Leadership Lessons with Bill – Back to School

Back to school leadership lessons
Back to school leadership lessons with school supplies.

You may know that I work in athletics and if you’ve been reading this blog for a while you may also know that before every football game last year I did a leadership lesson with my staff, most of whom were undergraduate college students, but not all. The lessons covered various topics, but really it was just meant as a way bring my team closer together, build some camaraderie and get excited about the upcoming game.

Well, this year is no different and a few of our returning student workers actually started talking about “Bill’s Leadership Lessons” before the season started. I thought that was pretty cool and took that as a sign that they enjoyed the conversations we had and were looking forward to learning more. The first lesson for this football season I developed around the theme of “back to school.” Even though the particular university that I work for is on the quarter system and classes don’t start until the end of September, the local schools all started at the end of August and there was a general feeling of excitement and anticipation in the air. That feeling could have also been because of the start of the college football season, but either way, it was a fun time.

For this particular lesson on the morning of the first home game, we were a little pressed for time, so I had to improvise the lesson I had planned into only about 10 minutes. Once everyone had their work station setup and got checked in, we all gathered in a separate room where I had already laid out a bunch of school supplies. Included were a stapler, a pen, a pencil, a binder clip, a paper clip and a few other miscellaneous items you might find in a student’s backpack or on a back to school shopping list. Back to school shopping was probably one of my most favorite things to do growing up, so even when we didn’t really need something, we often got a bunch of new stuff for school.

As everyone entered the room, I asked them all to take one item from the pile of school supplies and form a circle. Once everyone had an item, I asked them to describe the item they chose in as much detail as they could – the function of the item, the size, shape, material it was made of and other unique characteristics. As they did so I ask the others in the group to comment on anything the person speaking may have forgotten about or didn’t think about during their turn to speak.

Once everyone had a chance to go talk about their item, I rounded out the conversation with the metaphor that each item, although unique, is part of a bigger group – school supplies.

Just as every student starts off the new year with a new set of gear to help them learn, so are we a part of a team and a department and a university trying to do something great for our community and the customers we serve. Each of us has our own unique gifts and qualities that make us special and valuable as part of a team.

Also, being that this was back to school season, we all get the opportunity to renew our commitment to each other, to ourselves and to the mission we serve. Back to school time carries a sense of renewal and refreshment that helps remind us that we have the opportunity to learn and grow every day and that we must not waste the valuable resource of time.

Even though this lesson revolved around school supplies, you could perform this exercise with an set of unique objects as a metaphor for group dynamics and team building. I didn’t have a backpack, but that item could be seen as the leader of the group – the thing that keeps everything else together. Without the backpack, you wouldn’t be able to carry all of your supplies with you to and from school. Also, without the supplies, the backpack with not be very useful in helping someone learn. Both are necessary for the success of the other. So also are all the people on our team necessary for the success of the group, the team and the university. In our own small way, we all matter and together we are strong.

Consider how a small example of leadership and team dynamics might help your coworkers or employees benefit from being reminded that they are valuable and them being present really matters. Also, let me know what you think in the comments.

Go Forth!

Do the Little Things Right

Do the little things right - Seattle Rock'n'Roll Half Marathon
Do the little things right – Photo from the Seattle Rock’n’Roll Half Marathon – Many little things went into making this race a big thing!

That’s a pretty good way to go right? Isn’t that what coaches teach their athletes? Do the little things right? Fully extend on that particular lift. Cut all the way through to the left on that one gap. Make sure you get all the way to this spot on the floor before you make your net move. Make sure you know where the defense is in this one area where the play will be moving. Make sure the bus is here on time to get us to the airport. Make sure we’ve got the right color of uniforms! Those are little things.

It’s the same in sports business, or any business really, isn’t it? The “minor insignificant detail” that ends up costing a million dollars. The one person you know who always wants a receipt. Including your boss on all important emails before they go out to your database. Making sure you post the right price on the website. Not forgetting to leave off a zero off of the number of hotdogs to order. Not forgetting a zero on your coach’s employment contract!

It’s the little things that matter, so do those things right. But it’s also the big stuff that matters too. Don’t be too caught up in doing so many little things that you forget to take the right path toward where you want to end up. You’ve got to have a destination in mind to keep your work honest, otherwise you could be doing the little thing totally wrong!

Do the little things right. It’s mostly little things that make up the big things. Find your balance. Communicate. Work with your team. Stay on track. The last thing you want to do is end up making someone else’s job more difficult or end up cleaning up a mess that could have been prevented. Don’t let that happen to you. Do the little things right.

Go Forth!

Money, Trust, Referral

Customers pay in three ways: Money, Trust, Referral
That’s it. That’s how they pay. Here’s a bit more of an explanation.

