Leaders Show Up Even When It’s Not Fun

My daughter’s Little League recently held their Field Clean-Up Day. This event takes place at 9:00 AM on a Saturday in the middle of April. We live in Michigan, so the weather is usually windy, rainy and the air temp hovers near 40 degrees Fahrenheit.  This year, it snowed.

Ostensibly here’s what’s supposed to happen: each softball team is assigned a segment of the Little League grounds to clean up debris and spread fresh sand onto the diamonds. Each area has anywhere from 10 – 15 families assigned to it, so the process should be brief. Every year we get an email reminder from the League Director: “Many hands make the load light – please be sure to show up.”

Here’s what actually happens – there is a 50% turnout rate. Of the people in attendance, half are young kids, who aren’t physically strong enough to lift wet leaf bags or break large branches in two.

So guess who does the large share of the work? Yep, the five or six parents who bothered to show up. For several years, when both of my kids were in Little League, my husband and I would “divide and conquer” – me showing up to Field Clean-Up Day with one kid, him with the other at a different location. One year, the coach remarked to me, “Wow, Jennifer, I’m so impressed – we rarely see the moms here on Clean-Up Day.”

To which I replied: “We have a job to do. We were asked to show up. So I showed up.”

I have a bad back and an overall aversion to hard physical labor, so Field Clean-Up Day isn’t my favorite part of Little League season. In this situation, my aches and pains are irrelevant. It’s really very simple – you show up to do the work, even if the task is difficult or distasteful. The team needs you.

Just as parents, who are leaders on the Little League field, must show up and role model “doing the work” even when it’s not fun, so must leaders in organizational life show up.  Many years ago, one of my first supervisors told me, “Jennifer, I will never ask you to do something that I wouldn’t do myself.”  People who lead with character do so in a way that demonstrates “I’m not above this; I’m here to help.”

Of course, that’s not to say that leaders must do everything themselves; that’s not feasible. But they must be willing to show that all work has value. If the work doesn’t have value, then why are you doing it? On the Little League field, unsavory tasks like raking wet leaves in the rain lead to a field ready for the more fun pursuits of game day. In the work world, it’s no different - all work is valuable, if it leads to valuable outputs.
Image credit: ilposeidone / 123RF Stock Photo