Three (of the Many) Lessons an A-Team Can Teach
Ten days ago my team pulled off a stunner. For the last couple of years, students in the Success Initiative would display projects completed during the semester on a predetermined Tuesday that was appropriately named “Deliverable Day”. The event ran during lunchtime, and a number of students and faculty would walk by the exhibits and get student-provided summaries of each project. It was a great way to display the student’s hard work but it was pedestrian.
This year things were different. Very different. Courtney, Director of The Space (at the time the Success Initiative Director) wanted to go big. Her reason? “We demand students execute big, impactful projects so we need a big and impactful platform for them to showcase their work.” There’s a huge difference between “display” and “showcase” and she wanted students to understand that difference. Her idea: Create an event so spectacular that it will cause the students to up their game to the point where guests are stunned (it worked).
About that same time we started to work on a new brand position for all of our programs. We’d grown from two to seven and there were more on the horizon. On top of that, we’d begun to see imitators pop up and we wanted to put distance between traditional professional development and our brand of professional development. We are WAY different than everyone else, and we needed a brand that matched our culture. On top of that, the silo-ed program structure we’d initially developed didn’t serve our purpose anymore. We need an umbrella brand, one that would resonate with our target market of 16-22 year-olds. Given this age group’s demographics, we need the brand to be inclusive, simple, transparent and current.
Since the rebranding was happening simultaneously with the planning of our showcase event, Courtney suggested that we expand the showcase event. She recommended we bundle it with the brand re-launch because the timing of doing them together just made sense. Thus the Launch Party was born.
Lesson 1: A-Team members look to maximize the team’s impact, not their own visibility. Courtney could have easily kept the event focused on her program which would have put her squarely in the spotlight. Instead, she focused on what was best for the entire group.
Jennifer, Director of The Space (formerly director of Career Services) quickly added to the concept. “Why don’t we take other aspects of all our programs and create an interactive portion of the night where guests can experience a piece of what we do first hand? Portions of The Institute, The Sophomore Experience, Consulting, and Entrepreneurship.”
Lesson 2: A-Team members quickly add value and stay focused on the mission. Jennifer zeroed in on a portion of what makes our programs so unique and effective. She quickly realized that if we had 400+ guests in our space and did not let them experience our programs first hand, we would have missed a big opportunity.
Very soon after the first conversation we brought the entire team in on the concept and started the planning, designing and execution of The Launch Party. MullenHallstead was brought in to manage the event (they are fantastic), and we were off.
Jeremy, Kelly, Lisa, and Erin each played the critical roles of experts in their particular areas and, at one point or another, were the most important player on the team. Think of a baseball team. Some people may think that the right fielder is less important or talented than the shortstop. Of course, baseball fans know that’s not the case at all. True, the right fielder will probably have fewer balls hit to him in a game, but when he steps up to the plate to bat, he’s the most important player on the team at that particular moment. Great baseball players also know this and could care less about individual attention or stats… as long as the team wins.
Lesson 3: A-Team members don’t worry about individual statistics, they just want the team to shine and are willing to play any role to help the team win.
Fast forward to the event itself and you see the results an A-Team produces (you can check out video highlights and photos of the event). Everything went off without a hitch. It was truly a stellar evening by all accounts. Our 400-plus guests were surprised and delighted. Our students showcased their 47 Impact and entrepreneurial projects with professionalism rarely, if ever, witnessed in higher education. And they set a new standard with respect to future events within The Space. You see, each one of them is part of the A-Team too. Because without their ideas, passion and ability to execute, The Launch Party would have never happened.
On Monday, our team took time out to get away from the office and enjoy a nice celebratory lunch and afternoon coffee. It was a way to recharge and thank each other for putting the interests of the students, our guests and our team ahead of our own (and even ahead of our sleep!). I’m extremely proud of what our team, our entire team – including all of our students – accomplished Saturday night. We pulled off something special, and we realized that it never would have happened without every. single. one of us.