78: Who are YOU lifting up? Former professional football player and speaker, Jan Spence, shares the importance of doing so.

 

Discover specific steps and ways to increase connection at your organization with author and speaker, Jan Spence, as Mike Domitrz asks questions pertaining to her personal journey. Jan went from playing professional football to speaking and writing a book. Hear the lessons Jan Spence shares in this episode.

   

** You are invited to join our community and conversations about each episode on FaceBook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/respectpodcastgroup and join us on Twitter @PodcastRespect or visit our website at www.RespectPodcast.com **

 

BIO of Jan:

Jan Spence is an international speaker, author, and consultant. With contagious charisma and a zest for life which make her an excellent motivator and leader, this TEDx speaker has used her vast knowledge in sales, communications, finances, and employee engagement to help numerous clients including Pillsbury, Walmart, and Frito-Lay.


Jan and her husband, Mitch, launched the second FiltaFry franchise in the US in 2003. As CEO, Jan built such a successful operation that they were awarded the “2005 Franchisee of the Year” by the International Franchise Association. Meeting their four-year plan, they sold the business in 2007 at 300% ROI. Since then, Jan has circled the globe as a trainer, consultant, and speaker for franchisees, organizations, and companies.


Having been interviewed by Entrepreneur magazine and the Big Dog Morning Show in Jesup, Ga, Jan shares her story of fulfilling her lifelong dream of playing women’s professional full-tackle football. As a member of the National Speakers Association, Jan combines the lessons she learned through that experience with her business experience to inspire people to make a difference through “Cheer Leadership.” Known for her highly interactive, entertaining, and inspirational style, she recently taught in Panama, Romania, Switzerland, Uganda, Australia, and Bahrain.


Jan serves on the boards of Meeting Professionals International – North Florida and Compass Finances God’s Way – Florida. She is active with the local Association of Talent Development chapter and the Beach Church in Jacksonville, Florida. She and her husband of nineteen years enjoy traveling the world when not at home attending Jaguars football games and cultural events.

 

Links to Jan:

 

Book by Jan:Cheer on Your Team!: 52 Tips to Increase Employee Retention, Engagement and Loyalty

 

YOUR HOST: Mike Domitrz is the founder of The Center for Respect where he helps educational institutions, the US Military and businesses of all sizes create a culture of respect throughout their organizations. From addressing consent to helping corporations build a workplace free from fear (reducing sexual harassment and helping employees thrive by treating them with respect every day), Domitrz engages audiences by sharing skill sets they can implement into their lives immediately. As an author, trainer, keynote speaker and coach, Mike Domitrz loves working with leaders at all levels. Learn more at http://www.CenterForRespect.com

 

READ THE FULL TRANSCRIPTION of the EPISODE HERE (or download the pdf):

 

Mike Domitrz:
Welcome to The Respect Podcast. I’m your host Mike Domitrz from mikespeaks.com, where we help organizations of all sizes, educational institutions and the US military create a culture of respect. And respect is exactly what we discuss on this show, so let’s get started.

Mike Domitrz:
Today’s guest, through speaking, training and coaching, Jan Spence inspires individuals to dare to be different, so that together we can transform the world. She also fulfilled one of her lifelong dreams by playing women’s professional, full-tackle football with the Jacksonville Dixie Blues. Thank you Jan for joining us today.

Jan Spence:
Thank you so much for having me, Mike. It’s a pleasure.

Mike Domitrz:
Absolutely. Let’s dive into that first one. If you don’t mind me asking, what years was that that you were with the Jacksonville Dixie Blues?

Jan Spence:
I was with them from the 2001 to 2002 season, their inaugural year.

Mike Domitrz:
All right. Because I knew someone that was with the team up here in the Wisconsin, Illinois region, I think at the same time because there was, that league was only for a short period of time, if I remember right. So, small world.

Mike Domitrz:
Well, let’s dive right into this. I love the fact that you bring such a diverse background to the discussion. What inspired you to share a message of encouraging others as a means of showing respect, empathy, and dignity?

Jan Spence:
Well, a lot of it really goes back to, obviously the way that I was brought up, but really through that football story, I realized the impact of the fact that just a kind gesture, like sharing a bottle of water with someone, or something as simple as just calling out someone’s name and encouraging them, it really, really has power.

Jan Spence:
It actually, it turned a group of 80 very fierce competitors, into teammates in about an hour. So when I saw that played out live, I knew that there was something to that, and that just a little bit of an encouragement from one peer to another peer can have some pretty impactful dynamic results when we show that kind of respect for each other.

