A Slap in the Face

child-1099770_640With March Madness in full swing, much of the country has basketball fever. Television schedules have been adjusted to account for viewership pulled to the college games, and other sports take a back seat this time every year. For those who aren’t fans of basketball, it can be hard to find something other than reruns to watch.

Or maybe not.

I’ve stumbled across a new sport that offers a little bit of everything. There’s drama, suspense, and hard-hitting action…literally. The sport in question is competitive slapping. That’s right, grown men have made a sport out of slapping each other. Last weekend in the Russian town of Krasnoyarsk, Vasily Pelmen (a 370-pound walk-on competitor nicknamed “Dumpling”) decimated the competition as part of the Siberian Power Show. He walked away with a purse of 30,000 rubles – the equivalent of $470.

The rules of the contest are simple. Two men face each other across a small table. They take turns delivering an open-handed slap to the other’s face. The contest continues until one of them cannot continue or the judge calls the match out of safety. Even though they can clearly see the slap coming, many of the competitors I saw on video were knocked off their feet by a blow from their opponent. They clearly weren’t prepared for what was coming.

Workplace slaps to the face rarely come with physical contact, but they can still sting; and they usually involve communication issues. Last-minute demands, surprise assignments, and sudden changes to strategy – they hurt, but can be avoided with a little forethought. Here are some tips to help keep you and your teammates from getting knocked out.

Look across the table. Today’s businesses can’t succeed without teamwork. Individuals and business units alike must consider others who may be impacted by their work. Look beyond your role in the project. Who else plays a part in the process? Who will pick up where you leave off? Think in terms of all who will be affected, even far down the road, so that you avoid blindsiding someone.

Plan your strike. Before you communicate, think about how your words will be received. Ask others to help you anticipate reactions from those on the receiving end. Who will be excited by it? Who will be disappointed, or surprised? Take some time to choose your words so that teammates are set up for success, not reeling from shock.

Expect the unexpected. No amount of planning will eliminate the occasional surprise. How we respond to surprise news is important. Understand that you will occasionally be caught off guard. Do your best to stay connected with other parts of the organization to minimize surprises when they occur. Stay on top of your regularly-assigned work duties so that you can more easily absorb unexpected demands. And if you happen to be the one delivering the surprise, be ready for the inevitable reaction.

A slap to the face may be fun to watch; but nobody wants to be on the receiving end, even if it does come with a title and prize money. The real reward lies in being part of a smoothly operating team. Up your communication game and leave the red, stinging face to Dumpling and his buddies.