“If you believe you’re playing well because you’re getting laid, or because you’re not getting laid, or because you wear women’s underwear, then you ARE! And you should know that!” — Crash Davis, Bull Durham
A few years back, I got in the habit of sending The History Factory’s promotional items to my son’s father-in-law, Judge Vic Fleming of Little Rock, Arkansas. An avid golfer, Vic was kind enough to tell me that, on those days when he wore The History Factory’s cap, his golf game was noticeably better. Encouraged by Vic’s positive feedback, I kept sending hats whenever we issued a new model. And lo and behold, Vic started winning tournaments. So, I sent him a matching golf shirt with The History Factory logo.
This past Labor Day (September 7), Vic was on the seventh tee at Camp Creek Golf Club in Seagrove Beach, Florida. He had just scored a triple bogey (seven) on the previous hole. (A truly superstitious person would have clearly been spooked by all those sevens).
According to the GPS on the golf cart, the pin was 160 yards away. Vic hit a 4-iron into the wind, and the shot felt so good he hollered, “Go in!” When they arrived at the green, one of his foursome walked up to the hole, looked in, and asked, “Vic. Are you playing a ball with a purple dot on it?” Indeed it was Vic’s Titleist Two that he had marked with a purple Sharpie. No one could find a ball mark on the green, so they concluded that it went in on the fly. Vic was wearing The History Factory hat and shirt.
Now, Judge Vic is an accomplished golfer who scored several holes-in-one well before he ever started sporting The History Factory’s promotional gear. Yet to hear him recount the story of his Camp Creek “ace,” there is no question is his mind that the hat and shirt were a factor in his success.
Judge Vic Fleming’s hole-in-one got me thinking about the role of tradition in producing success. While I probably shouldn’t disregard the possibility that something in the actual design of The History Factory gear may be providing a comfort or performance factor that materially improves Vic’s game, a more plausible explanation would be the psychological effect—the sense of confidence—that Judge Vic has convinced himself the gear provides, thus enhancing his performance. The lesson learned in this story is, whether he fails or succeeds in a round of golf, Judge Vic celebrates his successes by recounting the winning tradition of The History Factory hat.
As your organization emerges from the Great Recession, it might be an ideal time to begin exploring and restoring the winning traditions that may have been shelved during the downturn, or perhaps forgotten long ago. Was there ever a bell-ringing when a sale was made? Did the cafeteria ever serve a special dessert when the company exceeded a quarterly profit target? Did the CEO put an apple on the desk of an employee he wanted to recognize for a job well done? As unlikely as they may sound, these are examples of celebrations I have observed in my years as a corporate historian.
At the same time, don’t be afraid to create new winning traditions. Rename a performance award after an employee whose actions clearly exemplify the desired outcomes for success. Create an oversized facsimile of the company’s first order form and have today’s salespeople add their names each time a new sale is made. Have the CEO take a lap around the building on a Harley Davidson whenever a department exceeds a yearly performance measure.
Winning begets winning. And celebrating wins with traditions is yet another tool to increase your organization’s chances for success. And if you don’t believe it, just ask Judge Vic.