Ryan Harris on the stage.

How To Prevent Sandbagging When Measuring Success

Everyone’s looking for a shortcut, and this one shortcut will creep into your business if you’re not actively monitoring it.

It’s more of a psychology-driven behavior disguised as a survival tactic.

Don’t let it fool you.


Listen up, because you’ve got to crush this toxic behavior once and for all if you ever plan to have a productive workforce.

In this article, I’m going to:

  • Give you the zero-sandbagging mentality
  • Teach you 2 tactics to foster a zero-sandbagging workforce


Does your business operate like a family or a team?

A lot of bosses say family, and it’s easy to see why.

They want everybody to feel included. Business leaders want to build closeness and foster camaraderie among employees. They want to have potlucks and do monthly family things.

And for employees who don’t have experience working in team dynamics, the closest idea they have of group work is family. If a co-worker has a problem, you want a work environment where they feel comfortable talking about it, especially if it’s affecting their productivity.

I understand that people want to build a family-like atmosphere at work, but that’s NOT what you want in business.

You lose your effectiveness as a leader if people feel too close to you. It breeds comfort, which is why we love family, right? You go to your family’s house for Thanksgiving to kick it and be comfortable. You don’t need to be comfortable at work.

But most of all, businesses that operate like a family are more inclined to slack off and fall into sandbagging habits.

Not convinced? Here are 2 pieces of evidence to prove it.  

#1: You Can’t Change Your Family

We’ve all got our fair share of family situations. We have good and bad family stories.

When a family member doesn’t pull their own weight, you’re more inclined to accept that behavior. You’re family, after all.

Think about it as we’re moving into the holiday season. There’s a tendency to start dialing down.

A family member might decide to coast, and that’s their choice.

A team can’t do that. No easing off the pedal. In a business you’ve got to pull your own weight.

And here’s the kicker: If you slack off and hurt the team, you can lose your job. That’s not the case with family.

#2 Team Members Understand Their Role

Team members have clearly defined roles and understand their contribution.

Their roles bring value to the work environment, and their success is based on productivity. That’s different from a family. Families don’t measure success based on the contributions of individual members.

That’s why you’ve got to set the mentality straight: remind your employees that you are a team over a family.

Successful businesses operate as teams, not families.

Let me make something clear: I’m a firm believer in hanging out with people you work with outside of work. But sometimes bosses and companies go too far in that regard and end up paying the price when employees start sandbagging because they feel like part of a family.

After developing the zero-bagging mentality, use these no-fail tactics to stop sandbagging.


They do this all the time in the NFL. All the time.

Tryouts happen every Tuesday whether they sign guys or not. There’s always someone actively trying to get your position. You can’t be afraid of competition in the NFL.

If you don’t do your job, you’re out — no matter what. In the NFL I saw a guy get fired on Thanksgiving morning. The guy left his house that morning for practice and came back early. He wasn’t producing and had to come home early to his family, on a holiday, and tell them why.

If you ever find yourself saying, “I wish I could fire them, but they’re the only one that does what they do,” then you’ve got a cancer and need to start creating scarcity in your business.

It’s important to train other people how to do your employees’ jobs. When somebody on your team starts slacking off, you’ve got to have people to replace them. Using interns or cross-training employees is a great way to do that.

Whatever company you’re in, you’ve got people who want to be a part of more of it, or are looking for an internship. So take the actionable step and train someone new. You can do this at any point in time.

A lack of scarcity creates a lack of adherence. But having scarcity creates competition. Competition motivates team members to work harder. To produce more. To stop sandbagging.

No scarcity, no adherence. Create scarcity to create competition.

Ultimately, when you create competition, you create excellence and achieve more goals.

At the end of the day, business is competition, right? With a healthy level of competition, you can start motivating your employees with short-term goals.

In the NFL we call these goals conversions, which brings me to tactic #2.   


In the NFL, our end goal is to score a touchdown, but the micro-goal is the third or second down. Conversions help us reach the ultimate goal and keep us focused.


Because when you give somebody a short-term goal, you get them to produce more.

One more? Can you do more? Can you get just one more?


Hire Ryan For Your Next Event

Employees start fading away around this time of year. The holidays are right around the corner and people want to push things off to January.

As a business leader, you can encourage employees to convert using short-term goals. Maybe it’s making personal contact with a prospect. Perhaps it’s proactively scheduling a meeting for January. Even one conversion can lead to a touchdown.

The Bottom Line

Scarcity creates competition, and the entire game is a competition. Short-term goals are conversions and help you win the competition. So play the game as a team and everyone will understand how their contribution affects outcomes. It’s how you prevent sandbagging and it’s how you win.