Feb 15, 2013
It was the experience of a lifetime: a father and son traveling to New Orleans to watch their hometown team win the Super Bowl. I began planning the trip as soon as I learned the Ravens were in. At every turn, strangers’ willingness to help us on our journey blew me away. And it made me wonder: Why can’t we always share the spirit of the Super Bowl?
We all know that sharing is good. But it’s rare to see an outpouring of graciousness in anything but the most extraordinary circumstances. In many corporate cultures, there’s a reason one-third of workers feel disengaged. It’s the same reason talented employees leave their jobs not to earn more but to feel valued. Companies often neglect to share their successes with their teams, even though this is a great way to help employees connect and invest. Perhaps the Super Bowl has valuable lessons to offer.
For us, the sharing began when a friend offered two tickets to the game. I then called a travel agent, booking a pricey, complicated itinerary that would get us to New Orleans but not easily. I mentioned how excited I was about watching the game with my dad. A few minutes later, the agent called back; inspired by our story, he went the extra mile to snag a much better deal. It showed me that when the weight of importance is high, when people understand the order of magnitude, it brings out their best.
But it didn’t end there.
Finding lodging during the Super Bowl week is almost impossible, so I was amazed how many people offered us floors to sleep on; a client even offered one of his sales rep’s homes. When we met up with friends in New Orleans, they invited my father and me to join them for the day, including their lunch with the city’s mayor. As we moved from place to place, fellow Ravens fans — complete strangers — invited us to share a taxi.
Throughout the city, even before we reached the stadium, the mood was infectious and emotions were high. People were in a state of graciousness you don’t often experience. This feeling of a high-stakes event made better by its participants reminded me of my hike up Mount Kilimanjaro. Sure, the adventure was great, but what really made my trip spectacular was the generosity of our crew and companions. I felt the same openness in New Orleans.
The spirit behind these gestures is one we may not associate with business, but it can absolutely change how we lead our companies. How often do you provide the opportunity for your team to really connect, to share experiences and perspectives? I’m not just talking about the annual company picnic but intentional, personal interactions between staff at all levels. Consider your executives, who possess enthusiasm for the company’s future; are they sharing that with everyone, or keeping it to themselves? If we could imagine ourselves in the spirit of the Super Bowl, everyone would engage in the desire to connect, support one another, and give.
The flip side of sharing is being willing to accept, even ask for, others’ generosity. On our trip, we faced several occasions when we didn’t have the answers and needed help to find our way. Where are you needing help, yet not asking for it?
One of my favorite parts of our trip was having strangers come up to us and say, “The look on your dad’s face, how happy he is to be on this trip of a lifetime with his son, just made our day.” A small moment, but one that goes deep. How would it feel if we all tried to give each other such experiences? I don’t mean the surface level sharing we do on Facebook and Twitter; I mean meaningful sharing, the kind that makes us feel connected, as employees, as colleagues, as people.
Whether the Ravens had won or lost, my dad and I still would have had an amazing experience, thanks to the people we encountered. That win just gave us one more thing to share. How can we make it feel like the Super Bowl, every day?