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George, I Want to Play


It was five simple words, "George, I want to play." Using the phrase or not was the difference between a chance to win and a dial tone. Here's the deal. George Lapides, the founding father of sports talk radio in Memphis, would play trivia with his listeners once a week. He had one simple rule, tell him that you wanted to play the game. Any listener who jumped right in with an answer, right or wrong, was immediately disqualified. It was a little annoying at first. Some even said, “What a jerk.” Maybe, but it was his game. We played by his rules. Besides, this really wasn’t new to anybody. George had been hosting this game for years, and he’d state the rules again at the beginning of each round. Using the phrase was even more important than knowing the correct answer to the question. After all, if we didn’t use the phrase, we didn’t get to play. And if we’re not playing, we never will win.

Here's what we can learn from George's game:

1. Meeting time is game time. Many of us work in a business that's driven by deliverables, presented at meetings. But there is always more than one such meeting going on in any given week. George plays his game once a week. Everyone who is interested knows when. And other programming for that week's show is slotted around that standing "meeting". Look for scheduling conflicts before setting up your meeting, confirm with all meeting participants, and send a reminder. 2. Respect the other guy's time. Maybe it was just his shtick, but if the host's caller didn’t start with "George, I want to play" he would hang up on them. Sometimes he'd say "sorry" or "goodbye" but most of the time not. The listener hasn't, well, listened. The rule didn’t exist because George was an ass, but to keep the game moving along - so that others could play. It wasn’t time to discuss the local college team's ups and downs. It was time for the game. 3. Be ready to win. We know there's a meeting. Maybe like George's game, its played once a week. So we give ourselves til then to have the work ready. But showing up on game day and hoping to guess the right answer is only for George's trivia contest - not a professional meeting. So, let’s not wait until game day to get ready. Prove the work in advance. After all, we know how to get in the game - why not play it to win? 4. Getting the right answers. Of course the object of the game was to win. And George would give the contestants plenty of chances to do so. He might give a clue to the answer, he might let callers answer unsolved questions from earlier in the show, or he might let them ask for a different question. He loved to stump the audience, but like even the toughest teammate or client, he realized that if people couldn’t win they wouldn’t play. 5. About Prizes - So, what happens when you answer correctly? We win! And with winning comes a prize. Sometimes George allowed the caller to choose a prize from a handful of things provided by sponsors. Sometimes the prize was just the prize, but it was always something we didn't have before - the satisfaction of winning. Think of it this way, when we accept a meeting-- or ask for one and get it --we’re saying, "George, I want to play". Once we’re in the game, the others there expect to see our best effort. And I'm betting that they even want us to win!

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