Managing the Jay Cutler on Your Team

Sunday was another excruciating day as a Chicago Bears fan. After seeing the Bears beat the Atlanta Falcons last week, I sat through a game where Chicago’s quarterback, Jay Cutler threw an interception, had two fumbles and only threw for 190 yards;  Compared to last week against the Falcons when he threw for 381 yards with a touchdown. 

NFL fans know that Jay Cutler isn’t Tom Brady but he has great games that get you excited about the Bears and then there are games (like Sunday’s against the Dolphins) where you question why the Bears are paying him $54 million. 

Great one week. Awful the next.  How does a coach address this inconsistent performance? Where do you start?

Erratic performance is something all managers/coaches deal with regardless of the setting. Our organizations have just as many moving parts as a football team which makes dealing with inconsistent performance just as tough and frustrating. 

So how do you deal with the Jay Cutler’s of the work world? Someone who is capable of great work but is also capable of having unpredictable meltdowns that result in nightmare performances. 

A few suggestions, assuming this is someone you want to keep on your team: 

  1. Have you set clear expectations? Does the individual know how you define good work? Unacceptable work?
  2. Have you recognized the good? This sounds elementary, but do you praise great work when you see it? Unless you are Anna Wintour, the Anna Wintour nod is probably not sufficient positive recognition.
  3. Work with the individual to identify obstacles and remove them. In the Bears case, the team has spent a lot of money upgrading the offensive line to give Cutler time in the pocket. What about your team? Do they have the time necessary to create great work? What obstacles do they face?
  4. Is there a pattern? Does the person do well on certain work and not others? Can you identify a skills gap that can be remedied through on the job training or outside training? 

What do you do if you have tried all of the above and more but still aren’t seeing better performance? Explore other options. Is there a job better suited for the person on your team or on another team? Can you re-allocate responsibility to play to this person’s strengths?

Dealing with erratic performance issues is frustrating, you see moments of great performance but you also have to deal with the soul crushing taste of defeat when the person fumbles…well maybe not soul-crushing. But you know what I mean. It sucks to see a teammate struggle. As a manager you are uniquely situated to help someone find their strengths. My suggestions are a start. What would you  do?

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Melissa Fairman

Melissa Fairman is the author of the blog HR Remix and has five years experience working in HR. She's super awesome and has an MBA with an HR concentration from Baldwin Wallace College and a PHR certification from the HRCI institute. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter at @HRRemix.

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  1. AvatarChris Fields says

    Oh Melissa, you know that performance was painful. Brandon Marshall who is Jay’s biggest fan finally had enough and told the truth. The Bears have too many weapons to be so bad – this is the same for business, if the floor leader doesn’t have the vision or talent to recognize the team potential or can’t get the best out of the team – maybe its time to move on.

    • AvatarMelissa Fairman says

      Agreed. Sometimes you have to cut your ties if everything you’ve done hasn’t worked. A new role in the org? Outside the org? Also depends on the visibility of the position, sometimes a manager can re-allocate responsibilities…sometimes when the position is as high profile as an NFL QB you have to get drastic.

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