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Rutgers’ Mike Rice fired: can yelling ever be productive?

Rutgers’ basketball coach Mike Rice was fired after public outrage at his verbally and physically abusing players, leading to the question – can yelling ever be productive on the field, court, or at the office?



mike rice rutgers

mike rice rutgers

Rutgers’ Mike Rice fired for player abuse

Rutgers is in the midst of a firestorm. Video footage of their head basketball coach, Mike Rice, berating his players to the point of physical abuse recently surfaced. Somehow, University leadership did not view it as automatic grounds for dismissal until public outrage demanded it.

[pl_video type=”youtube” id=”0wZ3z0HeLq4″]

The story shines light on a larger communication issue that exists in our culture. We are outraged now, but it’s amazing how many people honestly believe that yelling is an effective method of communication. I have talked to countless employees who live in a constant state of uncertainty as to when the boss will next blow up.

While you might not become a national news story, the consequences of yelling as your norm are no less damaging to your reputation and effectiveness as a leader. Why then, do so many of us believe raising our voice in anger has a place in the office (or at home)? It’s the result of a logical fallacy relating to the statistical concept of ‘regression to the mean.’

A dropped pass is a deviation

A football analogy will make this clear: even the most gifted wide receiver drops a pass occasionally. It’s not common, because if it was, he wouldn’t be gifted, but it happens. The rare dropped pass is called a deviation from the mean (or norm) in statistics. The great thing about a deviation from the mean is that people predictably move back to standard performance.

Now, with that in mind, let’s think about how a coach communicates in each situation. Simple- he yells when the player messes up. He praises the player for making the unlikely catch. Praise comes from unlikely events outside the player’s norm. Yelling comes after unlikely events outside of the player’s norm.

Neither the praise nor the yelling will change the statistical reality that a ‘regression to the mean,’ or a return to the player’s norm, is likely. BUT, the coach now believes yelling is what made the player improve performance. He’s wrong. It’s called math. Learn it.

You know what actually improves performance? Trust.

When I work with speakers, we start with a reminder that the audience is immediately asking “Do I trust you? Are you a friend or a foe? Are you safe?” This is a biological response rooted in the limbic system of your brain.

Yelling is a combination of several aggressive verbal and nonverbal behaviors. When displayed, the response to those surrounding the aggressor is viscerally moving into ‘freeze, fight, or flight.’ We prepare for battle. And when we are in battle, you know what we aren’t doing? Listening, understanding, trusting, or communicating.

On the other hand, when trust is high- we have the foundation for high performance (collaboration, innovation, critical thinking skills, and focus).

This is why statistically, optimism is one of the greatest predictors of future success. There are number of reasons for this – optimists take more risks, recover faster from failure, are more productive, AND they grow larger social networks. Optimistic peoples’ internal state causes them to project the impression of trust, of friend rather than foe (i.e. smiles, vocal variety, confident posture, positive framing). It’s no wonder we all want to be around people who are optimistic- their happiness makes us happy.

The temporary upside of yellers

Yellers might gain temporary high performance on the backs of fear-based management, but they seldom have the relational collateral to create long-term highly productive teams.

It’s time to call a spade a spade. If you believe that yelling at employees, colleagues, players, your kids is somehow improving behavior, you are losing the war to win the battle.

Major objections answered

Why have I seen yelling work for some people? If someone has been raised in an environment where yelling is the norm, over time they can become de-sensitized. So yes, for those of you who are asking, ‘but why have I seen yelling work with some people,’ you have your answer.

What about the Bobby Knight’s of the world? There are a number of high profile people who have had immense success. It’s important in this instance to understand that the key is trust. Yelling is a typical detractor to trust, but in rare cases, a leader can build the relational capital to have permission to yell. The problem is that this is the exception rather than the rule.

Legendary football coach and Executive Director of American Football Coaches Association, Grant Teaff, is so committed to changing the culture of coaching by teaching them effective communication that he asked me to speak on this very subject at the annual conference in January. There is no difference between the court/field and the workplace, as our brains are all wired the same in how we respond to yelling, be it freeze, fight, or flight, neither of which are conducive to a healthy environment.

Curt Steinhorst loves attention. More specifically, he loves understanding attention. How it works. Why it matters. How to get it. As someone who personally deals with ADD, he overcame the unique distractions that today’s technology creates to start a Communications Consultancy, The Promentum Group, and Speakers Bureau, Promentum Speakers, both of which he runs today. Curt’s expertise and communication style has led to more than 75 speaking engagements in the last year to organizations such as GM, Raytheon, Naval Academy, Cadillac, and World Presidents’ Organization.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. agbenn

    April 8, 2013 at 8:53 am

    Yeah, cuz we’re all winners, give’em all a pat on the ass and a trophy and a ring.

    Although I agree with 99.9% of what you’re describing,from a lifetime sports player, I do trust my coach, we have the same goal, making me 110% of myself, helps my team to become 110%. To tell me after a dropped pass, or a fumble, on the sidelide helmet to coaches face (spit and all) you fucking owe me, get my fucking ball back, is not abusive, it’s an intensity we both share, we both have the same goal and that’s to win.

