Those of you who are familiar with the magnificent physical specimen that I have become will find this difficult to believe, but in high school I was a band geek. That’s right. Conestoga Valley High School, marching band, drum section. While the cool guys were running up and down the field getting touchdowns and girls, I was marching up and down the field in spats. Envious, aren’t you?
So being one of the drummers in the marching band was not exactly the glamor position. Unlike the quarterback and other players, I never felt particularly important to the team.
I’ll always remember the day that Art Grimm stopped in during band practice. Mr. Grimm was the football coach (great name for a football coach, isn’t it?), as well as being one of the finest leaders—and finest people—I’ve ever known. He was the king of the hill: the winning coach of a winning football team. Kind of like Coach Taylor on Friday Night Lights. So what in the world was Coach Grimm doing at our band practice? Here’s what he said:
“I just want you all to know what a difference you make to us during the game. You know, there are a lot of emotions that happen during the course of a football game, and whenever we need an extra boost, you guys are always there with just the right piece of music to lift us up. I notice it every week, and the players mention it to me all the time. I wanted to let you know that you’re a big reason we’re having such a good year, and I want to thank you for being such an important part of the team.”
It probably took less than a minute, and it was nearly forty years ago, but I still remember it like it was yesterday.
In my work with leaders of organizations large and small, one question seems to come up consistently: How can I get more engagement from my team?
Team engagement. It’s a common challenge. If you, as a leader, want to know how to get it from your team, take a lesson from Coach Grimm.People get excited when they feel like they're a part of something important. Don't you? Click To Tweet
People get excited when they feel like they’re a part of something important. Don’t you? The members of your team are no different. When was the last time you let them know—specifically—how they fit in to the big picture, and how important their contribution is to the ultimate success of the organization?
I was speaking at a sales meeting for a medical supply company. This company made just one product—a very specialized tool for treating blood clots. During this meeting, the company had a number of people giving presentations on sales, positioning, branding, etc. But then they brought out Tim. Tim was easily the worst—yet most powerful—speaker at the meeting. You see, Tim shouldn’t be alive. This company’s product saved his life. Tim was not an eloquent speaker, but he had an eloquent story. And then Tim’s wife came to the stage. Together, with tears flowing, they thanked the audience of sales people for being a part of the team that saved Tim’s life. By the time they finished, Tim and his wife were not the only people with tears in their eyes.
At that moment, each of those sales people had a renewed sense of engagement. They were no longer selling medical supplies; they were saving lives. When Coach Grimm spoke to us all those years ago, I was no longer just drumming in a marching band; I was helping to win football games.
As a leader, you know what the big picture is. Don’t keep it a secret. Not if you want true team engagement.