“Do not criticize me in front of the team”

American football. The professional league – NFL. Green Bay, Wisconsin. Cold. Very cold. The Green Bay Packers, the dominant football team of the 1960s. Their coach, Vince Lombardi, one of the greatest of all time. Their quarterback – play-maker, Spielmacher – Bart Starr.

Starr: quiet, serious, disciplined, selfless, talented, understated, fully focused on one goal only, winning. Winning championships. Starr to Lombardi: “Do not criticize me in front of the team, instead just the two of us. Otherwise I cannot lead the team.”

Listen to minutes 3:45 to 4:30


Discernment: the right to choose what should be done in a particular situation; the quality of being careful about what you do and say so that people will not be embarrassed or offended; the quality of being discreet.

Showing discernment or good judgment: the ability to make responsible decisions; individual choice or judgment; the power of free decision or latitude of choice within certain legal bounds; separating or distinguishing.

First Known Use: 14th century. Synonyms: discreetness, common sense, horse sense, levelheadedness. Antonyms: imprudence, indiscretion

Source: MerriamWebster online.

„Where they stand“

Americans teams maintain short lines of communication. Informal feedback is given constantly and in both directions. Team lead and individual members want to know at any given time „where they stand.“

Up to the Minute

Frequency: The rate at which something occurs or is repeated over a particular period of time or in a given sample; the fact of being frequent or happening often; Middle English frequence, originally meaning a gathering of people; from Latin frequentia ‘crowded, frequent’.

Americans like not only to know where they stand as individuals at the workplace and as companies in the marketplace. They want to know where things stand in many national areas of interest such as sports, politics, business. They expect up-to-the-minute information, especially in the form of statistics.

In sports, news anchors and statisticians closely monitor team standings, individual statistics: leagues, cities, teams within a particular geographical area, a player’s individual performance, wins, losses, and historical records are under scrutiny. Viewers and fans use statistics in order to anticipate team and individual player performance. This precise monitoring of statistics allows fans to converse with others about the sport, as well as to bet (gamble) on sports.

In politics, polls, surveys and election results are constantly recorded and analyzed in order to predict voter sentiment. Depending on the election, or on the type of political information sought, polls are gathered from hour-by-hour, within days apart or annually. In the majority of U.S. presidential elections over the past 40 years, election monitoring in eastern states are critical to forecasting election results across the country.

In business, stock movements are so closely monitored that most Americans with smartphones have a stocks app. The World Market Watch app allows users to be kept up to date on all world stock markets with real time quotes.

In business news, major outlets report how business reacts to political events. During the announcement of Elizabeth Warren’s win against Scott Brown for the Massachusetts Senate seat in the November 2012 elections the value of stocks on Wall Street decreased as she ran on a platform to greater scrutinize and regulate the financial sector. In August 2011 when Standard and Poor stripped the U.S. of its AAA top credit rating that the country has held for 70 years, stock values immediately fell.

There are currently 239,893,600 Internet users as of June 2010, which is 77.3 percent of the population. The US Census Bureau for 2011 reported that out of 311,591,917 people living in the United States, 232,000,000 Americans are equipped with a mobile communication device, an incredible two-thirds of the population.

Based on circulation the five largest newspapers in the United States are USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post. These newspapers publish daily reports of global, national, state and local level events at least daily. The New York Times has Afternoon Updates in their Top News, Opinion, U.S. and Business sections. Online versions offer up to the minute reporting.

In 2012, 81% of Americans in ages between 12-24, 68% between 25-34, 55% between 55-64 and 23% 65+ have a personal profile page on a social networking website. Out of this group, 22% of Americans, roughly over 68 million people check their social networking pages multiple times per day.

Loose canons

Every culture has its definition of what effective leadership is. The ability to communicate criticism in a constructive and discreet manner is one of the most important skills required. Discretion, being a discreet person, handling sensitive issues discreetly, is essential not only to leading high performing teams, but for attracting and retaining high performing individuals.

Managers who are indiscreet, who voice their criticism of individual team members in the presence of others – colleagues, suppliers, customers – are considered to have poor interpersonal skills, to be negative, destructive, even mean spirited.

Americans refer to them as „loose cannons“ or as „time bombs.“ People do their best to avoid them. And talented team players do their best to find another, a better position within the company, or if necessary outside.

Indiscretion is a danger in the American business context. It is demotivating. It scares off talent.


Discretion: The quality of having or showing good judgment; ability to make responsible decisions; individual choice or judgment; power of free decision or latitude of choice within certain legal bounds; the result of separating or distinguishing.

