Whenever I reference a sports analogy, I sometimes feel the need to point out that, no, I don’t think all of life and business is akin to sports. Even though we do huddle, have rallies, coach, go on the offensive, execute game plans, etc.
But few things give us as many near universally-known references. That said, one of the new examples I’ll use to highlight true leadership will be Wes Welker. Please, don’t sigh or yell at the computer screen just yet, Pats fans.
First and foremost, I like Welker. He’s too small and too slow to succeed as an NFL receiver. Luckily, he doesn’t seem to know that fact, and he’s caught more passes over the last five years than any receiver in the NFL.
He’s also probably gotten up from more hits that would have sent most receivers into the offseason than anyone playing.
And then, on the biggest stage in American sports, he was part of a failed play that woulda coulda shoulda sealed a victory in a game eventually lost. The replay of Welker contorting his body (on a dead run) to put two hands on a ball that he couldn’t hang on to has been replayed hundreds of times on national shows and millions of times on the internet.
With millions of people looking to point fingers at somebody for that loss, Welker avoided the easy way out. When the vultures circled his locker, a non-leader would have pointed out that he was wide open, running full-out, and that his quarterback simply missed him. A pass that should have been zipped in there by Tom Brady was instead floated behind him.
But he didn’t. He sat there and took full blame for missing the catch. When given a chance to put some of the blame on his quarterback, he didn’t.
He took full responsibility for failing to make that play. (And truth be told, the favor wasn’t returned by the other party in that play.)
Some might debate whether taking responsibility for failure really constitutes leadership. I would argue that it does so much more than folks who only seem to seek the spotlight when it is time for a victory lap.
And folks are more likely to actually follow leaders who share credit freely when a team succeeds, but accepts accountability when it doesn’t.
A person’s true character is usually revealed more in hard times than in good. With a toughened banking environment for the foreseeable future, what kind of character will you show your team?
I couldn’t help but feel a sense of déjà vu last weekend. My wife and I were asked to head up a fundraising project for our sons’ Boy Scout Troop.
So I found myself standing outside a grocery store on a chilly Saturday afternoon with 7 Boy Scouts, one box of coupon books, two card tables, several poster board signs, and one American flag. I shook my head and laughed that this is the story of my life.
No matter what I do in my career, I’m always going to end up hawking things around a card table at a grocery store.
But my wife and I weren’t allowed to be part of the “selling.” Scouts can earn a “salesmanship” merit badge. It’s actually a pretty detailed and relevant piece of training.
I kidded my sons that this may be the first real resume material they have.
It didn’t take long for my flashbacks to begin. Two of the boys couldn’t handle rejection. The fact that some folks ignored them as they tried to engage them or cut them off with a, “No thanks!” depressed them. (They eventually learned to get over it.)
Another boy had just the opposite problem. He practically blocked the door and got in peoples’ faces to sell coupon books. When a nearby parent laughed that rejection didn’t bother that kid, I told him, “It’s not the kid I’m worried about.”
When you’re too aggressive, even a great deal doesn’t seem like something a customer wants to hear about.
One kid was a clown. He taped a poster to his chest and an ice cream container to his hat. (One of the coupons in the book was for ice cream.) When an older scout said that he was embarrassing, I pointed out that the kid was helping sell books for all of them.
People would see him, laugh, and begin paying attention. Often times other boys would then engage those folks and make a sale.
One kid wanted to hug the table and didn’t speak unless spoken to. I kidded him that the Boy Scout sign and American flag were good for a few sales by themselves. We had enough inanimate objects on the job.
We needed him to come to life. And as soon as he made his first true sale away from the table, he smiled and became a natural.
I was reminded yet again of the power of putting yourself in position to meet folks, engaging them with a smile, using clear messaging, adding a little humor, and simply hustling – maybe not in that order.
How many of those traits are you displaying today?