Let's Limit the Competition to the Playing Field
So as the rabid (and I mean that affectionately) NFL fans are loading the coolers and grills into their giant SUVs in full anticipation of the start of the real season, the question remains “Can the league and the officials settle their contractual differences in time to assure experienced NFL Referees will be joining the players on the field this weekend?” And the answer is "not very likely."
Both the NFLRA and Roger Goodell are forecasting that the lockout will not be a short one. Already it has gone on since June 3 with differences of opinion on the usual topics – pay, pensions vs. 401Ks, length of the contract period, etc. And, of course, as is always the case, the discussions are complicated by unique circumstances such as the current officials are “part-time” employees (many of whom have full-time jobs elsewhere) and the league wants to increase the officiating pool by three full crews (meaning less work for the existing crews).
Once again we see how pervasive the failure to collaborate is in our society. The parallel between congressional behavior and football at the moment is unfortunately too obvious (see “Tackling the Jobs Issue – Not Each Other” - Boston Globe 8/20/2012). The question this always raises for us at Overland Resource Group is, “How much of this dispute would have been addressed more thoughtfully if the parties had chosen to examine it in a collaborative forum prior to beginning their standard negotiations?”
We live in a society where collaboration skills are not a standard part of professional development. Too often, opposing parties enter negotiations with firmly held beliefs and fixed demands, rather than presenting – and listening – to each other’s core interests, then jointly finding mutually beneficial solutions. This unfortunately ingrained behavior is what has inspired us at Overland to create an innovative training program for labor and management leaders that we call “Interest-based Leadership.” If the NFL and the referees union could learn this approach and skills, perhaps we could avoid conflicts like the current one and restrict the blocking and tackling to the gridiron!