by Dr. John J. Franey, CEO/Founder of Developing Difference Makers
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With Halloween right around the corner, I was helping my kids get ready for a night of trick or treating. They were so excited, but most of all because they were going to get to wear their costumes to school. It reminded me of how much fun I had getting to wear my costume to school, like the year I was Frankenstein, complete with champagne corks as bolts in my neck. In the mountains of academic work my kids have to deal with on a daily basis, it is the fun things at school that they talk most about at the end of their day. From project-based learning opportunities, to singing in music class, to art projects, to playing the Spongebob rock climbing game in PE, they excitedly talk about these fun experiences at the end of every day. My kids love fun learning experiences, like counting the pumpkin seeds that their class just carved out of a pumpkin, or learning about their school campus by reading a story on the gingerbread man and then looking for him all over campus (and being introduced to all the rooms and people in the school), only to return to their room to find a gingerbread man cookie and a note from him saying, “You can’t catch me I’m the gingerbread man!”
I never hear about the worksheets they fill out, or the writing practice time, or the practice workbooks they do in class. Don’t get me wrong, there is obviously a need for these learning tasks as well, but I wonder if in the modern push for high performance in schools that we, as a society, have lost the ability to find time for fun. It is no different for us as adults in our workplaces. Work these days is a grind for many employees and organizations, filled with the monotony of task completion after task completion after task completion. When I worked as a researcher in a higher education organization, I moved from one study to another, without any allotted time to celebrate good work that we completed or to relax and have fun. It was like being on a hamster wheel as one project after another continued to encircle me as I became dazed, confused, and ultimately burned out.
My colleagues and I tried to find time on our own to sneak in some fun and those are the best memories I have, particularly the time we spent watching World Cup soccer games and March Madness during the work day on our giant high tech video screen. Those days were all about rejuvenation while we laughed, joked, talked about things other than work, ordered pizza, and enjoyed each other’s company. At one school where I taught years ago, the whole staff planned a potluck for one Friday each month with three rules: 1) no talking about teaching and leave work and issues at the door; 2) nobody but faculty and staff could be in the room so we could relax and be off for a few minutes; and 3) have fun and eat! We all loved these days and looked forward to them and they brought us together as a staff.
But these moments are rare in most organizations, and it is causing workplaces and schools to be devoid of happiness and fun. Think about your own situations and organizations and think back to the last time where you actually had fun. No, I am not talking about the company picnic or holiday party or birthday cake, but when did you stop for a few minutes and have fun during the work day? When did you last laugh or smile, or enjoy a cup of coffee with a colleague without kibitzing about work issues? Oh, it’s been awhile I am guessing. But we can’t lose these moments of fun! We can’t continue to run the hamster wheel and think it will ever stop! These fun moments can breathe life back into an organization and can increase productivity and reduce stress and burnout.
So as you prepare for Halloween and see all of the kids running around excited, laughing, and having fun with friends, do not forget that you were once those kids having fun as well. You may think that was a long time ago (and for many of us it was), but how can we get back into the happy, fun mindset so our jobs don’t burn us out? How can you start a fun tradition that everyone looks forward to? How can you build in moments of fun to bring people together to laugh? How can you bring smiles to the faces of your colleagues and reduce their stress at the same time? How can you make a difference in the lives of your colleagues and friends?
If you have any great stories to tell or ideas to share about how your organization has fun, then post them in the comment box so that others can learn from your experiences! Most of all, don’t forget that it’s okay to smile, laugh, and have fun with your colleagues every now and then!
by, Dr. John J. Franey, CEO/Founder of Developing Difference Makers
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As another NFL Sunday of football rolls by, I couldn’t help but think about the links between NFL coaches and the study of leadership. While the game of football is action-packed with aggressive competitiveness being displayed throughout every game, it is also a game of schemes, plans, and decision-making processes. The leadership of NFL coaches plays a major role in the success of the team (of course, as any fan can attest, so do the actions of the players), and yet there is no one way of coaching that is most effective. Each head coach implements a different style of leadership, and at times will switch their style of leadership throughout a game. As I pondered the attributes of leadership during this game day, I couldn’t help but try to personify various leadership theories through famous NFL coaches. So here goes my take on leadership:
‘Great Man’ or ‘Hero’ Theory:
Coach: Vince Lombardi, Green Bay Packers
Great man theory (yes sorry to the women out there, but this old school theory suggested only ‘men’ could be leaders – an idea that has long since been dismissed) was based on great figures in history who were leaders (often on the battlefield). There was no science behind this theory or any justification as to what made these people great leaders, but everybody knew they were great. Vince Lombardi is a legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers and the first coach to win a Super Bowl. Most of us who prop him to the top of all coaches don’t actually base it on any great skill or characteristic, but rather we all just know he was a great leader.
Coach: Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks
Charismatic leadership is all about rallying followers towards a common goal or vision through an ability to connect with the masses through impassioned speeches and a ‘rah, rah’ attitude. These leaders are visionary and inspirational and have extraordinary effects on their followers who become emotionally attached to the leader. Pete Carroll personifies this style of leadership (both in Seattle and at USC) in his fun-loving ability to connect with his players and rally them to be champions. Watch him jumping around the sidelines and chest-bumping his players to see charismatic leadership on display!
Coach: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
Transactional leadership is all about exchanges between the leader and the followers that will help the organization succeed, in the case of an NFL team - win. This is not your ‘rah-rah’ inspirational speech leader, but rather a leader who rewards followers on their performance, always maintains authority, and manages all aspects of the organization to ensure successful production. There is no coach that more personifies this form of leadership than Bill Belichick. Listen to his post-game press conferences and you will get a very good feel that this leader is all about getting the job done without all of the hype and talk. X’s and O’s and performance reign supreme for this transactional leader!
Coach: Jim Harbaugh, University of Michigan (formerly San Francisco 49ers)
Transformational leadership focuses on idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration. This form of leadership appeals to the follower’s values and goals and sets the entire organization on a path towards a higher shared vision. It doesn’t get muddled in the X’s and O’s, but rather tackles the overall vision of success and is all about organizational change. If you look at Jim Harbaugh’s career path moving from the University of San Diego to Stanford to the 49ers and to Michigan, he has won immediately at every point. He quickly comes in and turns programs around by getting everyone on the road to a higher vision of success than just winning the next game. He engages players with inspirational speeches and influences the entire team and their performance. His famous team slogan after wins at Stanford says it all: “Who’s got it better than us? NOBODY!”
Hopefully this look at four of the major leadership theories through the lens of NFL coaches will help you to better understand the theories of leadership!