Lessons from the Playing Field

The power of positivity can have a transformational impact on individuals, organizations, and other human systems, including football teams. This is a story about the UNC Tar Heels.

In 2014, the Tar Heels’ defense was among the worst in the school’s history, they had a losing season, and were reeling from the academic cheating scandal with the rest of the University. At one point, head coach Larry Fedora said that it looked like their only goal when they were on the field was to just get the game and the loss over with.

Coach Fedora faced the challenge of transforming the culture—no amount of talent can make up for un-engaged players and teammates. Morale was low. Fans (or customers) were dropping like flies. Negativity abounded. Sound like a familiar refrain in your work environment?

During the off-season, the coach assigned the seniors, or the leaders of the organization, if you will, the book, The Positive Dog: A Story About the Power of Positivity, by Jon Gordon. The seniors took it to heart and pushed through with a commitment to a positive attitude and looked for positive things to happen. North Carolina ended up putting together one of the biggest turn arounds in NCAA history in 2015, finishing 8-0 in regular season ACC play. They opened the 2016 season ranked in the top 20.

Be careful what you look for, you may find it.

So, what’s with this story? It is a fable about two dogs in the pound. One dog, Matt, was downtrodden, negative, fearful, and mad. Bubba, the other dog, was upbeat, happy, and expected great things about the future. Spoiler alert… when Matt fully commits to trying Bubba’s positive attitude, and started believing that positive things would happen to him, positive things started to happen–like getting adopted by a warm, friendly family and having the time of his life, with a warm bed, and good food, and walks in the park.

There’s a saying, “Be careful what you look for, you may find it.” I think the Carolina Tar Heels looked for big plays, big wins, big successes and found them. What are you looking for?