plans, but God has the last word.” (Proverbs 16:1, MSG)

Even good leaders fail. Great quarterbacks lose games. Not all of the very talented survive.

The winning game plan is The Righteous One. Don’t depend on a “hail Mary.”

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Catch “Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand" weekday afternoons from 4-6pm on AM 1160 Hope for Your Life. To listen to the live broadcast or a podcast of previous shows click here.

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