Many smaller communities – even those in the suburbs of a big city like Houston – have weekly newspapers that cover the local scene…from new business openings, to city council updates, to high school sports. As major dailies across the country struggle for survival, local weeklies continue to arrive in mailboxes with pictures of the latest Rotary luncheon speakers or features on the latest resident to turn 100.
One reason the local angle resonates with readers is there’s something special about seeing a story on a restaurant you frequent or recognizing the photo of your fifth grader’s friend who finished as runner-up in the spelling bee. That’s much more personable than traveling on business and picking up the Omaha World-Herald or Memphis Commercial Appeal – or even reading about the politics of your nearest metropolitan area.
Residents of a community share a bond – a oneness – that’s somewhat like supporting a high school football team. All week long kids separate into smaller social groups and pursue individual interests, but starting with the Friday afternoon pep rally, they join together in a unified front aimed squarely at defeating their archrivals on the other side of the field.
There is an opportunity in your business to capitalize on that same camaraderie. Becoming the local expert positions you in a unique way to stand out from competitors. Identifying the bullet points of your unique knowledge base and communicating it in written pieces and speaking platforms positions you for success. When people think, “Wow, she really knows her stuff,” you’re building a relationship of trust that exceeds even a glowing front page article. (If your company is global, you would do well to think of situations where you can act local!)
The college football season kicks off tonight, which means it’s only two days until my beloved Texas Longhorns – yes, I bleed Burnt Orange – take the field against Louisiana-Monroe. Now before you laugh at the Warhawks chances against the preseason #2 team in the nation, remember it was just two years ago they upset Alabama, and the Crimson Tide’s head coach is the highest paid in the game.
One trait Mack Brown, Nick Saban and other mega-millionaire coaches share is the ability to observe players, determine what each does best, and place them in positions to succeed. When Mack had Ricky Williams running to the Heisman, Texas was a power-I team. A few years later, they instituted the zone read to take advantage of Vince Young’s speed at quarterback. Last year, Colt McCoy set an all-time record for percentage completion. Three different superstars; three different approaches. Lots of wins.
Business leaders would do well to take a lesson from college football coaches. Instead of struggling to fit your team members into your preconceived views/job descriptoins of what they need to be doing, look at their talents and figure out what they would be best at doing. Then go and recruit others to fill in the gaps.
At Texas, the best athletes also perform on special teams. Thus, Sergio Kindle, a preseason All-America lineman, is on the punt block unit, and Jordan Shipley, who has 132 career pass receptions, returns punts and kickoffs. When you have talented people, find a way to keep them on the field doing what they do better than anyone else.
I played youth baseball for five seasons…and our record always seemed to be 8-8. My team lost the league finals in eighth grade basketball. Through all my years of competitive sports as a kid the only trophies I ever won were in Putt-Putt tournaments, where I had an adept skill of hitting the ball exactly where needed on the orange metal sideboards.
One of my awakenings as a parent was learning this is an ‘Every child gets a trophy’ and “Everybody’s a winner’ world. There is a box in our attic of more than 40 trophies ‘earned’ by our kids. The fact is not one is for winning a championship. Instead, they are for participation – acknowledgment that attending practices and showing up for games is somehow worthy of recognition.
There is a new law on the books here in Texas that a school district “may not require a classroom teacher to assign a minimum grade for an assignment.” Why was it necessary for our leaders to enact this legislation? Seems many districts had policies that set 50 as the lowest grade a student could receive, even if they failed to turn in an assignment or made 30 on an exam. Perhaps those in charge of education are recognizing that the by-product of No Child Left Behind Without A Trophy could be a generation without accountability. One that assumes everything always works out in the end, because they always reward me for just showing up.
I coached my son’s basketball team for six seasons, and the last two we lost the championship game. Some kids cried afterwards, saddened by coming up short for the second straight year. I didn’t know what to say. If I had it to do all over, here’s what I would tell them: “I’m proud of you for growing as a team each week. You listened, practiced hard and are a lot better than you were three months ago. You aren’t always going to win. That’s not how life is. Learn from this, and make changes that make you better.” That lesson would serve them better than some trophy that eventually ends up stored in the attic.