Second Place is for suckers!
Maybe I'm simple-minded, but I like visual aids. I'm a visual learner, so it only makes sense that visual aids help me "connect the dots" and make sense out the topic at hand. At the office, I like to use white boards to capture my thoughts and explain things to others. In church, I actually enjoy a sermon that's sprinkled with a video clip or two that help illustrate a point. Visual aids work for me and some leave a lasting impression.
One such impression is nearly 20 years old. It's from college and my days as an active Texas Wrangler. Our weekly meetings were held on Thursday nights and essentially consisted of each chairman (Social, Service, Recruitment, President, Vice President, etc.) providing an update on upcoming service projects, sorority mixers, general reminders and usually ended with the Treasurer giving a report that consisted of three simple words - pay your dues! But I'll never forget the night that our Intramural Chairman (we'll call him Eric) got up in front of the group of about 75 guys to give his update.
The previous weekend, we had participated in the annual Alpha Delta Pi Kickball Tournament. This kickball tournament is a big deal and raises thousands of dollars every year for Ronald McDonald House Charities, which happened to be an organization that we served as well. I did not play in the tournament and I was not there, but apparently our team kicked ass (we've fielded some pretty amazing intramural teams over the years) and made it to the championship round of the tournament. Eric went on to tell us that the fraternity that we were competing against was whining, playing dirty, raising hell with the umpires and contesting every call. At some point, our guys had enough, took the high road and reminded themselves that it was a charity kickball tournament. We ended up losing the game and the championship. We came in second place. At that point, Eric pulled this big trophy out of a paper bag that he'd been holding onto, raised it in the air and said, "Gentlemen, here's to second place!", then hurled that trophy across the room and up against a brick wall where it shattered into pieces. The room erupted and the crowd.went.wild.
I remember that meeting like it was last week. It was an image that left an incredible impression on me. I actually saw Ericlast weekend and we reminisced about that story. It wasn't about the trophy. It wasn't about losing and coming in second place. It was about integrity and fair play. It was about what could have been. If we could have finished that game fairly, without the drama and without the whining, perhaps the ending would be different. Maybe we still would've lost. But there's more dignity in losing a fair, hard fought fight than giving in to a dishonest opponent. Eric sent a message loud and clear that night - Second Place is for suckers!
I've seen similar visual aids in the workplace. Thankfully they haven't involved large, wooden objects shattering against brick walls. One leader I partnered with made a statement by literally ripping up the existing Balance Scorecard sheet, onstage, at a team meeting to drive home the point that we were moving away from that standard of measuring performance and moving to something new, more accurate and far more sophisticated. Did it get the team pumped up? You bet!
Visual aids work and can be a great way to drive home your point. I mean who can forget how Al Capone demonstrated the importance of teamwork in The Untouchables? That left a mark.
Visual aids may not be your thing. Maybe they don't work for you. Visual aids work for me.
Here endeth the lesson.