    You mentioned the dipstick who locked a kid in a shed, that’s just psycho, but if my coach praised my every move then it’s good enough, however, set an expectation, reminding of the goal and the urgency of correcting my mental errors is not abuse, especially on a sideline where you can barlely hear yourself think anyway.

    So for the players out there who what a puss approach to coaching, go play golf and get off the sideline.

    Throw a ball at my head however, and you would kill any trust of you I’ve ever had. This isn’t black and white which is why I agree with 99.9% where this is heading. Coaches need latitude.

    Sorry for the language, I’d expect nothing less on a sideline, or on the line of scrimmage.

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Business News

Debunking ridiculous remote work myths (and some serious survival tips)

(BUSINESS) People new to remote work (or sending their teams home) are still nervous and have no concept of what really happens when people work from home. We’ll debunk that.



remote work

With an entire nation (or planet) moving to a remote workforce in the midst of a global pandemic, we’re hearing some pretty wild misunderstandings of what remote work is, and how it functions effectively. Bosses are scrambling to buy up spying tech for some good ol’ hamfisted enforcement.

For those of us who have been remote for ages, it’s fascinating to watch the transition. And also offensive. People tweeting about getting to take naps and not wear pants. That’s not remote work, that’s just you being unsupervised like a child for five minutes, KEVIN.

I was chatting with my buddy Michael Pascuzzi about remote work (full disclosure, he’s a Moderator in our Remote Digital Jobs group) and despite cracking many jokes, we realized there is a lot of noise to cut through.

In the spirit of offering meat for you in these hungry times, Michael offered to put his thoughts on paper. And why should you listen to him? It’s because he has worked for several tech companies, both startups and enterprises including TrackingPoint, 3DR, and H.P. He currently works remotely for Crayon, a Norwegian Digital Transformation, and Cloud Services company. He holds an M.B.A. in Digital Media Management from St. Edward’s University and a B.A. in Art History from the University of Connecticut. He’s also wonderfully weird. And a remote worker.

In his own words below:

So you’re working remotely now. Cool.

At first, it feels.. strange. But, as you get into it, you’ll get comfortable with your routine.

I’m sure you have a preconceived notion of remote workers. You probably thought this type of work was just for Unabombers and nomads. Maybe you don’t think you have a real job any longer because you’re doing it in your Underoos.

While, yes, working from home does allow you the option to work in your underwear, you still probably shouldn’t. There’s a lot to working from home and getting work done. You’re going to get a crash course in the coming weeks. I’m going to give you a leg up on your peers by telling you what you really need to know and what nobody else is telling you about remote work.

The following is a cheat sheet to getting ahead of your peers – and maybe make a case for you to continue in this lifestyle after the pandemic has subsided.

1. Working remotely doesn’t mean playtime

Right now, you’re roughly one week into your new working arrangement. You’ve got your table, your computer, and your whole set up. You’re also taking advantage of:
– The creature comforts of home
– Nobody looking over your shoulder

Irish coffees for breakfast, no pants-wearing, and naps during lunch are all available to you now that you work from home. And let’s not forget about #WhiteClawWednesdays!

These are all terrible ideas.

Here’s why:

If you come to a phone/video meeting drunk, we’ll know. If you’re on a video call with bedhead and a wrinkled shirt, we’ll assume you’re unprofessional. White Claw Wednesdays are probably okay in moderation, but taking a shot every time Karen says something annoying on a conference call is a bad idea!

Working from home should be an enjoyable and comfortable experience, but it shouldn’t be fun. It’s still work; and work sucks.

2. Working remotely should give you a better work/life balance:

Initially, you’ll find it hard for you and for your employer to separate your work hours from your life hours. Staying working only during your work hours is VITAL to keeping your sanity. Microsoft Office 365 has a tool that measures your wellbeing in “My Analytics.” Below is a picture of my wellbeing for this month. It’s not good.

digital accounting of wellbeing

The leadership team and managers at my company stress wellbeing. We take that chart seriously, and failing to have quiet days doesn’t make you look like a hard worker. Hard workers get shit done 8-5.

3. Working remotely also doesn’t mean firing the nanny

Working remotely doesn’t equal additional family time. Your work hours are your work hours. The pandemic quarantine doesn’t leave a whole lot of options for families to coexist without overlapping.

And it’s okay to occasionally have a “coworker.” But, you need to create your own private workspace within the hustle and bustle of homeschooling going on around you.

Here are a few more best practices you won’t read anywhere else:

You’ll need to learn to distance yourself from “work” when no longer at your “office.” This means powering down at the end of the day. Having a work/life balance when you work from home tends to swing in the opposite direction than you probably assumed; work can take over your life.

  • You’re going to have to turn off mobile notifications 100% of the time. It’s a pandemic, you’re not traveling; you don’t need them on – ever.
  • Turn off your computer at the end of the day. It’s good for your computer, and it’s fantastic for your mental health.
  • If your manager needs to reach you or you need to contact a direct report, just follow the wise words of Kim Possible: Call me, beep me if you wanna reach me.
  • You must wear pants. (FYI guys, dark leggings look like real pants and are super comfortable) Get ready for your day as if it were a regular office. Take a shower, shave, comb your hair, eat breakfast in the kitchen, wear jewelry. Look like you give a damn.

