Tonight is a big night in Alabama. The University of Alabama is playing Clemson for the college football national championship. My family is poised with the TV ready and tailgate snacks in full force. Our social feeds are full of predictions, memes, and game commentary. Today at work was a “Blue Jean day” where we all wore jeans and collegiate shirts to “celebrate” an Alabama appearance in the College Football National Championship. Even the most bitter Auburn/Alabama rivalry is somewhat softened in hopes of the title coming back to the state for another year. For us, the holidays are in the following order: Thanksgiving, the Iron Bowl, SEC Championship, Christmas, New Years, and the National Championship.
I will be honest; I’m not very educated in the game of football. I get the basics; I understand the scoring, and I’ve been married to a football fan long enough to understand some calls. Even though I don’t follow all of the mechanics, I am still in awe of the game, the athletes, and the coaches. I find it fascinating that these young adults have prepared for these games during endless practices while completing college courses. In fact, most have kept that schedule for almost their entire education. What dedication and discipline they show?! It strikes me that we all have our own big game that we prepare for, even if it’s not in a sports arena. My next thought shows that each of these athletes have natural talents are cultivated and refined by those around them. Coaches, teammates, and the fans all have an impact of these players. Thankfully, I have had people play these roles in my life. These blessings have enabled me to grow as a woman, wife, mother, and employee, achieving success in whatever “big game” I was playing at the time.
Coaches come in many forms. From the strategy leader who challenged me how to look at new perspectives to the HR professional who coached me on speaking or appearance, I have had several coaches in my career that prepared me for the next step, long before that step was evident. I see so many leaders willing to be coaches, or mentors. The struggle is finding employees that want to be coachable. College athlete become great through years of tough physical conditioning, failed plays, and listening to coaches. I don’t know if you are familiar with Coach Nick Saban but I’m pretty sure that his feedback on plays doesn’t start with “May I share something with you?” Haven’t we all read a coach’s lips on the sidelines? Effective feedback can be tough to hear but is invaluable to growth. If you are considering embarking on the Next Top Credit Union Exec journey, please know that you will be given invaluable opportunities for growth. Don’t squander those by being unwilling to accept difficult feedback.
In our careers, teammates are those that we spend the most time with daily. Choose your teams wisely. Talented high school players often have their choice of universities and scholarships. Star players’ names become well-known for years beyond their college career. But one player doesn’t make all the plays. Each position plays a specific role in the design of the play. Can you imagine if the quarterback tried to play the entire game alone? What if we tried to formulate ideas or projects without the input of others? I have often encouraged new leaders to find someone that will hurt their feelings. In other words, have someone on your team who will tell you the truth, even when it is different from your perspective. I have that person in my career and he has challenged me. Teammates offer a different perspective because they are in the game with you and can see things that a coach can’t from the sidelines.
Lastly, we are trying to win the games for the fans. My screaming fans are my husband, parents, and kids. I like to succeed, to win, but victory is so much sweeter when celebrated with them. Through my NTCUE experience, I was surprised by the number of people who cheered me on. It was unbelievable to me that so many people were excited to see the idea develop and wanted to see it happen. I was most humbled by my coaches and teammates who became fans and cheered me on like it was football Saturday! After the announcement, I called a woman who has been an incredible mentor in my career. On FaceTime, her excitement brought tears to my eyes. She was proud of me and that brought me incredible joy.
To close, I wish you great success in your big game. I encourage you to share your journey with coaches and be a good teammate. Then, make them fans.
Oh, and Roll Tide, anyway.