Mike Domitrz:
So how did you go from there to where you are today? You’re speaking, you’re an author.

Jan Spence:
So I have been a speaker for about six years now, and really got onto this message … I used to share the stories of playing football as part of my keynote, and had lots of different little life lessons in there from different things that I learned during that experience. It was actually working with someone to do my first TEDx Talk and I said, “What’s the real idea worth sharing that I have, the message to send to the world?”

Jan Spence:
And she zoned in on the power of the fact that that peer to peer encouragement … We often, we hear a lot about it, employees encouraging, excuse me, employers, the boss, the manager, the owner, that encourages their employees and their subordinates, but we don’t hear a lot about employees encouraging others, especially when they’re struggling. And so she found that story very powerful, so we extracted that, and from there it just kind of caught fire and wrote the book. And now that’s really just that whole employee engagement arena is the area that I’ve been focused on most lately.

Mike Domitrz:
And for all of our listeners, the book is Cheer on Your Team!: 52 Tips to Increase Employee Retention, Engagement and Loyalty.

Mike Domitrz:
So how do you feel that respect plays a role in that discussion?

Jan Spence:
Especially in business world, Mike, it’s competitive. We go to work, everyone has their pressure to perform, to hold their job, and so often that leads to not thinking about others around us. I think when we take a moment to really just respect someone by honoring who they are or where they are in their career, you might be the top salesperson or the top dog at the company, but that doesn’t mean that that person who’s on that entry level position doesn’t need that respect, that encouragement, those kind words, those kinds of gestures, any more than the person who’s doing the best job at the company.

Jan Spence:
So it’s just something that we should be intentional about, and that’s a lot of the message, is that it’s very easy. What’s easy to do is also easy not to do. So it’s real easy to say thank you and please, it’s easy to hold the door for someone. It’s easy to fill the copy paper in the copy machine. But it’s also easy to not do those things. So when we are intentional about looking for those opportunities that are plentiful, they’re around us every day, when we are intentional about seeking those out, it gives us that chance to just honor that person as a human being, and that they have value and they have worth, and show them that respect on a day to day basis. Whether it’s in the workplace, or at home, or at the grocery store, everywhere.

Mike Domitrz:
And so what would be … You have 52 specific lessons in the book. What are the five ones that you hear the most feedback on?

Jan Spence:
One of the favorites is the sticky note sneak play. So with this one is … And I just created it myself by accident. I happened to have a pack of sticky notes with me when I was traveling to see a friend overseas. And I thought, “I’m going to just leave her some messages.” She was disappointed that I was leaving and sad to see me go, and I thought, “You know what? I’m just going to leave some little sticky notes hidden in places around her home.” So I put them inside the medicine cabinet, inside the freezer, inside the dishwasher. So just different places that I just put a little note, a word of encouragement.

Jan Spence:
I’ve done that with my spouse. I’ve done it with family, and with coworkers. I was training a group of about 12 people and when they were all at lunch, I snuck around and stuck little sticky notes, little words of encouragement to them, all around the office. And so people tend to have a lot of fun with that, both personally and professionally.

Jan Spence:
So top five, gosh. I think the one that I hear often and get a lot of feedback on, is people just forget to say thank you. They just overlook it and people are doing their job, but they forget to stop, actually look them in the eye, take the time to give them their full attention, say their name and just say, “Mike, I really appreciate you,” with sincerity and with authenticity. So that’s another one I hear.

Mike Domitrz:
Well, that one’s really key, right? You want to be specific because I made that mistake for a long time of just saying, “Great job.” But if you’re just saying “great job” it doesn’t have credibility. What am I doing a great job with? What specifically made that a great job?

Jan Spence:
Exactly. The timeliness is important, you bring up a great point. So it’s not only being specific but it’s also addressing it right then. So to hear it at your annual review that you did a great job handling an angry customer last May, doesn’t have as much impact as it does …

Jan Spence:
And then depending on the person, there are some differing thoughts on this, but some people want to be praised privately and others appreciate it where it’s public, where the whole team knows at the team meeting, and you call them out and just say, “Hey, I just want to appreciate and acknowledge what a great job so-and-so did with handling this angry customer,” and just acknowledge that in public. So the timeliness of it is important as well.

Mike Domitrz:
Awesome. So what would be a couple more?

