This is what relationship building looks like… a Gatorade bath. Literally. That’s me somewhere under the umbrella of blue Gatorade hitting my grey suit. If you’re a sports fan, you’ll also recognize this scene as fairly common after a big win.
Here’s what isn’t common – me smack dab in the middle of the celebration. But when Guillermo Heredia scored the game-winning run for the Seattle Mariners in the 13th inning of the game against the Boston Red Sox, he insisted which is how it became a relationship building opportunity.
Heredia speaks very little English, so up to that point in the season he was never tapped for a “walk-off” interview. (The interviews that happen live in the dugout immediately following the final out of the game.) He had, however, seen plenty of them and knew the usual set up for those types of interviews. Heredia knew that I always stand next to the player in the dugout and in front of the camera. So when I tried to follow the suggestion of his teammate Danny Valencia and get out of the way by moving to the top step of the dugout, Heredia knew something was amiss.
“No, no,” he said smiling and pointing to the exact spot I would usually occupy. He then positioned himself accordingly, put his arm around my shoulder braced for the icy cold Gatorade.
I think I squealed. (I think most people would, it’s pretty cold.) And I knew I had taken another step in building a stronger relationship with someone I see and work with every day.
Heredia wanted me to stand there. To experience the moment with him. That’s how relationships are built.
My self-interest was secondary. Who cares that I would get cold? Who cares that my suit would be wet and sticky? Who cares what my hair and makeup would look like on TV after that?
Developing better business relationships requires you to be where your colleague needs you to be.
Sometimes your colleague needs you to show up in a physical space other times it’s a matter of being attentive to what they’re saying, or present in a conversation.
Your relationship building opportunities probably won’t include a Gatorade bath. Heck, it’s not included in most of the interviews, which is why I have to look for ways to build relationships through the conversations I have with players every day. You can do the same thing.
Commit spending 3-5 minutes today talking to a colleague, about something they want to talk about other than work. Remember, your self-interest in secondary which means, even if the subject matter bores you to tears, you need to engage and actively listen.
Or you could try a surprise Gatorade bath.
Jen Mueller, America’s Expert Talker, is obviously a member of the Seattle Mariners television broadcast team based on the photos shown in this post. She’s also the radio sideline reporter for the Seattle Seahawks (and dodges much less Gatorade in that position.) Jen founded Talk Sporty to Me in 2009 and makes sports useful in business conversations. Hire Jen for your next business communication training session. Jen@TalkSportytoMe.com
I’ve never had what you would consider the best relationship with numbers.
Basic math? Sure, I can do that, but learning algebra required an evening at the kitchen table with my father literally using apples and oranges to explain the concepts. (Which only confused me more, because what the heck do apples and oranges have to do with math? Although, whatever he said worked, and got me through high school calculus.)
Knowing that about me, it might be humorous to know that now I spend a lot of time during my day looking at numbers and putting them into context. Granted, I’m a sports broadcaster so the numbers I’m looking at are batting averages, slash lines, ERA’s, quarterback ratings, completion percentage and the like. Here’s the thing about numbers – by themselves, they don’t mean a darn thing.
Data is only as useful as you make it. If you can’t effectively communicate what the numbers mean or why the numbers are important, data is useless.
Seattle Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto touched on this very thing during a discussion he and I had at the annual GeekWire Sports Tech Summit. It was a fascinating conversation on how the team utilizes technology to collect data that goes into the decision making process. You can watch the full 25 minute session right here.
Photo by Geekwire/Kevin Lisota
The data collected through technology has changed the way the Mariners approach drafting and training players, as well as, where players are positioned in the field, and nutrition. There’s no area of the game that hasn’t been impacted by data. And yet – the numbers can’t tell the whole story.
The guys collecting all that information have to be able to pass it along to players and coaches in a way that makes it practical and useful. It requires additional communication and knowing how to have conversations that resonate.
The same is true for you.
You’re only going to be as successful as your communication skills allow.
Collect data, use technology, change with the times – but don’t forget that in the end, you still need to be able to talk to people.
It’s why I provide ways to engage with people through weekly sports conversation starters and have an entire treasure trove of Free Resources available on the website. Check ’em out and let me know what else you need. I’m open to suggestions just drop me a line Jen@TalkSportytoMe.com.
