How Hawkeyes from Iowa show Heart

Iowa Hawkeye fans wave to patients of Stead Family Children’s Hospital after the first quarter at a recent game. Photo by Jeffrey Becker, USA TODAY Sports Images

There is a new tradition happening in college football and many may not be aware of it. But on Saturdays in Iowa City, Iowa, more than 70,000 fans wearing their beloved Hawkeye black and gold (and probably even the visiting fans too), turn to the east and – if during the day – begin waving, and – if at night – wave and even include their lights on their mobile phones.

However, they’re not waving their team onto the field or participating in a school fight song. Instead, they are waving to those who are already doing battle without any pads on, but with courage in their hearts. The Iowa faithful are waving at patients and their families in the newly opened University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital next door.

A Facebook fan suggestion has turned into one of the coolest, most sincere, perhaps most touching and gentle traditions for a sport where opponents crash and collide into each other with brute force. But at the end of the first quarter, there it is … tens of thousands waving to the tenth floor of the hospital, where the children and their families are watching the Hawkeyes from above. For these children and families, their daily battle may involve cancer, cystic fibrosis and diabetes (read more about some of these brave patients), but for just a moment, they are able to feel like normal kids, joining in with thousands of others on Saturday in the fall, rooting on their favorite team.

Given the theme of the blog, what communication tips can be taking from this sentimental sports story? Three important ones:

  1. The Big Picture: While they play a game below, the patients above are fighting for their lives. Instead of pretending they have a bubble inside the stadium, they realize there are those facing more serious situations right over their shoulder, and pausing during the game day festivities to recognize those brave individuals above. In the workplace, it’s easy to get caught up in just your individual task or what your team is doing. But taking a step back to see how your contribution can be part of the larger picture, or how you help solve a bigger problem, will ensure you always have a profound perspective.
  2. Inclusion: It would be easy for the football program or even the fans to forget about what building is looming over them or the tenants inside. However, instead of turning their backs, they turn their hands back and forth, helping to include the children and their families as part of the larger game-day family, providing a brief bit of normalcy in their daily fight. At work, don’t forget those who may be on the periphery as well. Ensuring the broader team is updated and feels they are part of the project will help ensure that everyone is not only on the same page, but an invested part of the process – and success.
  3. It’s Never Too Late: Usually traditions have been something already occurring over time. However, Iowa’s new tradition is just a few weeks old and one that is sure to have staying power. In our jobs, just because it hasn’t been done before, doesn’t mean something new cannot be created with a lasting impact. Stay innovative and keep thinking of new ways to enhance any experience. The best traditions may be ones waiting to be discovered at any moment.

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Lead Like LeBron

LeBron

More than two years ago, LeBron James returned to Cleveland. With it, the entire state of Ohio was placed on the broad shoulders of his 6’8”, 260-pound frame, more than 50 years of championship baggage from every local team dragging behind him, and one goal looming overhead: bring a championship back to Cleveland.

On the night of Sunday, June 19, 2016, weight was lifted, curses reversed, and the goal reached, with more than 30 million people watching. He led his team as the first to come back from a three-games-to-one deficit and win the title. He led his team to defeat an opponent that won more games in the regular season than any team in history. And he led his team – and the other team – in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks in the seven-game finals, on his way to MVP honors.

This was James’ sixth straight appearance in the NBA Finals and seventh overall. He won twice with Miami, lost twice with Miami, and lost twice with Cleveland. It is common for pundits to wonder which road – through which team – another team must beat to win the title. Perhaps the answer has been there all along…the road to the Finals has been running through James.

And he has been running toward his ultimate goal: returning a trophy to his hometown. James did it in spectacular fashion with efforts like this, which will simply be known as “The Block:”

James has gone through a maturation process before our eyes from a high-profile high schooler, to making a misstep in announcing his departure for Miami,* to an older, more humble, and perhaps wiser man returning to Cleveland. While neither you nor I can run, jump, shoot, or defy gravity like LeBron James, we can do one thing like him: learn to lead. Here are three lessons he’s provided:

  1. Believe in Yourself and Those Assembled around You. While everyone may not be as talented as the main player or the CEO, each person brings something different to the team, while all work toward the same goal. Historically, it was easy to doubt the Cavaliers as no other team had come back from such a deficit. James helped his team, and city, believe the seemingly impossible. And now they do…with a new trophy in hand.
  1. Focus on Today before Worrying about Tomorrow. Do you know how you climb a mountain? Easy: one step at a time. The Cavaliers couldn’t win three games in one night. Not even two. To achieve such a comeback, they needed to only win Game 5. And then Game 6. And then Game 7. A monumental task may not be accomplished in one day, but breaking it up and achieving small goals toward your overall victory makes it not only manageable, but achievable.
  1. Let the Haters Hate. When you’re anointed “The Chosen One” and do yourself no favors by referring to yourself as “The King,” as James has done, criticism and scrutiny are sure to follow. Even when you try your best or do your best, others will compare you to others, not acknowledge your achievements, or even simply refuse to like you.One of the toughest parts of leading is realizing not everyone is going to like or agree with you. But leading isn’t about being liked. It’s about staying true to what you believe is right; the plan you have put in place, the people on your team, and the small victories on your way to your overall goal. Like James, block out the noise and focus on the vision. In the end, you’ll be the one smiling – or crying with tears of joy – at what you’ve accomplished.

 

*Many chastised LeBron (including me) for announcing that he was “taking his talents to Miami” in a televised spectacle that riled many, especially those in Cleveland. However, what many sometimes forget (including me) is that this “horrible PR move” still raised $2.5 million for the Boys and Girls club of Greenwich, Conn. If only all of our worst PR moves were still so charitable.