Now that I’m close to putting 70 years on Life’s Time Clock, I’ll admit I’m not much of a sports guy. Never have been. No golf. No Tennis. No Pickleball. They don’t trip my trigger. I reached the pinnacle of my sports participation in High School. Some events are forever part of your memory. This is one of them.
It was a Friday night High School Football game. Under the lights. Packed stadium. My high school team versus somebody else. I don’t recall the exact team. Popcorn was popping in the concession stand. The Booster Club was selling hot dogs as fast as they could cook them. $2 apiece or 3 for $5. Great pricing strategy. I was mid-field. At the 50-yard line. Give or take a yard or two. I was under the home team bleachers. Engaged in some serious kissy face with a cheerleader. As she was muttering “Oh Robert” in my ear (who’s Robert – my name is Steve), the Guidance Counselor accompanied by his wife and their two snot nosed kids pass by my mid field, under the bleachers position. I called for a time out. It was too late. Whistle Blows. Penalty Flag. I was carted away for some sort of foul. My cheerleader? Back to her pom-poms. Our paths never to cross again.
This is my entire sports background. Hence, my confusion with Fantasy Football….
I’d been watching Doug pour over his iPad/Surface tablet thing while enjoying an adult pepsi at the local watering hole. Being a conversationalist, I asked, “whatcha doin?” “workin on my Fantasy Football team,” he says. “Oh,” I replied (trying to sound like I knew what he was talking about). Then my ignorance surfaced and I asked, “How’s that work, anyway?”
Here’s my advice. Never ask an IT guy how something works. They love to explain stuff to us idiots. In excruciating detail. Don’t misunderstand. Doug’s depth of knowledge is amazing. Doug is, after all, an IT guy. A Department Head at the University kind of IT guy. He knows his stuff in and out AND he makes a living explaining it to other IT guys. My how’s that work? question was a conversation filler. It didn’t need an answer.
After 15 or 20 minutes of “you do this”, “then you trade that”, “then you earn a point if so-and-so does this” …………. (You get the picture). I interrupted with a question, “How much time do you invest in Fantasy Football every week, Doug?” His answer surprised me. He said, “maybe fifteen or twenty minutes a day. You’ve got to keep your team up to date and you’ve got to stay abreast of the standings.” “That’s a couple hours each week,” I said. “Yup, I guess so,” Doug answered.
OK. My turn. Business guy. Sales strategy expert. Pivot the conversation.
I ask, “How’s it going at work?”
Doug says, “Same old stuff. My boss is an idiot. Mandates from up line are crazy. They’re out of touch. My staff barely meets productivity goals. I do what those Ivory Tower managers demand. Most of it is a waste of time. Like weekly staff meetings for my department. Every Monday morning at 10AM, I bring my guys together in the conference room. We hash and re-hash the same hash as the week before. Progress reports, problem areas. Half of them spend the day playing games on their iPads. You know, it’s a meeting. A mandated meeting. We waste time for half an hour, then everybody goes back to work.”
“I hear you,” I said. “Let me ask you a question,” I continued. “What kind of time do you spend on preparing for these weekly staff meetings?”
“I don’t know. I never paid any attention. 15 or 20 minutes to gather up paperwork. That’s all it takes.” was Doug’s answer.
“I’m hearing that you devote more time each week to Fantasy Football than you do to preparing for the staff meetings that support your income. Your income buys the groceries, pays the mortgage, funds your retirement account, covers your credit card bills, and allows you to enjoy a two week vacation every year. On Life’s Time Clock, you are ringing up more hours on Fantasy Football than you are on developing and managing your team at work. Is that what you’re telling me Doug?” says I. It grew very quiet in the old watering hole. I could hear ice cubes melting.
After a few minutes that seemed like hours, Doug says, “I don’t know. I never thought about things that way. Life’s Time Clock? You’re kidding me.”
“Nope. I’m dead serious, Doug,” I said. “Going thru the motions doesn’t cut it. There are a million kids out there that can go thru the motions as good as you, and they’ll do it for less money than the University is paying you. Time to recognize the responsibilities of leadership, Doug. That’s what it means to be a Department Head or Crew Chief or Team Leader or CEO. Leadership is about gazing at the horizon and seeing the future. Leadership isn’t about how to put nuts on bolts. It’s about ideas. That’s the stuff of leadership – IDEAS,” I told Doug. “Ideas are the currency that demonstrate your ability, quantify your capacity and establish your unique value to the University,” I continued.
Here’s the challenge I presented to Doug. Take half the time he devotes to Fantasy Football and devote it to creating a terrific staff meeting. You must Prepare. Unprepared is Unacceptable. To hell with Monday morning in the conference room and Styrofoam cups of stale coffee. Hold the next staff meeting on Tuesday at 2:30 in the afternoon. Shake them up in the middle of the quitting time count down. Go outside, under big oak tree in the center of the University campus. Give them lemonade – a sugar buzz to feed your message. Use the blue sky and the backdrop of Main Hall to share your view of the horizon. Your team has huge responsibilities. Look around this campus. Every faculty office, every co-ed with a phone, every lecture hall – your team provides the information link for every corner of this part of the world – the University. And, on top of that, you connect the University to the rest of the universe. Your team does this 24/7 without compromise. Same old hash, re-hashed? Never again. This department, the IT Team, is the glue that holds the University together. Without your team, this University is a bunch of kids in t-shirts and old men in tweed sportscoats walking around a manicured campus. Now, let’s look toward the horizon, toward the future. Share your progress. Share your problems. They are the fuel that propels the greatest IT Department on the planet……. (Oops. Sorry. Sometimes I get a bit carried away.)
Here is my challenge to you. To Doug, to Betty, to Daniel, to Eileen…… to all of you. NO MORE FANTASY FOOTBALL. Let’s do the REAL THING. Do your homework. Unprepared is Unacceptable. Prepare for your next department meeting or shareholders meeting or sales meeting. Stop going thru the motions. Anybody can do that. Stop merely putting nuts on bolts. Speak of ideas. Share your passion. Show your audience the horizon and the future beyond. Engage your department, your team, your shareholders, your business prospect, share your vision.
Ideas are the stuff of leadership. In business. In society. In life.
Ideas take us to the horizon, to the future, to success.
That friends, is Reality – not Fantasy.