You would think that an NFL football team like the Houston Texans would have a singular, simple focus on winning football games. In meeting with Jamey Rootes, President of the Texans, I found out differently. Yes, the gifted athletes on the field with amazing physical prowess battle each week of the season for the ultimate goal of victory. Yet there is a second element to the organization that we don’t witness on television. The Texans’ approach challenges everyone serving in any capacity, whether on the field, in the front office, the stands or parking lot to consistently display what he refers to as IMPACT.
IMPACT was chosen to serve with a deeper meaning. The acrostic stands for the primary mission of the organization.
T Team player
I omitted the “M” on purpose because it caught me somewhat off guard. The other 5 letters were powerful; specific in intention and understandable for a sports team. They are words used in different meanings or context in a variety of mission or value statements. “M”, however, stands for “Memorable Experiences”. Jamey explained “it is the convergence or intersection of the Texans building winning teams and creating memorable moments that provide great experiences for the community and more importantly each person who comes into contact with the organization”.
A few seasons ago I was blessed with the opportunity to experience the “M” first hand. My wife, Tommie, and I were invited to watch the Texans take on the San Diego Chargers. It turned into more than a football game for us. For over 2 months our schedules had been pushed at a hectic, almost chaotic pace. Travel, projects at work, a new puppy (who is made up of pure love mixed with mischievousness, energy enough to power a small car and a center of the universe mindset) along with social and church obligations robbed us of precious time to simply enjoy being together. That Sunday afternoon we stepped out of our normal day-to-day challenges into a space where letting go and relaxing became our biggest priority. In our “rush, rush, push, push” world it was nice to stop and focus on each other. As I looked around it was easy to see that we weren’t alone in memories being created. On one side of us sat Doug Hall, Vice President of the Houston Organizing Committee for the Final Four Basketball Tournament, and on the other was George Postolos, former President of the Houston Rockets and former President of the Houston Astros. Accompanying both were their sons, enthralled watching the game but more importantly in rapture with the way each father focused undivided attention to them. The intensity in the fathers’ eyes as they spoke with their sons catapulted me back to a weekend in my freshman year of high school when my father took me to watch LSU Tigers and New Orleans Saints football games. Unfortunately, neither team won their game (this was well before the current Who Dat generation as Super Bowl champions). It wasn’t the final score which chiseled that experience in my mind 40 years later. As Mike Ballases, Chairman of Chase Bank Central US, stated recently that “Memories are created when we step outside of the routine”. Interesting advice coming from a leader of one of the largest corporations competing in the seemingly stoic environment of commercial banking.
Choices were made at the Texans’ game by at least 3 families to focus attention on someone important to them. Simply by paying attention to the wants or needs of someone they care about in a setting or circumstance that was unique or special created a precious memory.
Thanks to members of the Texans organization, the dads and I had help in creating our special moment. I’m not talking about the quarterbacks, running backs, lineman or coaches. I’m referring to the special servant hearts of a wide cross section of people who could have simply processed us in getting our tickets, finding our seats or serving food. Bonny Marshall, the Executive Assistant to Jamey embodies “M”. From our very first interaction, she consistently exhibited a desire to ensure we had all of the information necessary to find the easiest route to our seats. (This is no small task considering I reversed the direction of the map and ended up walking the wrong way around Reliant Stadium, which could also be described as the long way. In a future blog I may write about the conversation between my wife and me given she was in boots that were not made for walking). This did provide an opportunity to interact with 4 different guides whose gestures and desire to get us to our proper destination spelled out “M”. At the entrance to the section where our seats were reserved stood a beautiful young sentry, whose smile exploded from her face. The enthusiasm that poured from her eyes and mouth conveyed she truly seemed excited to see us. Bonny was waiting for us inside and although she had a number of people to care for, from her introduction to her parting words after the game we were made to feel that we were her top priority. If I polled everyone around us, my guess is all would have the same impression.
The people in charge of the food not only had their attention focused on the food being served but each made eye contact and smiled as they tried to help in our selection of how we were going to indulge ourselves. Every move signaled they were not just working there but rather served there. A young girl about 9-10 years old stood on her toes to look over the counter attempting to request her beverage of choice. Instead the response she received was not “here you go”. The beverage attendant fixed her eyes directly, lovingly on the eyes of the child beaming with care, energy and enthusiasm in helping her get the exact drink of choice. She had an almost angelic look on her face that made the young girl feel important and respected.
What struck me that day was the way we were cared for and served. I was mesmerized from watching what was happening around me, witnessing amazing memorable experiences taking place everywhere.
Today we have to be careful. Technology does not create memorable moments but only captures or chronicles them. In a time where 24/7 connection can be maintained through email and text, this is an important concept to wrap our arms around. We lose opportunities to have connection with people rather than simply be in contact. Email lulls us to sleep at times, offering expediency over emotional impact. Electronic praise for a job well done has its place but not the significance of a short phone call or even hallway interaction.
Memorable Moments are not strictly the victories in our lives. As a matter of fact, focusing strictly on victory as the measuring stick often blinds us to situations that could be significant. Did you empower someone to stretch, acknowledge a role as having importance or impact, offer support or encouragement as adversity was being faced? Small moments to us but possibly huge to someone else. Have you sent someone that is important a personal note lately? (try this with your kids as well as your clients) Have you gone out of your way to help someone, learn something personal about a client? Do we stop when someone is asking for our attention or do we send signals that they are simply squeezed into our demanding schedules? It is surprising how memorable we become by simple things not requiring we move mountains.
Yes, as leaders we are charged with generating bottom line results. As parents we carry the burden to provide and protect. Loyalty, true connection and the ability to be viewed as different or significant in the mind of our clients, staff and families is our highest priorities. Our challenge for 2016 is to find creative ways to send this message.