After Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh had furious fans lambasting him online for missing a potentially winning field goal against the Seattle Seahawks in a wild card football playoffs game in January, a class of kind first-graders took on a mission to cheer him up.
The schoolchildren of Northpoint Elementary each wrote letters to lift Walsh’s spirits with messages like, “We still think you’re awesome,” “Keep on trying,” and, “I know it can be hard to get through things that make you sad…” Several students reminded Walsh that everyone makes mistakes, and some offered examples of times they were in similar situations (messing up a cartwheel, missing a game-winning shot or kick). Northpoint teacher Judie Offerdahl said Walsh's miss became a teachable moment in empathy. And Walsh was so grateful for the outpouring of kindness he visited the class in person.
We’ve written before about how leaders can best react when good employees underperform or make a mistake. Not surprisingly, research shows that a compassionate response yields the most positive outcomes. We think these first graders have tremendous leadership potential!
We want to hear: When someone was understanding about a mistake you made, how did it affect your mindset? Can you think of an example of when your empathy has helped out a co-worker? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
If you would like to read more about creating a habit around masterful communication, check out our book: Be Quiet, Be Heard: The Paradox of Persuasion.