There’s a popular commercial running these days about why The Ohio State University has kept their helmets the same for decades. The commercial explains the logic (in short) behind how and why their student-athletes earn buckeye leaf stickers to be placed on their helmets.
If you were to look up symbolism in the dictionary or online you will learn that symbolism is defined as:
“the use of symbols to represent ideas or qualities.”
Qualities. Ideas. Symbols.
Symbols can be very powerful. If you have any doubt about their importance, look no further than how popular emojis, avatars and bitmojis are. Symbols are incredibly persuasive because they take complex ideas and simplify them. In the world we live in, I believe we all are looking for more simplicity.
How can we apply this to our businesses? It’s easy. Stop trying to put your mission, vision, and values into words and think about its essence. If you cannot define what you aim to do and why you exist by creating a symbol, there is a very real possibility that your teammates and consumers of your products/services have no idea why you exist.
Let’s be honest with ourselves, can you recite your organization’s Mission Statement? Can you recall your vision without looking it up? When you make your organization’s purpose easy to understand, you create a common language. You create opportunities for your brand ambassadors to understand your purpose, but you also allow them to express your purpose in their own unique way.
People do not buy products. People buy relationships. People buy “stuff” that they can relate to. Even if everyone within your organization did memorize your Mission Statement, would it resonate with your target market? My guess is that it would for some, but it wouldn’t for most.
Simplify your messaging. Empower your teammates and watch the results. You will be amazed. There IS some value in “doing things the way we have always done them” if what you are doing is truly meaningful and memorable.
Hey there. I know you’re not a frequent reader because I haven’t updated my blog in 2+ years, but guess what, today something hit me so hard that I thought I should share my thoughts. You may disagree. You might even agree. It doesn’t matter. I’m right about this. If you disagree, please take a bit longer to examine your thought process.
I’ve selected an image to be attached to this post. Honestly, I am disturbed that it exists and I had a hard time taking a screenshot of it because all I could think of was that I may also be contributing to the problem I am about to dive further into.
The title of this blog is misleading. It’s not when memes go wrong, it’s when people go wrong. I go wrong a lot. I know it. Most people know it and I’m not denying it. So please, don’t take me for a hypocrite. One thing I do know is that I NEVER joke about mental health.
Chris Cornell. Chris Cornell died this week. He left this earth and he left behind groundbreaking music, but he also left behind three children and a wife that he adored. By all accounts, Chris had everything you and I have probably ever wanted, but he had something else that some of us might deal with day to day, some others might have a family member who fights their illness day-to-day and others may have never experienced depression, a mood disorder or any other type of “mental illness”.
By now, you’ve read a lot. Here is my point. If you walk by three people a day, statistically one of those people has had or will have a depressive “episode” in their life. As a side note, I am using quotation marks when I must use terms that I do not agree with.
Chris Cornell did end his own life. This is a fact. Aaron Hernandez (the football player convicted of 1st-degree murder) also killed himself inside his prison cell. Both of these HUMAN BEINGS had nothing in common with the exception on the Hollywood limelight.
To compare these tragic events in the hopes of a few Facebook Reactions, Twitter RT’s or whatever is completely insensitive and one of the key indicators of why our (the American) society continues to trot along with blinders on our eyes to the real issues we must first address.
Please stop using other people’s misfortune to gain a laugh, promote your product or further your own selfish initiatives.
Suicide is NOT an issue of someone taking their own life. Suicide is the sometimes sudden, but other times prolonged process of brain chemicals causing a person to experience various levels of suicidal thoughts and/or depressive/manic episodes.
People who struggle with a mental health diagnosis are ill. Some may be ill for a short time, others may battle their illness their entire life. NO ONE ever makes fun of someone battling cancer, but in less than 48 hours people have created memes about a HUMAN BEING ending their life. Correction, what I should have said is that a HUMAN BEING’s illness finally became insurmountable and they succumbed to it.
If you’re reading this and you feel like it is an attack on you, it isn’t. This image and cultural appropriation runs rampant in our society. It must be stopped. I am just sharing my thoughts because I fight a struggle myself. I don’t know what struggle Chris Cornell fought. For that matter, I don’t know what battle(s) Kurt Cobian, Layne Staley, Bradley Nowell and so many others have fought. You can read the articles and call it drug addiction, but please know that addiction is a mental health diagnosis and often the after effect of a pre-existing mental health diagnosis and they call is co-morbidity. Look it up.
Anyhow, please just stop it. There are a lot of funny and often hilarious things that take place in life. Unfortunately, there are also very sad and tragic things that take place every day, too. We know about the more tragic events because of a thing we call, “the news”.
With social media, we can be the NEW news. We can share the positive. We can discuss issues and we can also debate. Unfortunately, we can also make light of serious situations. We can jest at others misfortune knowing that they may never see it but we may forget that the loved ones left behind may see it.
