Close your eyes, go with me now…..
Picture this: A clear, cool, sunny fall Saturday afternoon in Columbus, OH. Imagine a packed Ohio Stadium full of 100,000+ rabid Ohio State football fans. A sea of scarlet and gray supporting the Buckeye nation with heart and soul.
I remember it like it was yesterday. The sights, the sounds, the smells - the electric atmosphere that is powered by the raging passion of OSU fans. The excitement of game day is accented by the steady crescendo of the band, the fans, and the emotion of the game. Well, after the game is over, the band has played the final Carmen Ohio, and the stadium is empty, what remains? I can tell you from personal experience what remains, tons of paper, cups, popcorn, and half eaten hot dogs.
So, what does this have to do with leadership? More than you might imagine. Read on.
During my days at Ohio State, the young men and women who were part of the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) program were the ones who had the unique privilege of cleaning up after the Saturday spectacle. The key leadership lessons that I extracted from the many early Sunday mornings cleaning Ohio Stadium are:
There is nothing better after a full night of collegiate football related celebrations than getting up at 6am to strap on an industrial strength blower to blow trash from one end of the stadium to the other. Not many things can compare to the combined odors of stadium hot dogs and gasoline.
So what brings a group of college students to be so excited about picking up other peoples trash after a football game? Beyond the fact that it was a requirement and a great way to earn money for the organization to pay for special events and activities, it was about common goals and teamwork.
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Just like the Buckeye football team on the field the day before, the cleaning crew acted with the same precision and teamwork. Everyone there had a common goal – to get Ohio Stadium clean from top to bottom as quickly as possible.
The teamwork was amazing with teams task organized with accountable unit leaders. Some groups smoked and buzzed with industrial backpack blowers to power the party remnants into manageable piles at designated spots. Others manned brooms to sweep and assist with bagging all the trash. Other teams were couriers to haul the bagged goods to a central collection point.
The other key leadership lesson taught and reinforced on those cold, early Sunday mornings was all about accountability. Every stadium clean up event had an accountable leader. They were ultimately on the hook with the Athletic Department staff to ensure that the shrine of OSU football was restored to its proper state by the end of the day on Sunday.
That accountability was communicated and shared by all on “the crew” as our common sense of purpose provided a strong drive for the team to be focused and effective.
The final leadership lesson was all about attitude. You could imagine that cleaning up trash on a cold Sunday morning after a long night of festivities would not be at the top of any college student’s list of priorities. However, through having common goals, great teamwork, and strong accountability there was always a great attitude among the leaders and the team.
How can you apply these lessons to situations you might be facing as a leader?
The first suggestion is to examine the goals you have set for your team. Are there central themes or common goals that you can rally your entire team behind? Think of ways you can modify current goals or simply communicate current goals in a compelling way that will better knit the team together.
The second is creating a culture and framework where accountability is part of your team’s DNA. Common goals and teamwork are essential building blocks, but the intent and will to make it happen are all about leadership.
The last point it to challenge you to think about how you can turn ordinary events or tasks into something compelling about leadership to share with others.
The next time you attend a football game or other event in a stadium, just remember that someone has to clean up your mess when you leave.
What will your team say about your leadership? After you lead will people be smelling roses ,or will they be immersed in the smell of hot dogs and gasoline?
Bryan Stewart is a senior healthcare marketing and sales executive with a global leader in medical technology.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Image Source: farm3.static.flickr.com
Filed under: Leadership Lessons Learned, Leadership vs. Management, Professional Development, Servant Leadership | Tagged: Accountability, Attitude, Common Goals, Leadership Assessment, teamwork | Leave a Comment »