Would You Listen to the Rookie?

Leaders listenFive minutes left in the third quarter. The other team has cut your lead to just three while you haven’t scored in the second half. You’re on the nine yard line. You can taste a touchdown. Your 13 years in the NFL have given you a sixth sense.

Just then, a rookie – an undrafted rookie who was grabbed off the practice squad yesterday to fill in for an injured wide receiver and is playing in his first NFL game ever – comes up and suggests a play. He wants to improvise a route and have you throw him the ball.

What do you do?

If you’re four-time NFL MVP, Super Bowl winning quarterback Peyton Manning, you listen. That’s what happened on Sunday when Blair White approached the seasoned quarterback in the huddle. “My guy’s playing me inside. I think I can get him on the slant and up.” Manning gave him the go-ahead. When the defender went for his pump-fake, Manning laid a perfect ball into White’s hands – in the end zone.

Why did Manning trust an undrafted rookie at a critical point in a big game? The answer begins months ago. Manning went out of his way in the off-season to work with White and others. He used that time to build relationships – not just with his veteran, go-to receivers, but with the new guys as well. White already felt a level of comfort with Manning, enough to make a bold suggestion at a crucial moment.

What are you doing to ensure everyone feels comfortable approaching you?

How are you building relationships with the rookies in your organization?

4 thoughts on “Would You Listen to the Rookie?”

  1. What a great example, Geoffrey. Teamwork science shows that two kinds of diversity are proven to improve team performance: diversity of technical background, and diversity of tenure within the company/industry. As I’m sure you have, I have seen many instances where the outside perspective of the “rookie” gave the team a new, winning perspective on a sticky issue.

  2. Great addition, Jim; thanks. It takes patience when rookies come up with all the stuff we already thought of, experienced or eliminated – but it pays off when they come up with that obvious zinger that we all missed!

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