I know I’ve done my fair share of making light of others misfortunes before and I am confident that if you go back in my FB history you will probably find more than one instance of this immature behavior and I will likely be a hypocrite in someone’s eyes in the future, but for some reason this issue just really hit me hard.
I could write nonsensically all day. Trust me, I could. At the end of the day, I am writing this because it’s cathartic and I hope that it will change my future behavior and maybe someone else’s. For the last 72 hours or so I can’t tell you how many times I have listened and viewed some of Chris Cornell’s YouTube videos. I am thankful that we all have those to remember him by.
This title makes me sound like I am a physicist or something. I assure you that I am not. However, I am quite in-tune with human emotions and behavior. While I’m now in marketing, my first love has always been psychology and sociology. What makes people do the things that they do? Why do certain groups form? How and why do people choose to interact the way that they do?
I think that we all should question ourselves occasionally. Why are we putting in extra hours? Why do we love (hopefully) what we call work? What is the source of our motivation? What are we trying to accomplish? It’s cliché to say stop and smell the roses, but it’s human nature to get caught up in all of the projects and responsibilities that we have. It’s not human nature (at least not mine) to actually take time to be a part of our everyday experiences. I’m still working on this myself, so, please do not assume that I am speaking from an enlightened state. Nope. This is more of a philosophical blog.
I suppose what I’m getting at is that our lives are made up of a never-ending (well it does end at sometime) series of moments and like the saying, “You learn more from your loses than you do from your victories” speaks to, at every moment of our lives, we are either winning or losing the moment. Since no one that I know of is “winning” at every moment (with the exception of Charlie Sheen), I think it makes sense to reflect on our experiences. Here’s the kicker. You can’t reflect on something if you haven’t truly experienced it.
Maybe we don’t want to question ourselves. Maybe we’re afraid of the answers we might find. I’m sure that I wouldn’t be completely satisfied with all of my responses, but if you don’t uncover areas you can improve on, you’ll never reach your full potential. The lesson here is that in all aspects of your life (faith, family, social, work) we should all be striving to improve. Personally, I’d like to be a better teammate at work. I’m pretty sure most of us would agree that being liked is nice and being respected is even better, but how many times are we actively assessing our interactions with others? How can we create a rapport with people if we aren’t honest with ourselves about how we are treating or leading others.
So, the question is this: How much energy are we putting into “doing” compared to the amount we put into the assessment of the things we do? My guess is that for myself and many others, there is an imbalance in favor of the former compared to the latter. What do you think? Do you have any tips or tricks? How can we better assess ourselves? Let me know by leaving a comment.
This is yet another wrestling blog that I will attempt to relate to leadership development. Please take a second to watch the video posted above (hyperlink under the picture of Tom Brands, the Iowa Hawkeye Head Wrestling Coach.) If you’re still somewhat engaged after that, please continue reading.
My blogs are usually long and drawn out, so, I will try to keep this one “shorter”. In college wrestling, there are 10 weight classes. Most matches are won by a point or two and for a decision win ( a win by less that 8 points) your team earns 3 team points. I won’t go further into scoring, but hopefully you can see that matches are close and the outcome is determined by 10 head to head matches. Last night, Friday, January 4 2013, the Iowa Hawkeyes won 7 out of 10 matches and won their dual against a tough Ohio State wrestling team by a score of 22-9. You can do the math.
So what am I driving at here? In the video interview, you see a fired up coach after a dominate performance by his team. They won, he should be satisfied and hopeful about the future, right? Wrong. Even minutes after defeating one of the tougher teams in the Nation, coach Brands goes on to talk about everything they could have done better. He mentions missed opportunities by his student-athletes, but most importantly, Brands says that he is responsible for what he considers a poor performance.
How easy is it for all of us to gloat and relax after we complete a successful task? We meet our goals and we think, “Mission accomplished.” On the flip-side of that, how easy is it for us to search for excuses when we fall a bit short of our intended outcomes? Pretty easy. It’s human nature for the most part.
What I want to drive home here are a couple things. Intensity about what you do for a living is important. Too much intensity can be unhealthy, but if you are not intense about what you do, this implies a lack of dedication to being the best you that you can be.
Performance standards. We all have performance standards, but when we don’t meet them, how likely are we to be critical of ourselves like Brands is in the video above? He could have easily said, “I’m an Olympic medalist, decorated NCAA wrestler and I have taught these wrestlers everything I know. They just didn’t put it into action.” When you think about it, after the last day of practice, a wrestling match’s outcome is completely out of control of the coach. It’s not like in football where bad play calling can determine the outcome of a game. Brands is a leader and a good one at that. Leadership is not about beng always being right. It is about putting people in places where they can be successful and overseeing the process. It’s about intervening to offer assistance when needed, but what is most important is the willingness to accept when you may have failed to do all of the things you needed to do to give your team an opportunity to succeed.