Off-line: Americans prefer to discuss sensitive matters „off-line“, meaning to do so privately, one-to-one, separate from the other team members. A capable team lead knows how to practice this kind of discretion while signaling to the other team members that the sensitive issues are being addressed and not „swept under the rug.“

humiliate: To reduce to a lower position in one’s own eyes or others’ eyes. From late Latin humiliate – ‘made humble,’ from the verb humiliare.

Cohesion: The act of forming a united whole. Mid 17th century from Latin cohaes – ‘cleaved together,’ from the verb cohaerere, on the pattern of adhesion.

During World War II, on August 3, 1943, General George Patton slapped a soldier who was hospitalized for psychoneurosis, accusing him of cowardice. The incident nearly ended Patton’s career. A week later, in a far less publicized incident, Patton slapped another soldier, who had been hospitalized for his “nerves.” Many members of Congress and the press called for Patton’s removal from command.

Bobby Knight, one of America‘s most innovative and successful college basketball coaches, was known for his straight-talking, open, honest and impatient, combative personality. After almost thirty years of extraordinary success at the University of Indiana, Knight was fired for very minor indiscretions involving players and students. Mr. Knight once said: “When my time on earth is gone, and my activities here are past, I want them to bury me upside down, so that my critics can kiss my ass.”

Wayne “Woody” Hayes (1913-1987) was the football coach at Ohio State University for over twenty-five years, with a career record of 238 wins 72 losses and 10 ties, winning five national championships. Hayes challenged his players to be the best, often becoming impatient and angry, at times physically rough with them during practices. His career was ended after a 1978-game in which he physically attacked a player on the opposing team.

Hillary vs. Barack

During the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries, when individual state in the U.S. have elections to choose the party‘s candidate, there were several interactions between Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama which made many feel uncomfortable. The interactions were direct, confrontational, critical, in some cases bordering on personal.

Within a week or so the two candidates had softened their tone. The media reported on it at length, speculating that senior people in the Democratic Party had advised Clinton and Obama to do so. They feared that if the attacks continued the winner of the primaries will be damaged going into the general election.

Candidates in the same party exposes each other‘s weaknesses offers opportunities for the opposing Republican Party. Hilary and Barack were asked to be more discrete.

Friend. Freund.

What is a friend?

MerriamWebster online writes: a person who you like and enjoy being with; a person who helps or supports someone or something; one attached to another by affection or esteem; a favored companion.

Middle English frend, from Old English frēond; akin to Old High German friunt friend, Old English frēon to love, frēo free. First Known Use: before 12th century. Among its synonyms are alter ego, amgo, buddy, chum, compadre. comrade, confidant, crony, familiar, intimate, pal.

What is a Freund?

dwds(dot)de writes: Vertrauter, someone you can trust; jemandem innerlich verbundener Mensch, a person who is especially close to another. Old High German (8th Century) vriunt, friend, next closest, mate, relative.

This is not the place to address how Americans and Germans diverge in the understanding of friend, friendship, what it means to be a friend. But here is a thought:

Is it not the true friend who has your best interests in mind, and therefore is willing to risk the loss of your friendship in order to convey a message which is painfully important for you to hear?

Formulated differently: What true friend, who sees that you are on the wrong path, would not speak to you about it?

Books on advice-giving

When typing in „advice“ into amazon(dot)com – USA – roughly 140,000 books are listed. When inputting Ratgeber (literally advice-givers) into amazon(dot)de – Germany – about 640,000 books are listed.

There 320 million people in the U.S. In Germany there are 80 million. The American population is four times larger than the German. However, there are four times more books written in Germany on giving advice than in the U.S.

The Germans give advice and the Germans take advice.

“What would you do?“

With the recent popularity of YouTube and other amateur video websites, people have been staging scenarios and filming people’s reactions to them. This is particularly popular in the U.S., where, in addition to amateur reaction videos, in 2008 ABC created a television show called What Would You Do?

In the show, actors and actresses pretend to be in situations in which they would benefit from unsolicited advice (domestic abuse, drugged beverages, etc.), and the show collects statistics on how many people offer advice or warnings.

Typically, most Americans who witness these situations don’t get involved. In one episode, in which a caregiver in a park berates the elderly man for whom he’s supposed to be caring, and refuses to take the elderly man home when asked, only one-quarter of the people who witnessed the interaction intervened. Other episodes typically have similar statistics of intervention.