Wisconsin made national news recently when our state’s athletic governing body for high schools, the WIAA, banned chants commonly heard at sporting events. In a misguided attempt to promote sportsmanship, they wanted crowds to discontinue taunts such as; AIR BALL, SCOREBOARD, SIEVE… even USA!
The publicity started when a star from the girls’ basketball team in Hilbert, located about 20 miles south of Green Bay, received a suspension for tweeting an obscenity in reaction to the WIAA pronouncement. Word of her situation spread quickly. ESPN and Sports Illustrated, among others, lobbed heavy criticism toward the WIAA for censorship and being overly protective of student athletes.
Most of us wouldn’t condone our children tweeting obscenities, and her parents didn’t either. Yet, when putting yourself “out there” in any capacity - comes feedback. In sports, that takes the form of chants, boos and a loud opposing crowd. It’s expected. A professional women’s soccer player was asked about a particularly rowdy crowd after a World Cup game. She said, “I’d rather have thousands of people screaming at us than have 50 people in the stands.” Exactly!
Feedback starts early in life. There seems to be an inverse relationship between positive feedback and age. Toddlers get lots of positive feedback, and they thrive on it. Negative feedback starts as soon as they can reach the cookie jar. An unfortunate part of human nature is that we forget how important it is to give and receive positive messages.
We love to focus on the positive at Romo. We have a group that builds fun into what we do. We do pools, we tell jokes, and some of us even get roasted at the Christmas party. We like to see people succeed, grow and develop.
We also recognize that we aren’t perfect. Far from it. We strive for excellence but sometimes fall short. Bad news travels faster than good news, and like any work place, it’s easy to focus on things that don’t go right more so than what does.
People are surprised when the topic of our cultural values comes up, because the first one we talk about is embracing failure. We don’t run from failure, we seek it. Certainly not in the quality, timeliness or friendliness in what we deliver to our beloved customers on a daily basis; it’s recognition that in order to advance, we need to continually try new things. Inevitably this means the first attempts are going to fall short of optimal, if not outright failure. Franklin, Edison and Jobs knew this intuitively.
What is it about failure that is so important? It’s feedback. Feedback in and of itself is innate. We decide to make it positive or negative. There’s really a third category, and that is - lesson. It’s a learning tool, perhaps the most important one. Without it, we’re drifting along with no direction.
Maybe the basketball player who throws up a brick from the free throw line and hears it from the crowd should practice more, or change her technique. BRICK isn’t an insult, it’s a lesson. It may be difficult to hear at the time, but it’s a learning moment none the less.
So go right ahead. When we throw up an air ball, we want to hear, “Air ball! air ball! air ball!” not a silent gym. Some of us may cry on the bus ride home, and perfection will likely remain elusive, but one thing we can promise–we’ll be at the gym bright and early working on it.