A few weeks back, some members of the Student and Campus Community Development team were reminiscing about elementary school- everything from kick ball to four square to ‘Heads Up Seven Up.” The games immediately brought us back to simpler days where life felt less complicated and, to be honest, just a bit more fun.
Then, Ayana (Student Life Officer, Wellness Initiatives) mentioned one of her favourite days which I will call ‘Roof Day’. You might know exactly what she was taking about- it was the day that the school custodians/janitors would get up onto the roof and throw down all of the balls, Frisbees and recess paraphernalia that had somehow found its way up onto the roof. As Ayana explained this we all nodded enthusiastically, remembering some of our very own ‘roof days’ from our younger years. I immediately had a flash back to grade 4 and 5 when I was a sassy young French immersion student at Wedgewood Public School in Etobicoke. Roof days were amazing. You never knew when they were going to happen, but when they did it was a ‘stop whatever it is you are doing and run’ type of event. I went to an NSync concert once, and the cheers that the custodians would get on roof day were not unlike the screams that Justin and the boys got when they performed ‘Bye Bye Bye.’ The gym balls that came raining down from the roof were a reminder of the games we loved to play and the fun we wanted to have.
So. What does this have to do with leadership? Well, I’m glad you asked.
To me, ‘roof day’ is all about reminding people what it is that makes them feel happy.
Some of the best leaders I have worked with have had a tremendous gift for reminding those that they work with about their gifts, their talents and the things that bring them joy. Not unlike the custodians tossing gym balls down to the cheering kids, these leaders would deliver well-timed reminders of what our core goals were and how every small detail could somehow contribute to our shared goals.
For example, I remember an extremely busy time in my first year as a professional. I was working in Residence Life at Queen’s University and I was really overwhelmed with all of the work I had on my plate- I was bogged down with tasks that felt small and insignificant. Around that time my colleague and friend Stephan sat me down and started talking to me about why we took on Residence Life Coordinator roles. We discussed the personal impact that our Residence Life experiences had on us and how excited we were to provide that experience for others. We got more excited as we discussed the opportunities we had to positively influence the University experience for the students living in our residence halls. At the end of the conversation I was seeing the big picture- I understood in that moment that if leadership is about the journey towards positive change, then positive change is about all of the small steps that it takes to get there. Sometimes the small steps can feel frustrating and infuriatingly slow, but if we are lucky, there will be someone there to toss a gym ball from the roof and remind us of why we started the journey in the first place.
So today I want to present you with the Roof Day Challenge- take a moment today to become a little bit like the custodian on Roof Day. Change someone’s day by throwing them a little reminder what brings them joy in their work. Then, sit back and watch what happens. They may not cheer for you like we did for our janitors at Wedgewood- but they will definitely appreciate that you took the time to re-connect them with their bigger goals.