Go Blue!

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By Bill Auxier, Ph.D.

My wife majored in Philosophy at the University of Michigan.  Not only is she extremely intelligent, a deep thinker and beautiful, she is also an avid Michigan football fan!  In fact, we’ve had season tickets for Michigan football for over twenty years!  While our entire family has become “Go Blue” fans, it’s been rather difficult the last few years.  Michigan football is all about Tradition, Team and Winning.  For a coach to keep his job, the team needs to win more games than they lose.  That has not been the case the last few years in Ann Arbor, MI, so there is a tremendous amount of speculation as to whether Coach Brady Hoke will retain his leadership position as head coach.

One of my favorite books on persuasion is Influence:  The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D.  That is why a study caught my attention the other day, even though it was from several years ago, because it was conducted by Robert Cialidini.

UM Fans

Cialdini developed the concept of “basking in reflected glory” or BIRG.  Cialdini observed the behavior of students at seven large universities during football season.  When their teams won, students were more likely to wear clothing with their school’s name, logo or colors the following week.  When their team lost, students were less likely to wear such clothing.  This difference varied by school, some universities with more significant variances than others.  For example, at the time of the study, Louisiana State University students were 2.4 times likelier to wear school colors following a victory, Ohio State University students were 2.3 times more likely, and the University of Pittsburgh students were three times as likely.  Team performance also had an impact on communication.  When their team won, students were twice as likely to talk about their team in the first person (we won).  When their team lost, students were more likely to refer to their team in the third person (they lost).

Leaders are often considered the “head coach” of their team.  So how is your team doing?  Does your team proudly wear your organization’s team colors?  Do the members of your organization communicate in the first person or the third person?  When your organization has success, do “we” have success?  Will your leadership contract be renewed next season?

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