  • You must turn on your camera for video calls (and please don’t take your laptop into the bathroom. no field trips). Nonverbal communication accounts for 93% of all communication. We need to see your face, your posture, your eyerolls.
  • All of your calls should be video calls. You’ll find you’ll miss humans if you do not see them daily.
  • Clean the room (or at least directly behind you). We shouldn’t see laundry and quarantine snacks in the background. We absolutely should never HEAR you opening a bag of chips.
  • Close your door. Kitchen, office, bedroom… whatever you’re using needs to be YOUR space. It’s your office. Your clubhouse. Only one Homer allowed.

And for the love of all that isn’t COVID, please wear pants.

More resources:

I’m on a team at Crayon that freely consults on working remotely and cloud technology. This isn’t a sales pitch. If you have questions or need productivity tips, you can always email my team directly at

Meanwhile, here are some additional resources to dig into:

  1. 20 tips for working from home
  2. Guide to engaging a distributed workforce
  3. Top 15 tips to effectively manage remote employees
  4. How to make working from home work for you

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Business News

Will House Democrats pass the new Senate stimulus package?

(BUSINESS NEWS) A new stimulus package for the COVID-19 pandemic has come from the senate, the question now is will the House Democrats accept and pass it?



Democrats house of reps

Congress can’t seem to agree about COVID-19 relief. Yesterday, the Senate and the White House came to an agreement on a $2 trillion economic stimulus package. The Democrats are now the hold-up. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has publicly stated that the House will be reviewing the bill, but there is no commitment as to whether the bill will pass or not. The Hill reported that some House Democrats are concerned that they have not provided any input.

What’s in the measure?

According to CBS News, the actual text of the measure hasn’t been released, but they did get information from Minority Leader Chuck Schumer about some of the contents:

• Expanded unemployment benefits to boost the maximum benefit and to give laid-off workers full pay for four months
• Direct payments to individuals making less than $99,000
• $130 billion for hospitals
• $367 billion in loans for small business
• $150 billion for state and local governments
• $500 billion for large businesses
• Creates an oversight board to govern large loans
• Prohibitions to prevent President Trump and family from getting federal relief

Will the measure pass?

Pelosi has said that this measure is a big improvement over the Republican’s first proposal. It seems as if she is working hard to move the measure through the House, but given the current state of politics, it’s hard to believe that anything will be done without some debate. Many Democrats have pushed for a food stamp increase, which is not in the current measure. However, the Democrats did win on the oversight board that protects the employees of the companies who are getting loans. Money for states was another Democrat victory in the current measure.

If the bill can pass the House unanimously, lawmakers won’t have to vote on the floor. If the House can’t agree, the House will need to reconvene and amend the Senate measure or pass their own measure. Under the COVID-19 travel restrictions and quarantine issues, it might be difficult to get anything done quickly. The urgency is real, but so is the responsibility. The Democrats want the money to do what Congress intends, not for CEO compensation or stock buyouts.

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Business News

MLMs under investigation for claiming they have a COVID-19 miracle cure

(BUSINESS NEWS) Guys, there is currently no cure for COVID-19 and it’s definitely not being sold by your friend in an MLM or whatever their company calls themselves.



MLM miracle cure

It should go without saying that essential oils are NOT a cure for COVID-19, but unfortunately, the MLMs are at it again. Yes, that’s right, there are people trying to market their oils, pills…etc. as a way to stave off the pandemic that is currently upon us. So before we go any further, may I remind y’all that there is no miracle cure to treat or prevent the virus.

Do not use MLM products as a replacement for the actions laid out by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), like social distancing and vigorous hand washing.

Don’t get me wrong, if you or your friends or relatives want to use MLM products on top of the advice given by doctors and scientists, go ahead. But advertising that these products can cure a disease that’s currently spreading across the world isn’t just irresponsible, it’s dangerous. Even if you don’t catch it, you’re still at risk of spreading the virus.

As of right now, the FTC is investigating seven companies over COVID-19 related claims, but you should be suspicious of anyone claiming they have something that will help. Do your homework. Sources like the CDC and WHO (World Health Organization) are great places to start if you’re unsure about information that you see on social media or hear from a friend. Disinformation is everywhere, so it’s vital to keep track of sources.

If you do stumble across a friend or family member trying to slip in MLM sales during this global crisis, be civil in your rebuttals. Many people join MLMs because they’ve been struggling to make money elsewhere. MLMs are notorious for targeting immigrants and stay-at-home moms. With COVID-19 bringing a slew of job loss, financial circumstances for many are more precarious than ever, which could very well put pressure on people in MLMs.

In short: MLM corporations that advertise a miracle cure? I didn’t think these companies could be more evil, but I was wrong. Your friend on Facebook touting their essential oil as a miracle cure? Definitely not great, but there might be more going on than meets the eye, so be honest with them, but also be kind.

It’s no magic cure, but a drop of kindness could go a long way right now.

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