Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Football Makes Me Humble

I was not much of a football fan until about five years ago. I can now admit that the reason I did not like the game is because I did not understand it. As a matter of fact, I oftentimes found myself being quite judgemental of folks who did enjoy the game. For example, my husband! And then one Sunday afternoon, I was sitting in the family room reading while my husband was watching a football game. Now, my husband is usually very under-animated but he was cheering and booing and talking to the television...it caught my attention! I started asking questions about what certain players were doing and why they were doing  it. The next Sunday afternoon, I continued to ask questions. By the end of the season, I understood the game! But you might be asking, "how did football make you humble?".

It does not matter how many games I watch, I have to continue to ask questions because there is always something I do not understand. My mother, who is 88 and an avid football fan, may be the one who answers the question. My husband, who never played the game but knows it so well may be the one who answers the question. The kid down the street with a learning difference  may be the one who answers the question. In other words, I have to be willing to admit that I do not always understand what is going on as the players are running up and down the field and I have to turn to these other "experts" who I may not have considered. But, I have learned to ask questions to learn and get their diverse perspectives on the game.

Often we do not grasp what is going on in our organizations, communities or even our own families because we fail to ask questions of curiosity or understanding or get diverse perspectives from the various players in our life. You have to be willing to admit that you don't know and many of us, especially leaders, are not very good at admitting our ignorance especially if someone disagrees with us. Football has made me humble because I have had to admit that I do not know. But, with the humility has come learning and understanding ....what a gift. Not all who wander are lost!


  1. Marsha,

    Brilliant analogy, and wonderful website!! I am thrilled to see you and Karen actualizing your dream.

    I literally fell upon strategic planning/thinking in my graduate work at Georgetown where I am in the midst of a Master’s Program; strategic planning has become by degree’s focus. I thank my lucky stars everyday for the amazing insights I have gained in just one semester worth of exposure.

    You are absolutely right, strategic planning is “a disciplined effort to identify crucial challenges and issues, make priority decisions, and identify strategic actions that guide what organizational leaders will do, why they will do it, and how they will do it.” The thing I have come to understand is that this “discipline” is REALLY hard work, particularly when you are trying to do the work on your own.

    When we stop and ask the questions: “Why are we doing this?” or “Does this action make sense?” and “Are we moving the ball forward; where are we even trying to go?” – we come through this thought process having a better, maybe not the perfect or final answer, but a clearer understanding of: The state of the business, its direction and trajectory, or, “Yikes, it’s time to jump ship!”

    What seems SO SCARY at the front end is never that bad once these questions are asked. And, you are correct in using the word “humble.” It is humbling to be the CEO of X, the President of Y or the Founder of A and not have all the answers. But those who ask, those who force themselves through this process of discipline will always move the ball forward.

    Like in the game of football, all you have to do is get 10 yards in four downs and you keep possession. If you keep moving forward, increment by increment, eventually you’ll make a touchdown!

    Congratulations and keep me posted!!

    Ryane Danielle LeCesne

  2. I too, have seen the value, no the necessity for a strategic plan for the organization, and even my family. Now there's a group that would benefit from come visioning exercises!

    I am particularly taken by Marsha's football essay and the role of the "question" in our lives. My mom always taught us, ask the question because the worse that will happen is that you will learn or hear something new.

    Loretta Parham