Jan Spence:
Here’s another one. Very simple to do, is just smiling. People get so intense during their day that they just forget to smile. Again, a simple thing that’s easy to do, but it’s also easy not to do. And then often I see executives and individuals, when they have to deliver some news that maybe is not going to be so welcome to the team, that putting a smile …

Jan Spence:
There actually is research that has been done that shows that when someone smiles, they actually communicate confidence. So therefore that instills in the group, when they’re hearing that that glib news, but it’s delivered with an authentic smile on someone’s face, not a funny, quirky laughing smile, “Ha ha, we’re in danger. The company’s going downhill,” that’s not the kind of news I’m talking about.

Jan Spence:
But just to say, “Hey guys, it’s been a tough quarter. Things are tough, but you know what? We’re going to get through this, and I’m behind you and I know we can do it as a team. So we’re going to buckle up and switch some things up, and I know we’re going to come out next quarter on the strong side.” Saying that with a smile is very powerful and impactful, and just subliminally communicates confidence in that leader, that they believe in them and they’re with them. They’re the coach leading the team and they’ve got this.

Mike Domitrz:
Awesome. So what would be one last one?

Jan Spence:
One last one. So, and this is one of my favorite ones, just a good old energy drink. So when times are tough, a stressful time, maybe it’s the last day of the month and everyone is pushing to get orders out, just sharing energy drinks. There’s different varieties in the book. Doing ice cream, getting a cooler full of ice cream, snow cones, that sort of thing, to pass out to the staff. Or even just finding out peoples’ favorite candy bar and just bring them just a good old fashioned sugary treat.

Jan Spence:
So that’s another easy one that is something that any leader or a peer can do, that can just pick people up when they’re having a stressful time. It just takes their mind off of things. So I think that’s another one. It directly conflicts with the one that says get everybody up to move and get exercise, but it’s a lot more fun.

Mike Domitrz:
Sure, absolutely. Well, I love that there’s so much variety in that. And that’s why I wanted to go with the five. I wanted people hear different possibilities. From having fun, to the smile, which should be fun too, to all those different examples you gave, which were wonderful.

Mike Domitrz:
So I’m going to back up now because this all started because of your experience playing professional football. What got you to even go that route? What got you to even try out?

Jan Spence:
You know what? It started with my mother. I would remember as a little girl, she would sit there on Saturday afternoons … I’m from the South, in case the accent didn’t give it away. So in Georgia we’d have SEC football on in the background and she’d be watching football, college football, and be ironing clothes. And she would say, “That looks like so much fun. I want to put on the shoulder pads and the helmet and hit people.”

Jan Spence:
So as I listened to her, she didn’t realize, but her words were having influence over me. Her dream actually became my dream. Because I didn’t know that little girls didn’t have football teams. So I actually wanted to play football, and of course the closest I got to doing that was to become a cheerleader, because there weren’t any football teams for little girls at the time.

Jan Spence:
So I carried that dream through my life and it was actually a Sunday afternoon, my husband’s reading the Sunday paper, and he tells me that a team, an expansion team is coming to Jacksonville with a women’s full-tackle football and the tryouts are soon. I knew I had to do it. That’s how it came about. It just kind of fell in my lap.

Jan Spence:
But had I never shared that dream … And two, on the point of respect, Mike, he respected that dream. As silly as it was for me, a grown woman to play professional, full-tackle football was just absurd, but he knew that it was a true dream and he honored that. And so he was willing to share that. Because I’d put it out there, he was willing to share that opportunity with me to have my dream come true.

Mike Domitrz:
No, that’s cool. Now how many seasons did you play?

Jan Spence:
I just played the one. So I was in the midst of my career change and quite frankly, we never thought we would even go to the playoffs. I mean we just, my goodness, you can imagine 50 women showing up, we’ve never put shoulder pads on. But half of us, well most of us, had thrown a football, had caught a football, just kind of playing on the local ball field. But we had never tackled someone before.

Jan Spence:
So we had all these new basics that we had to figure out and it was a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun for the coaches because they had these clean slates that they could impart upon us their wisdom on how to play the game, both physically and from a strategy standpoint. And so that was a lot of fun just getting to learn those things.

Jan Spence:
So anyway, we never thought we’d go to the playoffs, and again, I was in the middle of my career, so I had to make a choice at the end because it was a lot of time. Most of us had full-time jobs, and so all of the practices, everything else had to take place after hours. So it was like having two full-time jobs at the time.

Mike Domitrz:
You mentioned earlier, that one lesson was the teamwork and sharing the bottle of water. What was another major takeaway you had from the entire, looking back at the full season?

