What would you say if, after losing the best employee you ever had, that employee went on to lead a competitor to greatness?
Would you talk trash? Or suffer in silence?
The New England Patriots did neither of those things.
Yes, you probably heard that Tom Brady–the Patriots’ former quarterback and current starting quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers–led his new team to a dominant Super Bowl win over the heavily favored Kansas City Chiefs.
After the game, the New England Patriots shared a simple, seven-word tweet:
“Congratulations to the greatest of all time.”
These seven words are a powerful lesson inemotional intelligence, the ability to make emotions work for you, instead of against you.
What’s emotional intelligence got to do with it?
Many have wondered why the accomplished quarterback chose to leave New England.
Was it that the Patriots didn’t offer Brady the long-term contract he desired? Did he feel unappreciated by the franchise? Did he simply want a change, or need a new challenge?
Only Brady knows the true reason.
But whatever that reason is, it became obvious that it was ultimately time for both sides to move on.
And here’s where emotional intelligence–the ability to identify, understand, and manage emotions–comes into play.
When a player takes his talents to another city, it’s easy for franchise ownership to vilify the player. To make fans feel that they’ve been betrayed, even to inspire hatred. (See the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James, 2010.)
Regardless of how the Patriots feel about Brady’s move behind closed doors, the team’s tweet was brilliant. It was all class, showing overwhelming goodwill from the franchise towards their legendary quarterback.
In other words, the Patriots showed that they could be happy for Tom Brady.
That’s no easy feat, considering New England’s first year post-Brady ended in completely missing the playoffs–for the first time in well over a decade.
Time and again, we’ve seen sports franchises let emotion and resentment cloud good judgment. They’ve destroyed healthy relationships, turning their best allies into bitter enemies.
But with that simple congratulations, New England extended an olive branch and opened the door for Brady to come back in the future. No, likely never again as a quarterback–but as a team ambassador, a coach, or to work in the front office.
And think about it, who better to help recruit new talent than the person widely regarded as the greatest of all time, a consummate winner?
It’s a huge lesson for employers everywhere:
If your best person happens to leave for a competitor, don’t vilify them.
Don’t tear them down. Don’t badmouth them. Don’t burn your bridge.
Instead, congratulate them.
Because if you leave the door open, you never know what the future will hold.