Feeling excluded really stinks. That’s why it’s so often part of the story arc for high school cult-classic movies, and—on the positive side—one of the first lessons you learn as a kid. Exclude nobody and include everybody, always.
Welcome to Leaders In Play! We interview people who take having FUN at work very seriously. We know, it seems like a crazy concept, but incorporating Play At Work has been proven to improve employee engagement, creativity, recruitment, retention, and provide countless other benefits that help create healthy company culture. Read on to learn more about our featured leader and their definition of Play, both in and out of the workplace.
What are you grateful for? Something important like hitting a big anniversary with your significant other and realizing you still totally dig each other? Something smaller like that seasonal donut or latte you indulged in (followed by a great workout)? Barely catching the train and getting to work on time? Realizing your career has taken you on a winding journey and you’re happy where you are right now?
Gratitude is powerful. It helps positively frame our thoughts and offers perspective.
In my previous life I had six jobs over fourteen years during which I spent a lot of time managing my career and thinking about what I should do (and learn) next.
I’m the CEO, so if I don’t live our company’s core values then who will? Since the Zog brand was founded in 2002, there have been multiple iterations of our core values. Over time they have become our vernacular, our vocabulary for giving feedback, as well as our guidelines for making decisions and guiding daily behavior. We have put considerable thought into the Zog core values, so it’s no coincidence that my company’s core values are not so different from my personal core values.
Company Definition: We facilitate other people’s fun and have fun making it happen.
Personal Definition: Life is too short to not have fun. If not now, when?
Company Definition: Through the spirit of camaraderie, we share ideas, efforts and resources to accomplish our goals.
Personal Definition: Sometimes you need to lead and sometimes you need to play your role on the team.
Company Definition: We care about the company, each other and the work we do. We care about our customers, their experience and the communities in which we play.
Personal Definition: We treat each other with respect.
Company Definition: We do what we say, meet our commitments and provide a consistent customer experience with relentless organization.
Personal Definition: We do what we say and keep our word especially when it’s hard.
Company Definition: We take ownership and do whatever it takes. We are go getters who identify and creatively solve problems.
Personal Definition: We take initiative to solve the problem.
Company Definition: We are committed to getting better every day in everything we do both as individuals and as a company.
Personal Definition: We keep doing our best and trying to get better each day.
These personal core values have not been formally imposed upon my family. (I’m not that awkward, though some may disagree.) They’re not written on a wall or explicitly incorporated into family dinners. Rather, I use them as guiding principles for how I want to live, how and when I feel the need to provide constructive feedback and how I want members of my family to treat one another.
Here are three ways I incorporate core values into my personal life:
- Youth sports. I coach six teams each season for my two super active boys (see photo above). I create a positive experience for every player so that they learn to love team sports and the process of getting better. And it works! My retention rate is > 95% over the past seven years.
- Listen to your coach (Caring, Team Player, Continuous Improvement): This is about respecting your coach/teacher/elders and allowing others to learn, as well.
- Try your hardest (Reliable, Caring, Own It): Whatever you do, whether it’s sports, music, acting, school, volunteer work, relationships or your job, don’t mail it in! If you’re going to show up, give it your all.
- Have Fun (Fun!): No one I coach is a professional athlete. Let’s enjoy the experience.
2. Our language and actions
- That’s not the way we speak to XYZ (Caring): Caring about each other includes using caring language to speak with one another.
- We do what we say (Reliable): We stand by the commitments we make explicitly or implicitly (e.g., school assignments, commitments to other people).
3. General parenting
- We’re not helicopter parents (Own It): My wife and I know that we need to teach our kids resilience and resourcefulness, so we let the kids solve many of their own problems. For example, one month after our then fifth grader chose French as his foreign language, he came to say that he hated French and wanted to switch to Spanish. While we easily could have contacted the school for him, we didn’t. Instead, we asked him why he wanted to switch and asked what he thought he should do to make it happen. He went to his house advisor and middle school director and made the switch happen himself!
- Everyone in the family has a job to help us become a successful team (Team Player): This is especially true for the mundane like chores, helping each other when not asked, taking care of your own responsibilities, etc.
- Family traditions are created together (Fun): We discuss what each of us think would be fun to do together and vote. We’ve organized game night, card games, traveling to watch March Madness in another city every year, letting the kids plan family vacations, and more.
If you have comments or questions, please leave them below.
If you believe that what we believe and want to join us, check out our career and part-time opportunities at https://www.zogsports.com/join-the-team.aspx
About the Author
Robert Herzog, Founder and CEO, ZogCulture and ZogSports
I believe life is better with real personal connections, caring communities and a sense of play. I founded ZogSports after my close call on 9/11. In 2012, we launched ZogCulture to help create playful experiences at work so that employees can connect, be part of a community, and infuse play into the DNA of their company’s culture. We are directly impacting over 150,000 people per year across the country and have donated over $3.4M to charity. In 2017, Zog made the Crain’s Best Places to Work list (again!) and earned the prestigious B Corporation “Best For the World — Community” award.