Want to know the reason it’s called career development? Because you are not a finished product. There’s something to learn, a new skill to obtain, a talent to develop and a way to get better. Where you start isn’t where you’re going to finish.
Even if you’ve just landed your dream job, like college football players being drafted by an NFL team, there’s still work to do. Just take a look at the draft evaluations from a few NFL players.
On Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor:
“Chancellor can play over aggressive at times, take poor angles and is susceptible to play fakes.”
On Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner:
“Wagner is undersized to play middle linebacker in the NFL.”
On Seahawks linebacker KJ Wright:
“Wright’s recognition skills and overall awareness need improvement. Has trouble with quicker tight ends and backs in man coverage.”
On Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman:
“Tall, high-cut prospect who displays some hip-stiffness. Not explosive when transitioning or when changing direction.”
If you didn’t know any better, you might think those players were set up to fail. Except that every single one them became Super Bowl Champions, developed into Pro Bowler players and become some of the most feared players on one of the best defenses in the NFL.
Either the “experts” didn’t know what they were talking about or the experts were right for a moment in time and the players improved, developed their skills and advanced past where they started. Perhaps it’s a little of both and perhaps you can relate to these Pro Bowlers.
Career development isn’t a haphazard thing.
You might not be able to control the final outcome but you can definitely control the steps you take along the way and the conversations you have with yourself along the way. Here’s the other thing you need to realize about career development: as much as you want others to notice your skills, or talk about your successes – some of the most critical conversations you’ll have are with yourself.
You might be fortunate to work for a manager who recognizes your talent and articulates the exact steps needed to work your way into a dream job. You still need to figure out a few things first and decide what you’re willing to do. Start with this list:
Be specific about the end result. Does an NFL player want to play one snap in an NFL game and call it a career? Probably not. The way they picture success determines the actions they’ll take. The same is true for you. You need clarity and specificity around what you’re trying to accomplish.
Be honest with your self evaluation. Despite what your parents or grade school teachers told you, it’s very unlikely that you can be anything you want to be. There are limitations to what you can do. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s a reality thing. Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin used to watch film of Randy Moss and Terrell Owens, two receivers over 6 feet tall. Baldwin is 5’10” with a different skill set. Don’t try to be someone you’re not, and be honest about your talents and proficiencies.
Be open to adjacent opportunities. Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor wanted to be a running back, then a quarterback. It wasn’t until he got to college that his coach moved him to safety, the position he was drafted to play and one that he excels at for the Seahawks. Chancellor wouldn’t have had the opportunity to find his dream job without the time spent as a running back and quarterback. Being on the football field and being around the game opened the right doors.
You’re not going to land your dream job on the first try. That doesn’t mean you sit around and wait for something to happen. Career development means you start moving in a direction that gets you closer to your goal – even if it’s not exactly what you wanted to do.
Be in position to fail. You won’t get past your current skill set and ability level without the ability to fail on a regular basis. Athletes get a chance to succeed or fail on every play and use either outcome as a teaching tool and a way to stretch their abilities. You need a safe space to go outside your comfort zone. Test the limits of your skills. Don’t berate yourself if there’s a mistake or a “failure” be able to look at it as part of your career development process.
Be able to tell yourself what to do. NFL coaches aren’t part of the huddle before plays. It’s up to each player to know their assignments and how to handle specific situations. Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright tells himself what to do every play. You need to be able to do the same. Trust your experience and your instincts. If you want to be able to coach someone else up (lead other people) you need to be able to do it yourself first.
Those conversations will lead to the opportunities to hone your skills and talents.
Authors Note: This post is based on a chapter in my new book coming out this fall. As was the case in my previous two books, I’ll be talking sports and business, but this one will have a leadership twist with an emphasis on the conversations skills that can advance your career. Keep an eye out for most posts in the coming months with excerpts from the book and the official release date. Until then stay in touch by leaving your name in the box marked “Let’s Do This!”
Jen Mueller, America’s Expert Talker, serves as the Seahawks sideline radio reporter and is a member of the Seattle Mariners television broadcast team. She founded Talk Sporty to Me in 2009 and provides way to make sports conversations useful in business. A talented and experienced speaker, Jen offers an outside-the-box view on business communication. Contact Jen via email: Jen@TalkSportytoMe.com
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