I’m on a plane with my eleven-year old son, Tate, heading home after a long weekend hockey tournament in Nashville. I didn’t say I was sitting next to my son…thanks to Southwest Airline’s open seating policy…Tate chose to sit in the back of the plane with his teammates…far from the adults! Smart kid.
Before the tournament Tate and I were invited to attend the season home opener of the Nashville Predators vs. Minnesota Wild hockey game. The gentleman that invited us to the game has been a mentor of mine for the past ten years…and by far the most successful real estate entrepreneur in Nashville’s history. But what makes Bob Parks special is his humility. Very few people in the country have accomplished what he has. But you would never know it. I don’t think we talked about business the entire game. Business has never been the most important thing to my friend. People have. I guess that is why Bob’s company has the largest market share of all residential real estate sold in the metro Nashville area. People first. Profit second. Hard to build that kind of culture. But it’s been worth it in the long run.
I’ve been to a lot of NHL hockey games in my lifetime. Tate and I plan to visit all 31 (soon to be 32) teams before he graduate’s high school. But I’ve never been to an NHL game like thePredators. Their fans are insanely passionate. A post season play off game in most stadiums sounds like a regular season game in Nashville. Even Bob, well into his 70’s, was cheering like a teenager.
The Predators sure know how to pull on your heartstrings during the game. I literally teared up twice during the first period. Once when they introduced an older Vietnam War Army veteran…listing all his war hero accomplishments. When they mentioned “Purple Heart”…the place went crazy saluting and cheering for this man’s service and sacrifice for our country…tears streaming down his face with pride…his wife standing by his side.
Minutes later they showed a live video stream on the big screen jumbotron of a ten-year old girl sitting in her hospital bed at Children’s Ho
spital cheering for her Predators. I’ve never seen anything like it. Folks didn’t know what to do…cry or cheer. So, they did both…all 17,113 of them. Most of them wearing bright Predators yellow shirts…wiping away tears and cheering for this kid’s battle for her life in some hospital bed miles away.
And to top it all off, after the first period, Keith Urban, one of Nashville’s top country stars grabs a guitar from the Predator’s “house band” and starts jamming his new #1 hit song.
And the Predators won their season opener. 5-2. Could it get any better than this?
The next afternoon my buddy John and I were driving our boys to the Ford Ice Arena for their first game. John and his son were at the Preds game the night before as
well. And we were saying the same exact thing. “That was the most amazing game…UNTIL!!!”
After each of the Predators four goals, Tim McGraw (Nashville’s other top country super star) sings on the jumbotron his hit song, “I like it…I love it…I want some more of it “. Just about all 17,000 people singing along. And then everyone screams and chants at the end of the song…at the top of their lungs…”You Suck, You Suck, You Suck, You SUCK – SUCK – SUCK!!!”. Repeatedly.
Bob leans over to me and says, “Hard to believe we are in the bible belt”…practically apologizing for his towns rude and crass game time behavior. It didn’t bother me at first until I looked over at my eleven-year-old son…quiet and confused. And then looking around seeing all the fathers and young sons singing together, “You SUCK – SUCK – SUCK!!!”.
It put a knot in my stomach. As it did with my buddy John. We both agreed, “Last night’s game was such a contradiction…saluting a war veteran, giving hope and a smile to a sick kid in a hospital bed and then…BANG!
Just about any good mother or father that has a kid playing a sport would bench their son or daughter if they told a referee, opposing player or their coach that they “SUCK – SUCK – SUCK”. Jill and I benched our son for a week last year for writing an inappropriate word on his coach’s birthday card. Yet hundreds and hundreds of young boys and girls of Nashville, Tennessee were cheering and chanting those same words at the Predators game. What a contradiction.
Got me thinking. Do I have any contradictions in my life? Do I have any contradictions in my company’s culture? Do I have contradictions in the way I lead? And the answers are, humbly admitting…yes, yes and yes.
Now who really SUCKS – SUCKS – SUCKS…me!
And maybe you too.
We spend our lives and careers working hard to earn the trust and respect of our customers, clients, employees, teammates, family and friends. Yet, we can lose that trust and respect instantly with our words….and with our actions.
Heart-Led Leaders watch their words. They are mindful of their actions. And they bench themselves when they SUCK – SUCK – SUCK!
Let’s try to live and lead our lives is such a manner that the people that follow us, respect us and trust us really want to sing Tim McGraw’s hit song at the top of their lungs, “I like it. I love it. I want some more of it!”