If you pay attention to pop culture, have some appreciation for history or at least historical perspective, and love sports, you should be regular reader of “The Sports Guy” on ESPN’s Page 2. Bill Simmons is a smart and hysterically funny writer. Very intelligent. While watching my New York Giants tonight – (we’re winning!), I am reading his NFL mid season report. Simmons ranks the Giants #2 and comments:

Our friend Mike Lombardi did a tremendous job describing Tom Coughlin’s coaching style over at the National Football Post last week: “He is using a very simple leadership strategy called the ‘Law of Threes.’ On each team there are three types of players. The first are the ones who will do anything that is asked, willing to help the program. The second group are the undecided players, the players who are not sure what to do. And the third are the malcontents. These are the players who want to buck the system all the time and try to break down the team. As a leader, there is a tendency to try to win over the players in group three by trying to make them happy. But all that does is move the players from group two into group three, and cause you to start to lose the players in group one. What Coughlin has done is focus on group one. He pays no attention to group three and what has resulted is that Plaxico is on an island and no one wants to join him. The team is bigger than Plaxico.”

Love it. Now THAT makes perfect sense to me. The Law of Threes. I really respect how the Giants have defended their title this season. We don’t see it enough in sports anymore. The road to Super Bowl XLIII goes through them.

I love it too! Sure, it speaks highly of my favorite NFL team. But, sales managers – and really all managers – take note:

Do you pay minimal attention to your malcontents? Or are they poisoning your team?
Do you focus on those in the middle group? For them, is it an enthusiasm or expertise issue that is keeping member of the second-middle group from joining the first?

Figure this out first.

Quit trying to make your malcontents happy.

Maybe you’ll win the Super Bowl, too!