Be A Professional—Kaepernick’s New Aspiration?

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Be A Professional—Kaepernick’s New Aspiration?

By now even the casual football fan is aware of the travails of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. His recent performance (the word abysmal comes to mine) on the football field is a head-scratcher for many of us. His success in earlier years belies the types of disappointing performances we’ve seen from him in 2014. It’s a fall from grace. (Note: the 49ers, in general, are having an extremely disappointing year as well. That said, it is widely acknowledged by football insiders that something is clearly ‘off’ in Kaepernick’s game.)

To add insult to injury, Kaepernick’s on-field performance has shined when compared to how he’s handled the media. In a nutshell it appears that Kaepernick views the media as the enemy (much like his boss—coach Jim Harbaugh—seemingly does).

During a recent press conference, Kaepernick responded to 32 questions with only 87 words. From his demeanor and body language you’d think Kaepernick would rather endure a root-canal than spend another second with the press. Defensive, petulant, aloof, are just a few of the adjectives that come to mind that characterize how Kaepernick comes across with the press. It’s painful to watch. Treat the press as your enemy and they’ll soon become such.

To me, Kaepernick’s act has gotten old (Harbaugh’s too). These two are the primary faces of the organization to the public. They need to positively represent their organization. At the moment, the impression they create leaves a lot to be desired. Sure the media can be a pain to deal with, but ‘media management’ (otherwise known as PR) is an important part of the job—especially for a NFL quarterback.

Hall of Famer Jerry Rice was asked by a Bay Area radio host what advice he’d give Kaepernick. Turns out, Jerry once had a problem with being defensive with the media early in his career as well. At the time he finally realized, “You know, I need to be a better professional.” (click here for more on Jerry’s comments) Simply put, Jerry realized that he wasn’t handling the media as a professional would.

‘Be a professional’…that was Jerry’s advice to Kaepernick. I don’t know if Jerry spoke to Kaepernick after the radio interview or if Kaepernick heard the interview. But what I do know is….

….the very next day after Jerry’s comments Kaepernick was downright charming with the media. Read more about that here. He was vulnerable and even empathetic towards many of the ‘media types’ he presumably loathed. All of a sudden the guy ‘shows up’ in a more effective, more helpful way. He puts a more engaging, more upbeat face on the 49ers organization. No doubt, that’s something that the 49ers had long wished would emerge from one of the NFL’s most public personalities.

For everyone involved, undesired behavior in the workplace is maddening. Gazillions of dollars are spent every year in prevention, investigation, and remediation. Yet it’s amazing how effective the admonition—’be a professional’—can remedy undesired behavior in the workplace.

Whether this contributed to Kaepernick’s ‘about-face’ is unknown (at least by me). But I’ve personally seen dozens and dozens of such cases ‘fixed’ with just such an admonition.


Bill Wiersma
Bill Wiersma
Bill Wiersma is the founder and principal of Wiersma and Associates—a management consulting and training firm. Bill is a trusted advisor to executive leadership on senior team development and organizational culture. A renowned thought leader, Wiersma’s The Power of Professionalism is driving the way people think about professionals and, more importantly, changing the way professionals view themselves.

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