If you’re interested in this sort of stuff, I have an MBA in Entrepreneurial Management from Wharton and a BA in Economics (which I rarely use) from Brown. I live and play in NYC with my awesome wife of 15+ years and two super active, sporty boys.
Interested in playing in a ZogSports league? ZogSports is America’s most popular social sports community, with over 125,000 players forming millions of new friendships every year. Sign up here to play.
Interested in bringing play to your company? ZogCulture creates playful employee experiences that create connections and builds community at work. Learn more by visiting our site or email Danny@ZogSports.com to inquire about bringing Zog to your office.
Core values have received more attention in the past year than ever before. More companies are recognizing that improving their office culture is a strategy that leads to sustainable success and at the center of a company’s culture are the core values in which they truly believe.
On the 10 year anniversary of 9/11, ZogSports founder and CEO, Robert Herzog, wrote the below letter to our community. As we reflect on our upcoming 15 year anniversary (ZogSports was founded in September 2002), we wanted to re-share his letter as a reminder of why we do what we do, and why each of you matter to us.
Every year, over one hundred thousand people play ZogSports. Most people play for the love of the sport, but the Zog impact is so much bigger than that. When we asked our community why they play, people shared everything from “Zog has given me a community” to “I can’t imagine not knowing the people I met playing with Zog” to even “ZogSports changed my life.” Our hope is that you, too, can build lasting connections and be a part of our caring community.
As we continue to grow with the launch of a new company culture business (more info coming your way soon), we’ll always stay true to our founding story and why we do what we do. Our goal is to create connections, build community, and infuse play into your life. We hope you feel this as part of our community — especially on a day like today.
Continue reading to hear from our founder and CEO on how we came to be and why our community is so important to us.
Reflections on 9/11 — ZogSports 15 Year Anniversary
Dear Zog extended family,
My thoughts are with those of you who lost friends and family on 9/11. I can’t imagine how hard this must be for you. I want to thank those of you who have reached out to me this week. I’ve been touched by the stories that people have shared about the impact ZogSports has had on their lives and encourage you to continue sharing those stories with us.
As I personally reflect on the 15 year anniversary of 9/11, I am emotional and torn. On the one hand, I still think about how close I was to dying that day and how many people and their families were not as lucky as me. On the other, I think about how my post-9/11 epiphany to help bring people together and build community led me to create ZogSports. That in turn helped me and hopefully many others heal and brought a sense of normalcy and fun back to the lives of thousands of people.
After 9/11, I vowed that my life would never be the same and it hasn’t. If you don’t know it, here is the story of how I got there.
Story of My Close Call and Pina Colada Epiphany
Many of you have heard me tell this story. I got a new job as the VP of Operations for Marsh & McLennan’s internet group in July 2001. My office was on the 96th Floor of World Trade Center Tower 1 (North Tower). So on September 11, I got off the subway and came outside at 8:45am in time to hear a loud explosion, look up and see a gaping hole in the side of the building where my office had been. None of the 297 people from Marsh who were already at work survived. I don’t know how long I stood there, but after the 2nd plane hit, mass hysteria broke out and I ran. I met up with my girlfriend (now wife) at her office and we walked home desperately trying to make sense of what had happened.
There are dozens of things I did that sunny Tuesday morning that I usually didn’t do — many of which were because we changed our vacation in Yosemite National Park to the week after Labor Day (not before) because there were no accommodations available. I hit the snooze button twice, dropped off my laundry, picked up my held mail (and stopped to toss the junk mail), took the local C train instead of the Express (A) and numerous other small decisions that added up to me showing up 5 minutes late.
Three months later, I’m sitting on the beach with a pina colada in my hand lamenting about how terrible my life was: I closed down the internet company I was helping run, laid off 30 people who reported to me, was unemployed and then almost got hit by a plane. My glass was half empty. I decided to view it as half full. I thought about all the good things that had happened that year. I met my wife playing co-ed softball. I played in numerous other leagues and while I loved the sports and camaraderie part, thought that they were poorly organized and had disrespectful customer service. I could do better. Finally, I saw people like us being selfless and inspired to give back. That was the moment. I decided to combine sports, social and charity and create ZogSports. Our goal that day is the same as it is now — to create connections, build caring communities, and infuse play into people’s lives.
All of this inspires what we do every day and how we do it. I hope that as you reflect on the tragedy and loss of 9/11, you are comforted to know that we were there too and will continue to be here for you.
Thank you for being part our community.
Robert Herzog, Founder and CEO, ZogSports
firstname.lastname@example.org | www.zogsports.com
Many companies have core values. You can often find them on the company’s website and the CEO most likely knows them. However, they’re a waste of time if they’re not ALIVE in the organization. Even if every member of your organization can recite them, that’s not enough. Core values that are alive in an organization are transformational.