Engagement | September 8, 2011
can you improve on greatness? motivate your engaged employees
Recently, I was sitting through a client’s two-day leadership training workshop and heard a remarkable story about a coach named Anson Dorrance. His collegiate career culminated with the head coaching job for the University of North Carolina’s women’s soccer team, which touted the great Mia Hamm on its roster under Coach Dorrance’s leadership.
Upon arriving at work one cold morning, Coach Dorrance thought he recognized someone out of the corner of his eye.
He saw a woman sprinting at full speed, turning, and then sprinting in a different direction. She continued on, sprinting five yards to a cone, and back. It then went up each time… 10, 15, 20 and finally 25 yards and back.
This drill, an excruciating one Coach Dorrance himself had used with his national champion team a thousand times, was simply known as “cones.’ And who was the sprinter? As he approached, Coach Dorrance recognized his senior team leader, Mia Hamm. There she sat, breathing heavily from the exhaustion that comes from pushing your body to its physical limit.
At that point in her career, Hamm had received impressive recognition for her soccer playing ability: one World Cup championship, three NCAA national championships, two All-American teams, two ACC player of the year awards and ACC female athlete of the year.
Pretty good formal recognition for an incoming college senior, right?
But now, this seasoned coach was faced with a question many corporate managers ask themselves, “How do I motivate the person on my team that already possesses the passion and drive needed to succeed at every level?”
It would have been easy for Coach Dorrance to sit back, confident in the knowledge that his star player was on track, working hard in prepping for the upcoming season.
And yet, he felt compelled to do more. He drove straight to his office and wrote the following note to give to her, “The vision of a champion is someone drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion, when no one is watching.”
Mia Hamm responded, taking her already storied career to the proverbial next level ”“ winning a final NCAA national championship, a World Cup Championship, two Olympic gold medals, earning the vote twice for female FIFA player of the year, as well as numerous other accolades. And as a thank you back, in her bestselling book, Go for the Goal, Mia included Coach Dorrance’s quote on the inside cover. She also gave him the first copy.
As leaders of diverse individuals and teams, how do you recognize the hidden efforts our engaged employees are giving? Do you know when they’re going above and beyond, when they’re staying late to finish a project, when their innovation saved the company time and money? Beyond the employee engagement programs that standardize the process of giving appreciation, it’s vital to let your employees know you see what they’re doing behind the scenes to make great work happen.
Coach Dorrance found a simple yet powerful way to celebrate hard work and endurance. What are some of your best ideas for employee engagement ideas?
Check out Anson Dorrance, in his own words.