A while back I was reading a blog post by someone I follow and the post asked this question: How would you define a true fan?
The question really hit me and I spent some time thinking about it. This was my response:
I’m not sure how I’d define true fan. It’ll probably change over time. But I think the answer lies somewhere around people that see the masterpiece in me. Kind of like what Michelangelo meant when he said “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” He saw the masterpiece even before it was sculpted. And really, don’t our fans in a way help “sculpt” us? True fans are those that “see” you and stick around because they love watching you become who you were designed to be.
That answer has really stuck with me. Especially lately with my family and teams at work. I’ve had several experiences in both lately that have reminded me how important it is to have true fans and to be a true fan of others. (Sometimes those experiences have been very humbling…something I need from time to time.)
There is an idea about having 1,000 true fans for your product/company and how achieving that can launch your company into very profitable territory. But when you change the context a bit – from building a company’s revenues to building a person – I believe the number of true fans it requires to be transformative dwindles significantly. All the way to just one.
There is nothing revolutionary or new about saying a child’s parents should be their truest fans. More at stake is the gut check I have to ask myself – is there anyone that believes in and cheers on my kids more consistently and energetically than me? More importantly…
How about when they have an “off” day?
When my kids look back on their years under my roof, will the thing they remember be how I made them feel special, capable, safe and encouraged? Will they tell their wives and friends that looking back they always got a sense that no matter how bad things got I was always in their corner with love, acceptance, discipline, coaching, encouragement and time? And what about my wife? Does she know that when all else fails and even she doesn’t believe in herself anymore that she’s got a rock solid fan in me? When she is going through one of the hard times that this phase of life brings, does thinking of me and our relationship help give her the strength to carry on? Do my kids see that dynamic in our relationship?
Being a true fan of my wife and my boys can seem like a natural thing because it resonates with me emotionally. I think all moms and dads would answer that question with something like, “Of course!” Beyond feelings, however, I have to ask myself if I behave like a true fan to them. When I look at them, do I see what they could be at their best? Reacting to them at their worst, do I react out of a place that says, “Whoa! This isn’t you! You are an amazing, loving, fun, (fill in the blank with appropriate descriptions) person! What happened that sidetracked you like this? Please let me help you get back to who you really are.”
In thinking about teams and how to build, motivate, streamline, improve, retain and accelerate them, I think it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that teams are just people. We all know that in dealing with people, there is a simple truth that the first and most basic need a person has is to be accepted and believed in by another person.
But knowledge doesn’t equal execution. When we’re planning out strategies for how to get our teams to move faster, do better quality work, be more committed or work more efficiently – do we start with asking ourselves if we are fans of the people on those teams? I’m not talking about being buddies with them. They don’t have to have warm fuzzies with us or have been to our home and know our kids’ names.
Instead, do we at our core see the greatness inside those we work with and want to see that greatness come out to the light of day? That is the heart and soul of great execution on strategy. You may be able to plan great strategy for teams but if you aren’t true fans of those on the teams the strategy will fall short.
What to do next
Discussing the idea is great, but the only thing that matters in the end is what we do with it. Here’s what I’m doing. I’m going to make being a true fan an intentional activity in my schedule. This won’t be the right thing for many of you, but I like routines. I use a tool called RoutineTap. It is simply a web app that allows you to define the things you’d like to develop into habits and track your action on those activities over time. The idea is simply that if you define a goal habit and begin actually tracking it you’ll tend to do more of it. Here’s what got added to my personal reporting: “Who was I a true fan of today and how?”
I figure if I’m constantly asking myself that question it will help me keep that at the forefront of my mind as I interact with the people around me. And that can’t be a bad thing.
How about you? Have you ever experienced having a true fan? Have you ever been a true fan to others? What were those experiences like and how did they help “sculpt” you? What are you going to do differently to make being a true fan something more intentional?