My son is a freshman at the University of Tennessee. If you’ve been on any sort of social media in the past couple of weeks, you’ve likely heard about the young boy from Florida who had his homemade University of Tennessee t-shirt made fun of.

The boy told the story to his teacher. She then wrote a post on Facebook that went viral. The support from the University of Tennessee and the entire county has been incredible. The Tennessee VolShop actually re-created the t-shirt to sell. So many people tried to buy it that it crashed their server.

Overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for her son, the mother shared that every comment, item sent, and action taken on behalf of her son wouldn’t be forgotten, and would serve as inspiration for him throughout his life. What caused this sort of community response?

Serving. Supporting.

This story calls to mind a couple of the behaviors from InnerWill’s Five Practices of Values Based Leadership – empathize with others and supporting the success of others. What is it about this story that compels us to empathize with this little boy and support his success?  

How can we use this an example to propel us forward and support the success of those around us? Try these three things:

  1. We can be mentors. Multiple generations are in the workplace today. Each generation brings its own set of gifts and strengths. Mentor relationships are a great way to learn from one another and build each other up so that we can all be the best version of ourselves. Who will you share your knowledge and wisdom with? Each and every day you have the opportunity to teach someone. Who is someone you can learn from? Seek out both.
  2. We can help others connect. This story started because this little boy’s teacher wrote a post on Facebook. She simply wanted to connect with others to demonstrate kindness. You have a network of people that you can introduce to each other. People you know who can help others achieve their goals. Even the busiest people in the world have something they would like to help with. Create opportunities for connection.
  3. We can be clear. Brene Brown says that “being clear is kind.” Supporting others means we need to be willing to set clear expectations and provide a way to support others in successfully meeting those expectations. We can take an approach of building someone up rather than tearing someone down.

What will you be compelled to do this week as you think about supporting someone’s success?

I have a challenge for you. Think of two people you know who could benefit from your support. Whether it’s making a connection, sharing a useful resource, having a meaningful conversation, or offering a few words of praise – doing so will make an impact.

Your action may not go viral on social media, but it may just be the inspiration that someone needs. “Go Big Orange” is the cheer for Tennessee sports.

What is your cheer? Who will you cheer on today?


Wendy Berenson

Wendy Berenson

Wendy brings over 20 years of expertise in training and development, facilitation, and Human Resources to the InnerWill team and the clients we serve. She has a passion for helping leaders develop a culture of engaging employee experiences and has a unique knack for identifying the strengths of others and helping them reach their highest potential.

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