Lessons from the past frame the future.
Beginning in the fall every year my coaching mentor, Randy Mills, took a group and turned them into a team well before the spring lacrosse season actually began. Coach understood that in order to gel on the field (in the workplace) his personnel had to first do so off the field (outside the workplace).
He understood one fed the other and the group literally learned how to become a stronger team by feeding others. As a retired Naval officer coach understood the value of the concept of service above self. By learning how to serve, you learn the value of how to lead.
3 steps to leaving a legacy
In 1996 when I worked for coach, his Thanksgiving food drive celebrated its 40th anniversary. It became a tradition I implemented when I became a head coach and a tradition I continue as a consultant through having my clients team build via community service.
Research shows there is a direct correlation between organizations with an ethos of making a difference in the community and increased revenue as well as customer and employee retention.
As the keepers of the culture, HR professionals can be the change they wish to see in their organization. Like one pebble tossed into a lake can create a ripple effect throughout a large body of water, your example of service to the community can create a ripple effect of excellence in action and inspiring greatness within your workforce.
Your three steps to leaving that legacy are to think big, start small, and act now because one person CAN make a difference.
Inspiring a great workforce
One client in particular this past year took my idea of teambuilding through community service to a new level and the long term results were game changing. It began as one person with a vision, aligning their passion and purpose with an ethos of service. The result was inspiring a great workforce.
My client, a health care organization, had a department manager decide to execute my teambuilding concept of a Thanksgiving food drive. She not only deployed her staff in the activity but also enlisted the help of human resources. By recruiting HR to assist, as keepers of the culture, they helped to make the message “go viral” throughout the entire organization.
The client wishes to remain confidential but has agreed to having me share the specific elements of the project (methods, strategy and outcomes) with the shared goal of helping other organizations do the same. The manager understood team building is about putting the right people in the right roles with the right goals. In doing so, you not only play to people’s strengths but allowing their unique talents to shine maximizes engagement and job satisfaction as well.
She asked the nutritionists on staff to plan the menu, hospice identified needy families in the community, human resources disseminated information on how to donate to the entire organization (and were the official pie bakers), and nurses packed the baskets of food and nurses/case workers delivered the baskets to each family personally.
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Great leaders, leaders of significance, help grow other leaders. My client did so by enlisting the assistance of the local Girl Scouts to hand make Thanksgiving cards to accompany each food basket.
4 key areas of teambuilding
To demonstrate the impact her community service project had on the organization, three vice-presidents from different departments asked to help not only donate but also shop for the food. People across the organizational chart who typically do not communicate with one another were now rallying around this cause, building morale and good will. You could literally see the participants embracing what I believe are four key areas of successful teambuilding.
- No. 1 – Shared Ownership: Quite simply, it is “our” team.
- No. 2 – Shared Challenge: Identify and feed 28 needy families containing over 175 people inside of 30 days. It pulled their team together with two questions. How and how well can WE do it? What you didn’t hear was, “Can we do it?“
- No. 3 – Individual Responsibility: (Getting the right people in the right roles with the right goals) As a coach, I learned from one of my mentors not to use the word individual ’individual’ in a team setting unless it’s followed by the word ’responsibility. These participants needed no outside accountability; they held themselves accountable because they were each invested in the results.
- No. 4 – Collective Pride: Team success is what creates pride and their collective pride was an outgrowth of service and unselfish acts. The service and unselfish nature of my client is underscored by the fact that they allowed absolutely no media coverage of this activity. They were not doing this to look good in the eyes of the public, they were motivated to help because it is one of their organization’s core values and the reward was in the very act of serving itself. (Coach Mills and I had the same policy.)
One of the beauties of teambuilding through community service is witnessing the carry over effects during and after the project.
What teambuilding did
The carry over effects resulting from the teambuilding project were reported to be:
- Improved relationships with colleagues who were not her direct reports. One of them approached her afterwards stating “I realize now you’re on our side; you don’t just say it, you do it. I see you out in the field making visits when no one else is available.” (The reality is that she was always doing that, but now that trust has been developed their eyes are willing to see it.) When you live your life within the mission and share the values transparently it becomes contagious.
- Getting more engagement and buy-in from colleagues (both within and outside her department) when introducing new ideas and initiatives.
- Her direct reports confide in her more and share their new ideas with her more openly because she showed them they can put themselves out there and be an agent for change.
- They grew as a team and as an organization by talking with each other more across departments. (Before this project two departments were not communicating, afterwards they now are.)
- Employee retention and quality of care has improved.
The ancillary benefits:
- The long term benefit (on the field so to speak) for her department was that she was assigned to lead a newly formed chronic disease management team shortly before the start of this project. In our meeting afterwards, she reported that they were more engaged and motivated to be a part of this team as a result.
- Perspective shift — Participants gained a greater perspective of how blessed and fortunate they are both personally and professionally when they learned about families in their community. One who would have eaten peanut butter and jelly for Thanksgiving if not for the efforts of the food drive and others who were hospice patients having what was their last Thanksgiving dinner with family.
- The manager’s son saw his mother’s efforts and decided to do a food drive in his school.
- She reported this to be the best Thanksgiving she’s ever had.
You don’t need a title to lead; you just need a clear vision and a plan. People will buy-in when they feel they work with you not just for you.
Like our lacrosse teams did, this caring manager with the help of HR was able to use her success and her team’s success to translate into something significant for the community outside the walls of their organization.
Much of life is really about using your platform to spread good will and serve the community. Do good and good will follow.