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Fond Memories of Super Balls and Pigeons

Mar 5, 2012
By Daryl Leisey

Categories: Leadership & Organizational Development

Fond Memories of Super Balls and Pigeons

March 5, 2012

Fond Memories of Super Balls and Pigeons by Daryl Leisey

A number of years ago…actually, many years ago….I attended a high school that had an historically good boys basketball team. While I never played, I enjoyed the excitement and passion that fans often brought to the games (especially toward our cross-town arch rivals). On one particular evening, our team was traveling to play those rivals on their home court. As game day had approached, quietly word spread through the school to students who would attend: Bring as many super balls as humanly possible, and be ready to throw them on the court when our team scores their first point!

That evening as I walked into the gym lobby, I saw a number of strategically placed trash cans, accompanied by rather serious adults. As I looked into one of the cans, I saw what were literally hundreds of super balls. Assuming that if each can contained similar numbers, most if not all of the balls had been confiscated. But I was wrong! As soon as our team scored, thousands of super balls exploded from the stands, bouncing and bouncing and bouncing, until they were all finally picked up. The place went wild.

Not only did we have passionate and engaged fans, so did our rivals. A few weeks later, our opponents met us at our gym for the return game. Everyone wondered if there would be a response. As the game started, everything seemed to be normal…..that is, until the opposing team scored their first points. As soon as the ball passed through the hoop, their student section stood, girls opened their purses and out flew pigeons with long, school-colored streamers tied to their feet. After flying around for a few moments, the birds settled to roost in the rafters of the gym.

While I’m not personally advocating these behaviors, one has to admit they were certainly creative. I often think about those days and the passion and engagement exhibited by those fans. The stands were often full, they generally stayed to the end of the game, whether winning or losing, and their enthusiasm and energy often played a significant role in how the players played the game.

In late 2011, the Gallup organization released the latest findings of a poll that showed that 71% of American workers are “not engaged” or are “actively disengaged” in their work. Those numbers have been fairly consistent over the last ten years. It doesn’t take the proverbial rocket scientist to realize the negative impact on turnover, productivity, customer service and profitability that results from a workforce that is not engaged. In their 1999 book, First Break All the Rules, co-authors Buckingham and Coffman point to the significant role of leaders in general, and more specifically front-line managers, as catalysts in creating an environment of engaged people. They do this by:

  • Selecting individuals based on talent, not just skills and experience
  • Defining expectations that focus on the right outcomes rather than the right steps
  • Motivating the individual by building on each person’s unique strengths
  • Developing people by finding the right fit for each person

An engaged workforce is well worth any investment in the people that help make it happen day in and day out.

(And as far as I know, no super balls or pigeons were injured in the story mentioned above.)

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