Several lessons about workplace spirituality were clear in two seemingly unrelated Outlook columns in Sunday’s WaPo. Patrick Welsh writes about the opening of the school year. Jason La Canfora describes Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs style and its motivational impact.
To this husband of a teacher, Welsh’s lead paragraph is true and funny:
“When we teachers returned to T.C. Williams High School on Aug. 31 to prepare for the new school year, there was all the usual complaining about the bureaucratic snafus that hadn't been straightened out yet. Trailers to accommodate student overflow weren't ready, the Xerox machine was down, some teacher vacancies still weren't filled. There were no printers to go with our new computers. And on top of all that, the state-of-the-art toilet paper dispenser in the faculty bathroom was so sophisticated no one could figure out how it worked.”
Welsh describes a meltdown in leadership by the Alexandria, VA school board and then observes:
“The saga of superintendent Perry and the fallout from her drunk driving arrest last May and her subsequent guilty plea has delivered a message that could be food for thought for school districts everywhere: We don't need messianic superintendents and charismatic school boards and we should stop looking for them. As long as schools have solid principals, good teachers and a competent support staff, they can do very well.”
Over on the sports page we learn that Joe Gibbs motivates through his vision of Redskin greatness, acts on his faith, and respects the individual beliefs of his players.
“"Joe wants there to be that sense that when someone leaves this team and has to take off that Redskins jersey for the last time, it's the saddest day of his life. He wants to build that sense of pride and sense of dignity and sense of privilege, like when you strap on a Yankees uniform you are automatically a better player. That's what Joe wants here with a Redskins jersey and they've lost some of that and Joe's been called on to reestablish the tradition and the sense of power that used to radiate through being a Redskin."”
“Although those who have played under him say he never chooses players strictly based on their faith, he clearly is comfortable with players who practice their religion.
“Moawad, who has worked with 27 first-round NFL draft picks over the past six years and has studied motivation extensively (his father published seminal texts on motivational techniques), believes Gibbs's success in the NFL and later with NASCAR came from his ability to meld personalities, interact with people and cultivate a winning atmosphere.”
• Even in the title of his column (“We Just Hang on Tight and Keep Teaching”), I see an example of Pierce’s discipline of “Living with Imperfection. Welsh acknowledges that administration is not doing its job. Teachers and principles keep doing theirs, remembering the system exists to help students. I’ve often thought that teachers give their students more than the school system deserves for its pay and treatment of teachers.
• Gibbs keeps his focus on football. Like Pierce, he does not hide his spirituality. He does know that his contract with his employer is to build a strong football team, not run a chapel. Players don’t gain playing time by attending chapel. Gibbs believes that it will help them be better players and better men.
• Gibbs applies Pierce’s discipline of “Dealing with others as you would have them deal with you” (aka the Golden Rule). The players sense his respect for them.
• As a matter of course, Gibbs practices the disciplines of “striving for quality” and “Ongoing Personal and Professional Development”.
This is one of many occasions in which we can learn more from the Sunday papers then from our Sunday sermons. Please read the stories and take some time to reflect on them. (Since the WaPo allows open access for 14 days, you may want to download them soon.)