I was digging through some old files and stumbled across something I started drafting on a plane sometime after championship 2009. It’s not really a white paper (at least not yet) and it’s certainly still in process, but I feel pretty strongly that it should be shared now, in its current form. As another FRC season is nearly upon us, it seems appropriate our FRC teams might all think about a toolkit we can all benefit from in our quest to develop tomorrow’s leaders.
So, with that said, here’s my current text/ideas for "What to do when…"
Woodie has clearly communicated that we are at a critical point in our growth – somewhere between overwhelming success and free fall. He made strong personal pledges at the 2009 Championship Event. What can we as leaders/mentors and teams do to ensure proper development? As we grow and gather more folks from popular culture who still have the “wrong” idea, how do we bring them up to speed and give them the courage and tools to more efficiently and effectively change the culture to one that the founders have been seeking since the inception of FIRST?
Ensuring FIRST (mostly FRC, but other similar programs apply here) as a high quality experience for all participants. AKA – What to do when you don’t “win” and How to stay grounded when you do “win”
Each year tens of thousands of students and mentors participate in FIRST programs in the pursuit of excellence and a changed culture for the better. As imperfect humans in a culture filled with poor behavior in a “winning at all cost” mentality we are inundated and influenced by examples that have led us to (insert eloquent statement about crappy economic conditions/lack of ethical standards here).
The vast majority of FIRST teams in all programs are/would be considered “losers” in the larger popular culture we all live in every day. For example, in the FRC program at the Championship event, statistically only one team can win a Chairman’s Award and only three teams can win “the title” on the field. Even after lumping in all other FRC awards at the Championship and the Regional Events many, many more teams go home without trophies than those that do. We all desire to ensure that our students have the highest quality experience possible, but how can all teams do this “on purpose” and “all of the time”?
I hold a firm belief that what one does in a moment of “losing” defines them as a human being. Way too many people in our world want to point fingers, get agitated, insist that others need to “fix” the wrongdoing, etc. This can be especially true for an organization that “wins” a great deal. When expectations are high, disappointment and bad behavior can be higher. For leaders of teams, people, workplaces, organizations, and families setting that kind of example for our young people is one of the absolute WORST possible things any one of us can do. However, showing that we don’t care at all about how well we perform is also one of the absolute WORST possible things any one of us can do for our youth. It is also completely understandable why anyone who invests time and energy so profoundly to an effort such as FIRST would potentially have negative reactions when we “lose” on the field or with the judges. It’s because our investment is deep and because we care. So, I propose we need some guiding wisdom and a toolkit of sorts to help us lead our students through those defining moments so we produce with great purpose and in the largest number possible, the kinds of individuals who build up the mental and emotional calluses that can overcome adversity to solve hard problems in a team environment. (insert stories like that of NASA/JPL folks who spent years and years of their lives only to “fail” catastrophically with a mission and, somehow, inexplicably, they pointed no fingers and said with great confidence, “Yes, I want to try this again.”)
(more detail to be added here, this is just a brain dump)
- Guiding beliefs/philosophies – have them, live them, REALLY live them
- Set goals for performance of ALL kinds and ensure BOTH intrinsic (can control) and extrinsic (can’t control) motivators exist.
- Operate the organization in a way that participants know, really KNOW, when they are in the midst of a defining moment – positive, or negative. This requires buy in and training.
- Books, speeches, video … develop the “whole” student (and adult for that matter)
- Incorporate best practices for personal, team, and workplace success from all over the globe. In many cultures people live longer and more happily than we do, yet, we are supposedly the “richest” in the US??? Hmmmm … learn from all (insert your examples here)
So there’s my set of incomplete thoughts on “What to do when…” I believe we need to be fully conscious of these matters as we move forward to critical mass or we run the risk of not achieving what we are setting out to do. Perhaps this is something someone would like to build on or use in some way for their own team.
Do any teams already address this formally/systematically in meaningful ways? Are there any great ways to “train” folks about being aware “in the moment”? I have some thoughts, but I’d love to hear yours.
namaste and good luck in the upcoming FRC season.