If you take the wrestling aspect out of the equation and just look at the thoughts, ideas and standards that Brands mentions, I think we all can learn a lot about the characteristics of effective leaders. Sometimes, accepting responsibility for a poor performance is the best thing a leader can do because it shows your colleagues that you have just as much skin in the game as they do.
Be passionate about what you do. If you’re in the credit union industry and you’re reading this, you have a lot to be passionate about. Passion leads to a healthy level of intensity and intensity breeds a level of self responsibility. All of these things are related to each other.
What are some other characteristics of effective leadership that you can think of?
First thing’s first, among my unhealthy love of Star Wars, Apple and quite a few other geeky things, I am a hardcore Notre Dame fan. Regardless of your personal proclivities in regard to college football, I think we all can enjoy an underdog story. If you’re reading this, you are probably:
Affiliated with a credit union
Either way, you might as well read this until the bitter end. No one likes a quitter. So, what can credit unions learn from Rudy?
Being huge isn’t a prerequisite
“Size matters not.” – Yoda
How I managed to get a Star Wars reference in here amazes me…
Anyhow, the size of your membership, your asset size or the number of employees under your roof will NEVER be as important as the effort your team puts forth. We must always be mindful that our members have chosen us as their financial institution. We should be working everyday to show our members why they made the right choice.
Rudy Ruettiger was the smallest guy on the field. He wasn’t an All-American, he wasn’t even a starter, but he is remembered. Why? Because his efforts and constant desire to succeed left a lasting impression on those around him. This leads into my next point…
Win your team over and your fans (members will follow suit.)
If you can’t win your own team over, how can you expect others to buy-in to what you’re doing? A culture of success is a tough thing to build, but it is absolutely necessary. If you want to know more about culture, I strongly suggest you follow Matt Monge on Twitter and read his blog posts regularly.
During Rudy’s time at Notre Dame, there was a culture of success. Today, well, not so much. Either way, Rudy bought-in to that culture. He did the things that no one wanted to do and he took a beating while doing it. Eventually people noticed. In fact, Rudy had no right to even dress for a game. The only reason he dressed for the final game of his Senior year and actually stepped on to the field is because his teammates saw what he was all about. As credit union professionals, we have to work hard everyday with the resources that we have. Hard work hardly ever goes unnoticed. If you can get your teammates to do this you are on the right track.
The Practice field
In my humble opinion, too much emphasis is based on immediate results. People are always looking for a shortcut or an easy way to achieve what it has taken others many years to accomplish. Don’t get me wrong, no one should be making decisions willy-nilly, but success takes time. Your office is your practice field and chances are you’re on that field at least five days a week. Are you doing the research? Are you thinking: “How can I create a solution?”
Put the time in, make a plan and then execute. A good friend and mentor of mine, Kevin Ralofsky would say this, “It’s all about blocking and tackling.” I’m not sure how Kevin would feel about this reference, but here goes: If you find yourself struggling, ask for help. In Rudy’s case, D-Bop (played by Jon Favreau) was that help. Yes, Kevin, if you are reading this, I just called you D-Bop.
A good mentor is hard to find and admitting you need guidance is usually even more difficult. Regardless, a healthy apprentice/padawan (again with the Star Wars references) relationship can go a very long way. Credit Unions are in the business of collaboration and cooperation. Have you started building a network of people who can help you achieve your goals? They are out there and there’s no doubt in my mind that they are waiting to help. Find your D-Bop, get on the field and do something memorable.
Persistence pays off
If you succeed at first, congratulations. For many of us this won’t be the case. If it is, again, congratulations, but ask yourself, “Am I setting my goals high enough?” Setting easy goals and checking them off may feel good, but how much better does it feel to do something big? Answer: It feels fantastic.
It won’t be easy, and it won’t come quick, but it shouldn’t. The toughest part about being persistent is, well, being persistent. When things get rough, our natural reaction is to seek some way to alleviate the “pain”. I call this finding a solution. What is important to note is this: There are no simple solutions for complex problems.
The first solution is not always the best. It’s not like a multiple choice exam where you just go with your first thought (this got me through college.) These sort of things need to be thought out. If it is a problem that requires immediate attention, stop the bleeding and then go in search of the source. Whatever you do, don’t quit! If you’re reading this, you’ve put a lot of time into (reading this, and) what you do. I bet you’re proud of what you’ve done. You should be (not talking about reading this blog post.)
I’ll leave you with this. Rudy almost quit. The underdog story of this young man almost never happened. Some of you may wish it never did happen because then you wouldn’t have to read this. Either way, sometimes, when we are the closest to accomplishing the things we’ve been working for, the opportunity to quit presents itself. Don’t do it. Don’t compromise either. Seek the guidance of a good friend or mentor and find the right solution.
(All spelling and grammar errors are my gift to you. Free of charge. You can thank me later.)