Jan Spence:
When I got there, when I arrived to the tryouts, the women weren’t talking to each other, which is not normal. We’re very social beings. I could tell right away that it was a very competitive environment, and I was not performing well with all of the exercises and the drills that we were doing.

Jan Spence:
So I thought, “You know what? Here’s my …” We were about to do the 40 yard dash and I thought, “This is my chance. I’ve got to make it.” And gave it everything I had, and then from the sidelines I just heard some cruel words from another player. She just kind of like, “Why are you even here? Why do you even try? Is that the best you can do?” It was very hurtful and I thought, “Maybe I should just leave. This is ridiculous. What do I think I’m doing here?” And then I remembered that I deserved to be there too. And I thought, “What can I give? You know what? I’m going to turn this thing around.”

Jan Spence:
I remember my mother exemplifying that for me as a child, of including people and being intentional about seeking the opportunities to respect other people and show them that they are important. And so I had, my husband had sent me off with an Igloo cooler full of water and Gatorade, so I just started giving women bottles of water. I would learn their name. And then when they were doing a drill, I would cheer for them, and call out their name.

Jan Spence:
I encouraged those women that were doing well, but I was also encouraging the ones that were struggling. So I would say, “You know what? Don’t worry about it. You’ve got the next one, you’ve got this.” So just that spirit of encouragement, just that simple gesture of sharing a bottle of water, of calling out someone’s name and applauding them, letting them know that you believed in them, had such power.

Jan Spence:
So not only was it the words of encouragement, but the other thing I learned, Mike, was that behavior is contagious. One by one, the women started to copy me. So it wasn’t just me applauding on the sidelines as one person, but they began to follow suit, and they began to cheer for each other, and high five each other, and help each other up when they fell down.

Jan Spence:
So that was the other biggest lesson, is that what we do when we either disrespect people or when we respect people, that that behavior, people are watching, and that has impact on others, and that behavior is contagious. So I think that’s probably the other biggest lesson that I learned throughout that experience.

Mike Domitrz:
You mentioned earlier that your grandmother played a role in the football side, but your mom, you’ve also shared, played a role in this, how you naturally said you were, to lift others up, to be that teammate. So how did your mom have that role?

Jan Spence:
Yeah, it’s an interesting story, Mike. I remember it’s something that I recall that moment on the football field, when I was at that point of decision making of, “Do I just walk off and leave, and give up my dream and admit defeat and leave? Or do I stay? And if I stay, what am I going to do?”

Jan Spence:
I recalled my mother, she’s a preacher’s wife, and so she was leading a little youth group in a little small basement, a damp basement in some little tiny church in South Georgia. I remember seeing her getting all the kids in a circle, she explains the rules, hot potato or something like that. The kids began to play. And then she noticed this young gal, Cindy, and Cindy was over in the corner and she wasn’t playing. Cindy was that person, Mike, that that we all know that’s just a little bit awkward, that just doesn’t always fit in. My mother actually stopped the game and she walked over to Cindy, she put her arms around her and she led her to the circle and she said, “Cindy’s here and now we can all play.” And then the game began again.

Jan Spence:
So I think just seeing her constantly looking out for that person that’s just not fitting in, that person that’s on the outside, the person that’s not contributing to the conversation. For kids, I think it’s looking, being in that lunch room and noticing that kid that eats by himself or herself every day. What if you were that person to walk over, call them by name and say, “Hey, why don’t you come sit with us?” What kind of impact could that have on that individual’s life?

Jan Spence:
I think I saw her do that and I’ve tried to emulate that, just to be intentional about looking for those people, the disadvantaged, the down-and-out. Just look them in the eyes, smile, say their name and acknowledge them. And I believe that is giving respect to another human being, which we all deserve.

Mike Domitrz:
Yeah, I love that. And you once were at a place where you are struggling and a friend helped you out. Can you tell us about that? You were ready to quit.

Jan Spence:
As you know, in the speaking business, you just don’t wake up one morning and hang your shingle and say, “I’m a professional speaker.” It can be a tough business to enter into, and lots of different ways to get into the business. So I had made another career change and was finally doing what I always wanted to do, which was be a motivational, professional speaker, and had been working at this for a year.

Jan Spence:
I had been networking, I had been trying to get booked in professional platforms. And finally at about the end of the year, my husband who loves me and respects me, he just said, “You know what? Maybe it’s time, while you’re on this path, to maybe get a part time job.” I finally booked my first paid speaking engagement and a friend of mine, a very dear friend of mine, drove down from another state to come see it.