Sure – this is an easy one. Sales. Customers give you money for what it is that you give or do for them. Whether it be service, products, or experience, when a customer gives a sport organization their money, they’re asking for something in return – and in sports they are mostly looking for a story. Most of the time a great sporting event is a great story – everyone they see who wants to know what they did will hear that customer’s story of how the event went down. That customer will have some sort of story about how the play on the field was or how the experience in the stands, concourse, and parking lot was. That customer will have some sort of an opinion and hopefully a positive one that will keep them coming back.This leads me to my next point:

A customer’s trust is their attention. Their attention is how much of you they let fill their mind and their life. Trust and attention lead to more money for you. Because the team-fan relationship you’ve been building is much like the rest of the relationships you have, based on trust and authenticity, even though you may not be perfect, you’re doing your best trying to put your absolute best product on the floor. The reality of this is just that, you’re not perfect. People are not perfect and neither are the organizations those people build. No matter how hard you try, something will go wrong at some point. That’s not to say that you should be satisfied with mistakes – no way. Rather you should be demonstrating to your fans that you’ve always got their best interest in mind when it comes to giving them what they want – a great story to tell and one in which they can play a part. Give them your trust as much as they’re giving you theirs.

Finally, referral. Referrals are every business owners dream. Referrals are a customer’s way of telling you that they love what you do so much they wanted someone else they trust to be a part of the experience too; and by doing so, they’re putting their own credibility on the line too. They share with someone else they trust a story about your organization so compelling that that person ends up giving you their money and trust as well.

By doing and applying the things you do in your personal relationships on a business level, your customers will respond in a personal way – by giving you a piece of their precious resources: money, trust, referral. Today’s world gives us more options of things to do and ways to entertain ourselves than any other point in history. Whatever your interests are, there is someone else out there leading the way in whatever that thing might be. As a result, if you’re not doing everything thing you can to be remarkable in today’s digital world, you’re falling behind. Don’t get left behind. Money, trust, referral – remember these.

Go Forth!

Team versus Program – A Sports Marketing Approach

When it comes to figuring out the 50,000 foot view of sports marketing, there are two angles to take – do you sell the team? Or do you sell the program? Sometimes it is appropriate to do both. Sometimes its better to just pick one and run with that. If your program is doing outbound sales, it’s a good idea to make sure they are aware of both ways of approaching their conversations with potential clients.

The team is the group that plays right now. The current roster. Sometimes, these are the people that your fans are paying to see. If you don’t have anything else, maybe you’ve got a couple of superstars or a group of seniors that dominate or a new transfer or trade that makes your team worth watching. Maybe you’ve got a couple of one-and-done type of players that you just can’t miss or “see them while they’re still amateurs” kind of players. That’s the team angle of sports marketing – selling your current roster and the people playing right now.

The program is who you really are – what you and the people before you have worked to develop over the years and what you stand for as an organization. When you think of certain sport organizations from around the world, these are the ones that immediately come to mind; these are also the programs you have to stop and think about any famous players that may have come from their sidelines. These are the ones synonymous with greatness (or worse in some cases…). Sure, there are great players that rose to the occasion of playing for one of these teams and became famous, or better yet, legendary, but it’s really the program that comes first in this scenario. Regardless of your history, the essence of your program is worth being a part of – if you’ve taken the time to figure out your mission, vision, values and goals. If you have, you know what you stand for and what kind of “program” you are selling. In this case, the program angle of sports marketing is the bigger picture of getting people who want what you’re selling.

Team vs. Program – Figure out which angle your sports marketing is going to go and get everything lined up consistently.

Go Forth!

Football 101

San Francisco 49ers Game Ball
San Francisco 49ers Game Ball

“Football 101” events are another revenue idea that seem to have some great potential in the marketplace. A Football 101 event is a typically a summer event focused on teaching the game of football to fans in a relaxed atmosphere, coached by the staff of the football team. (This could also apply to other sports depending on the team and the community) With the right sponsors, an outgoing staff and some good marketing, these events have the potential to be very well done. Typically, most of the Football 101 events I’ve seen have been geared toward women and connected to some type of non-profit, especially one that is closely tied in with one of the football coaches or the institution itself.

Admission fees for events I’ve seen range from the low-end of $50 up to $120+ with allowed registration of around 75-150 women or guests for an event that lasts only about 3-4 hours. The registration fee would include a swag bag that includes some kind of branded jersey or t-shirt to wear during the event, along with other sponsorship related items. Asked to wear workout gear prior to arriving, the attendees would first be introduced to the team’s  coaches and hear a short  introduction from the charity partner, to be followed by a football drills session. The participants would be broken out into “position” groups and make their way through various drills and light position-specific workouts, going through each position. Depending on the group, a short scrimmage could be set up between two teams of willing participants, once they’ve learned the basics of the sport.

After the workout session of the evening, a facilities tour would come next, followed by a cocktail hour and silent auction with dinner last. Formal or not, depending on the intention of the event and the charity group, there would be a formal presentation at dinner from both the university or team officials as well as the charity partner. As part of the dinner program, I have also heard of athletes from the team being a part of these events and, with the right players, some sponsorship activation ideas work really well here (think fashion show put on by football players).

So, if your organization is looking for another way to generate some revenue, while also winning hearts and minds in the community, a Football 101 event is a great way to do just that. You allow fans to get a more personal feel of your program while also building the community of fans and supporting a non-profit with local roots.

Leave a comment below. Go Forth!