Escaping the Scrum
If you have been around young children much you’ll know that one of their first organized athletic activities is soccer. At the ages of four or five, their attention is centralized. That is to say that the tendency of the young girls and boys is to gravitate towards the crowd, whatever place on the field has attracted the largest concentration of bodies. Soccer, at this stage, more resembles a rugby scrum sans the rugged physical contact.
Amidst the conglomeration of chaos there always seems to be a kid or two who coyly slips away from the magnetic force of the crowd almost influenced by a sense that causes them to linger or wait. Occasionally, when the ball squirts out from the scrum the intrepid ones find themselves with an unimpeded path to their opponents goal. They score! Even at such a tender age a certain intuition, an indefinable something, begins to have impact.
It was said of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky that what made him arguably the greatest his sport had ever known is that he had the unique ability “to skate to where he thought the puck would be.” While unparalleled basketball superstars in their own right, both Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson brought special charismatic leadership skills that elevated their respective team’s synergy.
Arguably there will never be another Gretzky, Jordan, or Magic. In fact most of us likely congregated around the scrum in our youth; perhaps still do, yet have an earnest desire to make impact in our world, places of work, neighborhoods, or even just our families. How do we?
Here are just a few thoughts:
· Do what you say you are going to do. I am convinced that the odds of business and personal success multiply dramatically by just this one credo. It remains perplexing, however, how often businesses don’t follow up with customers, potential clients don’t show up for appointments, and an enterprise is closed even though their website hours would indicate they are open. Last week a potential client scheduled a meeting seeking my coaching assistance to ameliorate frustration at being denied “a seat at the table.” She did not show for the appointment. In order to get a seat at the table you must first be at the table.
· Understand the needs of others. Whether it is a customer, a spouse, a child, a friend, or a new acquaintance, learn their story. Ask open-ended questions that beget more than a yes/no/fine answer. Repeat back what you have heard them say. Clarify.
· The solution may be beyond your expertise. There is a fascination with those who possess expert knowledge. There is an even greater appeal with subject matter experts who have mastered “condensed intellect,” those who educate with an economy of words and leave us hungering for more. Any of us, though, can confess we don’t have the answer. Admiration is greater for those who admit that, but then to learn the solution.
· Admit your mistakes; accept the admittance. When you’re wrong say it. If someone has the humility to admit it, forgive them. There are few things worse than we are transparent with our error, only to have someone else gloat over it and remind us of it.
· Exceed expectations. Guys, if we’re cooking dinner for our spouses include some flowers with the table setting. Gals, you treat for the dinner date and movie sometime. Supervisors, how about a spontaneous break for ice cream in the middle of the afternoon work shift? Neighbors, prepare an extra batch for dinner tonight to deliver to someone who may be ill or “shut in” down the street. Millennials, what about a technology lesson for that same person?
· Time. Many of us are overscheduled and each day’s greatest challenge is to stay on task and complete our “To Do” lists. Yet, someone who just walked through the doors of your store needs to be listened to more than sold something. Your teenager may simply want you to watch a TV show with them. A long-time friend would love to hear the sound of your voice and to share a few laughs; call them.
You are unique. There is no one else who has the ability to console those in your circle as well as you do, to be a good friend to your particular friends, to reach out to the downtrodden in a special way.
Fred Rogers, AKA Mr. Rogers said, “If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”
Get away from the scrum. The clear path is to the side. The goal is ahead, waiting for you to score.
The Seed Sower