Who knew I would have an opportunity to write another post about college football so soon after my last post: The Cost of Arrogance: Why I was Rooting for Michigan Last Weekend? If you missed the amazing final 10-second ending to the Michigan-Michigan State game, you can watch it here. It was unbelievable. I never thought another one of my teams would finish in similar extraordinary fashion just one week later.
Last night we were at the Georgia Tech (GT) homecoming game vs Florida State (FSU). To provide some context, GT has not had a great season – at all – with a 2-5 record this season (wins versus Alcorn State and Tulane in their first two games … then losing five in a row). Last night’s game wasn’t supposed to end with a “W.” FSU came into the game ranked #9 and undefeated this season. Even more impressive was the fact that they hadn’t lost to an ACC opponent in more than 3 years – until last night.
GT won on the last play of the game when FSU’s field goal kick was blocked. GT picked up the ball and ran it back for a touchdown – with no time left on the clock. It was incredible! Fans, including me, stormed the field. The energy was immeasurable. If you missed the play, you can watch it here.
Both MSU’s Jalen Watts-Jackson and GT’s Lance Armstrong are the names everyone remembers as scoring those game-winning points. Deservedly so. But, I encourage you to watch these two final plays again. Neither Jalen nor Lance could have made those plays and scored those points without their teammates doing the blocking. Those teammates anticipated their needs, watched out for them, cleared the way for them, blocked for them, took hits for them – and were absolutely instrumental in helping to win the game. Jalen and Lance needed their blockers.
We all need blockers. We all need those people in our careers who watch out for us, anticipate our needs, help to clear the way for us, and block for us as we pursue success in and for the organization. More often than not, these blockers are called mentors, sponsors or champions. They can also be peers, teammates, and direct reports.
These blockers give us direct feedback and they provide advice. They point out places where we might derail and help us navigate a crowded field. They move obstacles and provide us with clear paths towards the goal line. They anticipate challenges we might face and lean in to help us move obstacles, or they stand sturdy next to us as we blaze straight through them. These are the people who share their networks and facilitate introductions. They invite us to participate in special projects that offer high visibility and exposure. They stand by our sides when we fumble, share responsibility with us, and help us to learn what to do differently next time.
When I worked in corporate America my blocker Mike made sure I had opportunities to present in front of our senior leaders and gain valuable visibility. My blocker Sharon took a chance on me and gave me a stretch assignment to hone my skills in a new area. My blocker Dennis helped me get selected for a special assignment that paid dividends for years. My blocker Pat provided the air cover needed when I was treading on thin ice. Even though I’m out of corporate America, I still have blockers today that play an important role in my career. Today’s blockers know the power of a personal referral and frequently refer our firm to new clients. Today’s blockers know who would make a great connection and are happy to share their networks. Today’s blockers are happy to share their personal experiences with success and failure, and do all they can to help ensure we don’t make the same mistakes.
It’s important to know that blockers don’t simply join your team and become your champion without any effort or investment. These relationships take time to develop and are built on trust and respect. They need to be nurtured and cultivated over time.
These two football games will go down in history for the plays made by their special teams in the final seconds of each game. They leave college football fans asking many questions! Is Coach Harbaugh the miracle worker he is supposed to be? Will MSU claim the Big 10 championship title? Will the clamor for Paul Johnson’s termination settle down a bit? Can FSU actually make it to a playoff game now? Is GT back to winning ways?
Important questions, to be sure, but I leave you with two even more important questions to answer as you consider your career… One, who is blocking for you? Two, more importantly, who are you blocking for?