Put on Your Game Face

Do you have a game face and do you use it? Do you know what a game face is and how you can apply it to work? The dictionary definition is "the neutral or intense facial expression of a determined and serious sports player". Picture a losing basketball team coming out of the locker room after halftime. They always look determined to win. They have their game faces on. Inside, they are worried and feel like losers, but the other team perceives them as confident and intensely focused on doing a good job.


Putting on your game face is essentially acting - acting out a role that may be different than how you actually feel. This can be a valuable tool to use at work. Is acting out a role that isn't truly you ok to do at work? Well of course it is. Ever since we were kids, we are taught to act. I vividly remember my parents saying (and me as a parent saying to my kids), "now act appropriately" or "don't act up". What we are saying is, yes we know you want to eat that whole jar of cookies, but you should only take one. We all learn at an early age to act differently than how we may feel. So how does knowing this make you more successful at work? Let me give you some examples.


1. I know very few people that like giving presentations, especially to a large audience or on topics you don't fully know everything about. This is a great time to put on your game face. Giving presentations can be somewhat unnatural. You need to act the role based on other good presenters you have seen. You need to take that uncomfortable feeling and bury it. And then put on that game face that tells the audience that you know what you are talking about and that you are comfortable being up there talking in front of them, and you'll find presenting will go much easier.


2. Not every task that you need to do in your job do you want to do. Some are more fun than others. Yet all need to get done. For example, I’ve encountered many engineers that are happy just sitting in their office writing code. They don't like communicating to the rest of the team or engaging with others. Yet, to move their career forward, gain visibility, and get credit for the work that they do, they need to be a team player. Their personality traits make it hard for them to do this since many are introverts. So they need to act the part. They need to put on their game face and in essence, pretend that they like engaging with the team. What part of your job do you dislike doing? Can you act like you like it? It takes practice.


3. You'll find times where you will disagree with your manager's direction or your team's vision. This is a very important time to put on your game face, especially as a team manager. A few years ago, my boss and I disagree on the way one of my teams was being run. He insisted on this team merging into another team within a different organization. I outwardly proclaimed my concern about this and that I disagreed. After months of debate, he decided it was time to move forward with his plan. Now what good was more disagreeing really going to get me? Nothing. I felt like that losing basketball team coming out to play the second half. So I put my game face on. I stood in front of this team and talked to them about how this was a good move, that I supported it, and clearly articulated all the reasons for doing this. It was very difficult to do, and immediately afterwards I didn't feel good about it at all. But it showed that I can be a manager and support issues I disagree with. I believe it made me a more successful manager because I had the ability to put my feeling aside and do what was required of me. And honestly, years later, when I look back at this, my boss was 100% right in moving the team. He saw the bigger picture, he was focused on making the business successful, and it was easier for him to see that this was the right decision because he wasn't as vested in the team as I was. Putting on my game face was exactly the right thing to do. And this experience has allowed me to be more open-minded and use my game face as needed. Why don't you give it a try?