Politics, religion and football (European style) are topics I shy away from here, as animus can get pretty loaded. But there’s a footballer issue that’s made local headlines and it’s a good story to reflect on.
If you live in Rome, the name Francesco Totti rings some kind of bell, even among the few people who are in denial of the national sport. A.S. Roma fans tend to venerate the living legend who has been the team star for the past 21 years and has won a series of national and European awards. Part of his glory comes from having been a staunch supporter and loyal player all these years and having refused time and again solid-gold offers from many other teams both Italian and foreign.
Not that he plays for free, though. He’s in the news now because his contract runs out at the end of June, after which he already has a six-year contract to step up into the managing spheres of the football club, where he could presumably deal with image marketing, or become some kind of technical director, or whatever suits his fancy. His future handed to him on a silver platter.
The hitch is that he wants to keep on playing and has created a public embarrassment for himself and his beloved team by going public with complaints of how he’s being treated (“no respect” and “too much bench time”) by the new coach. Who happens to be turning around results that had been lackadaisical for months. Since he took over, A.S. Roma’s been on a roll, with a winning streak of seven straight games in the Italian championship. Wins due to Totti teammates and not to any recent feats of the gloried captain.
The objective fact is that time catches up mercilessly on athletes, Totti’s talents have been waning for a number of years now, he’s slowed down and puts a damper on new and younger players who zoom around the field with more puff and apparent enthusiasm.
He’s insisting he loves the sport, and wants a further one-year extension to continue playing. If he does get it, he’ll probably spend most of it on the sidelines. So why insist? Money and his personal managers and agent might have something to do with it, but a lack of self-awareness seems to be a major problem. And an unnecessary airing in public of his apparently stubborn ego is a sad conclusion to a happy career.
So this is where I’ve been heading. Though understandably hard for some people to come to grips with changing work-place realities, changes that happen over time are inevitable. In business and most other fields, management structures evolve, technology leads to different procedures, fresh droves of white and blue-collar alike push ahead with an eye to promotion. But the crux of the matter is that if you’ve reached anywhere near the top of your profession or specialized branch, there’s a chance you’ve also stopped learning.
So preparing for changes, looking ahead to other roles in your own company, or even better, training to take some other path elsewhere – sufficiently ahead of time- is not only wise, it’s stimulating. Or it should be. Competitive ambition is another illusion that one sheds along the way, and working with younger people keeps you on your toes and keeps you updated. If your boss turns out to be younger than you are, what fun! You should feel so lucky to have an opportunity to really find out something about where new generations are heading, and a chance to discreetly soft-mentor them from an un-threatening position. In the long run, this can turn out to be your best and most satisfying contribution.
Don’t wait to be pushed out, make your own plans ahead of time.
For some, it’s when they’ve apparently retrograded, whether by choice or necessity, that they start to see the light. I know a country sales manager who went back to simply being an agent, a school director who went back to teaching, a top manager who moved to a “lesser” company in a less demanding role. They’re all doing beautifully and discovering that life can be so much more stimulating once again, with less pressure and renewed challenges they end up navigating with ease. Thanks to the experiences they’ve matured along the way.
How do you feel about planning for different roles and people letting go of being “the boss”?