Yes, while Michael Keaton is my all-time favorite actor, this week’s Huddle Up is not about his hilarious 1983 movie, “Mr. Mom.” However, if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend you do (“220, 221, whatever it takes”). It’s a comedy classic. No, this week’s edition is about my own Mr. Mom experience, and in the end, I promise to tie it back to leadership in our industry….
This past week my wife Sharon was called away to a conference as part of her new job. She has never been away from our 3-year-old son Brock for more than one night since he was born. So this 4-day trip would be new for Brock also for me as I’ve not had to be the sole provider for him for that long a period of time before.
All in all, the week went well, with only a few small setbacks along the way. I learned a great deal about how things around the house operate on a daily basis. As one who travels nearly every week for work, Sharon is the one who traditionally has to juggle her schedule to accommodate for Brock rather than me. I now have a much greater respect for how challenging the process of caring for a little person can be each and every day.
Here are some of the lessons I learned…..
The days go by fast – By the time Brock would get up and I would get him fed, clothed, dressed, and dropped off at school to the time I picked him up each afternoon, the hours fly by. It was really tough to get any real work done with handling Brock, running errands like picking up food to make dinner and his lunch for the next day, let alone trying to finish up projects and take a few urgent client calls, all while trying to fit in a short workout. It seemed like there just wasn’t enough time in the day, a rather helpless feeling sometimes.
Be flexible – Toddlers have their own timetables sometimes, so I tried to be as patient and flexible as I could be all week. I can’t say I didn’t get frustrated a few times, but we got better and better each day along the way as we got into a better rhythm.
Stay organized – I don’t know how some parents do it each day. The only way I survived the week with Brock was to have a list of things I needed to get done, and stick to the game plan each day. It was hard, but preparing for the next day right after I put him to sleep each night most definitely made the following day a positive one.
Given those lessons, how can we apply them to the sports tourism industry? Here are a few thoughts…..
It’s not about the money – Just like raising a child, it’s more about the journey than anything else. Most people in our industry are in it because they love the work and love sports, not to get rich. I’d venture to say that a good percentage of the folks in our space could make more money doing something else. With that in mind, we need to do everything we can as leaders to retain top tier talent given that we may not have the financial resources we would like to be able to offer.
Retention – So how do we achieve a high retention rate and keep our super stars happy? Employ some of the lessons from my time with Brock this week. Be flexible, let team members work remotely when they need to. If they need to take off a little early to get their kids to soccer practice, help them get their stuff out the door and in the car. If they need an extra half hour at lunch to get in a quick work out, give them an extra hour. Bottom line, there are not enough hours in the day to do it all, and the top shelf people in our industry work well beyond the typical 9-5 workday running events on the weekends, putting in extra time at night, attending business mixers, working on professional development, and promoting your organization. If we want to keep our people happy, we can’t chain them to their desk and put them on the clock every day.
Offer non-monetary perks – When Brock does something good, he gets a Hot Wheels car. He loves cars and they only cost a dollar and a bit of time to go to the store and let him pick one out. Well worth the small investment of time and a few quarters. In the form of perks for retention, at one of my first sports commission jobs we received a half-day every month that we could use however we saw fit. No need for a supervisor to sign off, we just had to tell them we were taking it. No questions asked. Some people used those days to get some errands done, see the doctor, take their kids to a movie, or to play golf (I was usually the latter of those examples). Rather than having to go into our PTO accounts or make up some story to spring ourselves free for a half day, we just cashed these in when we needed them. Some clients we work with have remote working policies, some pay for their employees' gym memberships, and some offer up funds to pay for continuing education. Whatever your methodology, there is always a way to give up something small that will go a long way with your top performers.
Play to their passions – Everyone has something that they are passionate about. Be it a hobby, a sport, their kids, movies, their alma mater, or a charity, there is something that motivates each member of your team in a unique way. Give them space to pursue those passions. Even if that means a little flex time to get it done, make way and empower your people to engage in the things that make them happy outside of work.
The reality is this, team members that are happy and healthy will out-perform those that are not every day of the week. Also, team members that are positively engaged rub off on those around them. Our opportunity as leaders is to be that “Mr. Mom” to our followers and cultivate an environment where they can thrive – personally, emotionally, mentally, physically, and lastly, professionally.
If we put the people first, the professional part will take care of itself.