My work for the state of Minnesota includes a wide variety of duties and responsibilities. Among them is one item you won’t find on my official job description, but which holds much personal importance all the same: Captaining my workplace softball team.
Spring is here, and with it comes the beginning of another season for our fledgling team, Little Big Government (formerly known as Admin’s Avengers).
Befitting my Minnesota roots, as far as workplace softball managers go, I am the Charilie Browniest; like many Minnesota teams of yore, we have a prodigious ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. In three seasons of trying, we have yet to secure a single victory. If my math is correct, with a lifetime record to-date of zero wins and 45 losses in three seasons, even Charlie Brown might have us beat.
With our losing ways, you might wonder why we keep playing, or better yet, why I would ever want to announce our misfortunes to the world via this GovLoop blog. Here’s why: win or lose, I’m really proud of our softball team, and I think it has some significant benefits for our workplace.
Here are just a few areas where it’s made a difference:
1. Employee Health and Wellness.
Workplace wellness committees are a norm across Minnesota state government, and I’m willing to bet the same is true where you work as well. It makes sense: improved employee wellness is proven to have many benefits for employees, employers, and the world at large. Physical activity improves our ability to work and play, and our softball team is one way we get our employees moving throughout the spring and summer.
2. Leadership Development.
Even when it’s fun and games, it takes skills to lead a team. Depending on your role or the stage of your career, you may not have as many opportunities as you’d like to lead teams at work. But leading a workplace sports team can help you develop your skills as a leader, even when the topic on the table is setting up a batting order or giving someone feedback on their fielding technique. You might be surprised how many of the foundational skills at play can be transferable to your more serious work.
3. Workplace Culture.
Our softball team helps create a fun place to work. As government organizations around the world strive to recruit the next generation of workers, this is an increasingly important consideration. Even those in our agency who don’t play on the team get swept up in following along each season, and it’s an instant conversation starter throughout the spring and summer.
4. Collaboration and Team Building
Last week, I wrote about the importance of collaboration in large government organizations and how silos can get in the way. In my battle on this very front, the softball team has been an important tool, breaking through silos and making the world smaller. Our team this year includes staff from eight different state government organizations. Absent the softball team, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to connect with many of these individuals and those connections matter. As an instant case study of this, on numerous occasions I’ve had coworkers ask me questions like, “Do you know somebody who does X?” or “Do you know who leads X for the state?” And more than a couple times I’ve been able to answer those questions saying, “Yes, in fact I do. They played on the softball team!”
5. Facing Adversity.
And finally, there’s this: in our working lives, we are no strangers to adversity and disappointment — this can be especially true when working in government. But take it from me, when you’ve captained a softball team that’s lost 45 straight games, you learn a lot about facing adversity, keeping your chin up, and continuing to fight when things don’t go your way. Those are skills that can’t be taught or learned overnight. The softball team creates a framework where we have to dust ourselves off each week and get back out there.
Whether you’ve ever considered organizing a sports team in your workplace or not, I hope this blog has helped inspire you to give it a try. Now get out there and play ball! If my experience is any indication, your coworkers and your career will thank you.