Jan Spence:
He took me to dinner that night after the luncheon, and I was in tears. I said, “You know what? This is taking too long. This is too hard. I just don’t have the contacts. It’s just not working.” And his words had power to me. His words had impact and he said, “You’ve got a gift. You’ve got to do this. You can’t give up. You were wonderful. It’s just taking longer than you thought. I’ll be here to help you and support you any way I can, but you can’t give up.”

Jan Spence:
And so it was pivotal. I was just about to throw the towel in, and just someone being intentional about saying, “I believe in you and you can do this,” had power to keep me going. And here I am six, seven years later. So it was an important time, and he knows now how important that conversation was. It was pivotal in my life.

Mike Domitrz:
That’s incredibly powerful. Now, we’re all about respect here, and you’ve brought up a lot of great examples of respecting teammates and colleagues. What does the word mean to you, the word respect?

Jan Spence:
The word respect, to me, means honoring another individual in the place where they are at. So they might not be on the same page with me or with what I believe, but just honoring them in the place that they’re at and loving them where they are.

Mike Domitrz:
I love that. That’s a very similar definition we use, which is to be seen for who you are, is to be respected.

Jan Spence:
Love it. Love it.

Mike Domitrz:
And so thank you for sharing that. I want to make sure everybody can find your book, find you. The book once again, we brought up earlier, is Cheer on Your Team!: 52 Tips to Increase Employee Retention, Engagement and Loyalty.

Mike Domitrz:
Your website, super easy, janspence.com. Exactly like it sounds. J-A-N-S-P-E-N-C-E.com. So for all of our listeners, we’ll have all of your LinkedIn, your social media, all of that in our show notes. Jan, thank you so much for joining us.

Jan Spence:
Thank you for the message that you continue to share with the world. Love it, Mike. Thank you for having me.

Mike Domitrz:
Absolutely. And for our listeners, you know what’s next. That is Question of the Week. Before I answer this week’s Question of the Week, I’d love to ask you a question. Would you please subscribe to this podcast, The Respect Podcast with Mike Domitrz?

Mike Domitrz:
By subscribing, you can make a huge impact. Now you might be wondering, “Mike, how does my subscribing to your podcast make a huge impact?” Well, here’s how. For every person that subscribes, it raises the rankings of the show in the search engines. So for people who care about respect, like yourself, when they’re doing a search for podcast, they’re more likely to find this show, thus providing an awesome opportunity for us to spread more respect around this world. And all you do is hit “subscribe” under your podcast. Plus, the second benefit is by subscribing, you automatically get every episode right into your phone or whatever device you’re listening to the podcast on. It happens automatically, so subscribing also makes your life easier.

Mike Domitrz:
Now let’s get into this week’s Question of the Week. Oh, and by the way, you can always ask your questions of the week by joining us on Facebook in our discussion group. It’s called The Respect Podcast Discussion Group. Go there on Facebook and ask whatever questions you would like me to answer and/or address in this segment of the show, and then listen to each episode to find out when your question is included.

Mike Domitrz:
This week’s question is, “Mike, in the past year, what does is movie that you really enjoyed?”

Mike Domitrz:
For me, it’s one I’ve recently seen. Peanut Butter Falcon. That’s the name of the movie. Check it out. Really powerful because you see characters coming from different places, and you see people having their own struggles, and then you see the journey of trying to respect each persons’ gifts, personalities, talents, and strengths throughout the journey of the movie.

Mike Domitrz:
And it doesn’t mean that everybody makes all good choices, that everybody’s always good to each other, but you see that process of the human existence and those characters. I think you’re going to see the movie up for some awards because the acting is sensational, the character development and the journey it takes you on. That’s the movie, Peanut Butter Falcon.

Mike Domitrz:
Do you know what I would love? I would love to hear your answer to this week’s Question of the Week. So would you please answer what your answer would have been if you were asked that question today on the show? All you do is go to our Facebook page. We have a special group where we have these discussions, called The Respect Podcast Discussion Group. So The Respect Podcast Discussion Group, and share with us what would your answer have been to this week’s Question of the Week? And take a moment, post us a new question for future episodes. What question would you like to hear me answer on an upcoming episode? That’s all done on Facebook in our special group, which is The Respect Podcast Discussion Group. Can’t wait to see you there.

Mike Domitrz:
Thank you for joining us in this episode of The Respect Podcast: Exploring Work, Love & Life. This episode, like every episode is brought to you by our organization, The Center for Respect, which you can find at centerforrespect.com. And of course you can find me, your host, Mike Domitrz at mikespeaks.com. Thank you so much for joining us.

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