The Road to the Peanut Bowl: Building a Better Business Team
This year I added another experience to my resume and it might be my greatest one yet: Junior Varsity Football Announcer.
How did this happen? I am glad you asked. My eldest daughter is almost 10 and she is a proud member of our community’s cheerleading squad. It is a perfect fit for her. She gets to hang out with her friends almost every day, do cartwheels and back bends, and be as perky as she wants to be. I’m super proud of her. What I could have not predicted though is how much I would get involved in this whole crazy world.
As the parent of a member of the Jr. Varsity squad, it is your responsibility to volunteer during home games. There are many jobs available, from chain gang (the guys that keep track of how many yards to first down, and what down a team is on), to concession stand prep, to merchandize vendor, to ticket seller. Last year, when my daughter first started cheering, I participated in one, maybe two home games. My wife took care of the rest by volunteering to work at the cheer competition. For me, it was really more of a transactional experience. I showed up, did my time and left. The rest of the games I was happy to watch from the stands and not be overly involved.
This year, things happened a little bit differently. My wife (unbeknownst to me) signed me up to be the announcer for all of the Jr. Varsity Football home games. Yes… Me… Announcing… I mean, I am not going to lie, I am kind of a ham and I wasn’t extremely worried about it, but there was some pressure nonetheless. Names needed to be called correctly, penalties needed to be identified and people needed to be somewhat entertained. Like it or not, I was now a part of something.
First game was on the horizon and I started preparing for my gig. I met with president of the youth recreation association and got the low down on the announcements: don’t talk during plays, bring a music playlist (clean music please) and do your best to call everything you can. Seemed simple enough.
Truth is the first game I was terrified. I got to the press box and talked to the freshman announcer who gave me some tips: read the cheerleaders names first, then the football players names. Do the visiting team first, then our team. Here is how the music works. The guys in the press box working the game clock and scoreboard can help you with some info such as where the ball is, etc.
I swear that it must have been the most uninspired display of announcing ever. I probably butchered multiple names. Actually, not probably, I certainly did because some parents were nice enough to correct my pronunciation. Also, the opposing team had two players listed under number 20, and one of them just happened to be the running back who got the ball every other play. I made a gut decision to alternate the names of each kid listed with the number twenty so that I was right at least 50% of the time. My wife told me that the music I selected was referred to as “elevator music” and that I should have known better than to play my indie music at a football game. “Do kids even know who Dr. Dog is?” she asked me. The answer was: of course not!
However, the game ended unexpectedly for this announcer. It went into overtime and our team won on a last minute extra point attempt. It was insane. I got into the thrill of it all. Seeing the coaches and parents rush the field to hug their kids, the excitement in the press box on what just happened, the response of the crowd to the last-minute heroics. From that moment on, I was hooked.
As the games progressed, not only did my announcing improve (who is ready for some fooooootbaaaaallll???!!!) but I started noticing things about the whole experience. The Jr. Varsity organization and volunteer team is a great example of a well-functioning team. It is nothing but astounding the work that they do and the joy that they bring to their kids and community. All of it, not being paid anything. It was a true inspiration.
People who volunteered were all happy to contribute and work hard, all with smiles on their faces. The coaches are some of the most dedicated people I have ever met. They dedicate so much time and effort to spending time with other people kids, molding them into not only better players, but also into respectable members of the community. It’s truly inspiring. The cheer coaches I met took care of my daughter as if she was their own, often dealing with situations I am sure they were not expecting (bee stings, hurt feelings, etc.). Every day after practice my kid could not stop going on about how great her experience was.
Parents were a united front all year long. They partnered to get kids to and from practices and games, they made signs, bows and even knit caps. They shared their tents with others when it rained, helped sell tickets to the end of the year banquet, sang the national anthem, woke up every Saturday morning ready to provide their kids and their community with everything they had. They even organized parents’ night so that they could hang out without kids (in addition to hanging out during the games with each other).
The more I was exposed to this selfless phenomenon the more into the whole experience I became. It didn’t hurt that we kept winning. Went undefeated actually. All the way to the championship game. The Peanut Bowl. We won. And not just on the field.
I am now all in on this community experience. Next year I will be the first to sign up and will continue to try and build relationships with the families that dedicate so much to our kids and our communities.
So… after reflecting on the entire experience, I could not help but try to understand why our business teams cannot operate more like the Jr. Varsity volunteers. I mean, we are PAID to produce and collaborate. To help each other when we are in need. To do everything we can for the good of the squad.
So, why don’t we? Why do we work harder for something we do for free, and get more enjoyment and fulfillment from it? What is the secret sauce? I was able to come up with these key points that will help our teams function more like a Jr. Varsity organization:
You need to understand why you are doing what you are doing
Vision is everything. The reason parents get up every morning, in the rain, to support their kids is because they know it is important. They know that it will make an impact and that their community will be better for it.
We need to do the same with our teams. We need to establish a vision so clear that everyone that is a part of the team will know not only what they need to do, but how it will make an impact. By doing so our team members will be more invested, get greater joy in contributing and revel in the spoils of their efforts.
Communication is key
It truly takes a village and the best teams are the ones that over communicate. In the cheer team, it was imperative that we communicate constantly so that we all knew what attire was required, when the parents’ meetings were and when to drop off and pick up your munchkins. The key here is that it was EVERYONE’s responsibility to communicate, not just the coaches or leaders. The more everyone communicates, the better chances a message gets heard. That is why parents relied on other parents, and not just the coaches to get the info they needed.
That should be the same for our work team. In many instances, we keep information to ourselves because we feel that someone else will spread the word. Let’s not wait for the message to be passed, let’s post it wherever we can, tell everyone we can, even if they already know.
Things change and flexibility is important
Someone might not show up. A kid might get sick. Uniforms that are needed before picture day might not arrive. Being a part of a volunteer organization is not for people that get stressed about change. There is only so much that can be controlled or predicted. The way the coaches and parents handled this situation was nothing short of brilliant. They made clear what happened, set expectations on what would be done to remedy the situation, found a solution, and moved on. On to the next. There is just too much stuff going on.
Business Teams could learn a lot from this approach. In many instances, we end up getting sucked into the vortex of trying to find answers and culprits, when we should be concentrating on what to do next. All we need is three easy steps. Make it clear what happened. Develop a solution. Move on.
We are all in this together
On a volunteer team people can’t help but to rely on each other. We all don’t really know what we are doing, all we know is that we need to get it done. In order to do so we rely on each other. Carpooling to practices, giving out information, asking questions. When we are in need all we need is to look to our side and help is right there.
We should do the same in work teams. Our combined efforts will make the best experience and performance for our teams. We are not just a motley crew of individuals put together to do our own thing. We are together because we NEED each other. 1 + 1 = 3
Integrity is the ultimate trophy
In Jr. Varsity Sports there are no contracts, no non-disclosure agreements, no non-competes. There are no goals setting sessions, no performance improvement plans and no reviews. All there is, is a group of people that end up doing the things they say they are going to do. They focus on what is right and not what will get them individually further. They care. Constantly and emphatically. We should all strive to live this way.
I truly believe that if we apply these concepts to our work teams we will perform better, be more fulfilled with our work, and build stronger relationships while striving to achieve our goals. And who knows, someday we might even make it to the Peanut Bowl.
Andre Mello is a business coach and a Jr. Varsity team announcer. He has been in leadership and marketing for over 16 year. To connect with Andre please visit www.wysecoaching.com