Thursday, October 15, 2009

Advice From The Pros

We spent some time last night with our local professional football team general manager and several players. They have come from a season where they lost all but two games to a 50:50 record. Quite a feat. Here is some wisdom from them that I believe relates to business success. These are quotes from memory - not a transcript of a taped interview.

General Manager's Comments

You've got to be careful what you say after a game both to the press, players, and coaches. It's important to review the game tape so you’re addressing what really happened, not what you "thought" happened. The emotion of the moment often interferes with your objectivity.

We're always choosing between short term success and the long-term viability of the team. Fans want us to send in the best players on every play and we do that most of the time. However, we need to give our young players enough playing time for them to develop. Right now we're in a building mode so we tend to default to the long-term objective.

Rookie quarterback's comments

When I play badly I try to live in the moment, acknowledge what happened, learn from it, and move on.

After this meeting, I read an article entitled "Attitude Is Everything." What a contrast. Professional athletes acknowledge "attitude" as a factor, but they focus on competencies and dealing with objective reality rather than speculation or wild "optimism." Football is a poor analogy for business since players practice more than play the game. However, there are some parallels. Preparation, coaching, competency development, and attitude control are all factors but no one element, including "attitude" is the "secret."

Don't you just love it when commentators say, "They wanted it more than the other team." Pardon? Are you suggesting the losing team wanted to lose or, more accurately, didn't want to win badly enough? If wanting it badly and visualizing success really worked, both teams would win!!! Wake up! Football, like business, operates with a deadline - and there is competition claiming they are as good as or better than you are. The saddest commentary I've ever heard is a professional player contending, "We won the first half." OOPS - they lost the game and the championship that day. Even professionals, who should know better, can fall in the trap of denying reality.

Let's take some advice from a fictional character, Dr. Gregory House. "People don't get what they deserve, they just get what they get and there's nothing we can do about it." If you know the character (he is a diagnostician) this is not a fatalistic approach to life. Dr. House deals with reality by taking action rather than worrying, stressing out, over-thinking, or engaging in irrational, wild behavior.

When a distraught father asked House if he was sure a treatment the doctor recommended will work, House answers, "I will be when he (the patient) responds to the treatment."

We could use more of this kind of thinking in business. Rather than contending that we're sure something will "work", why not emphasize our commitment to do it, then make our judgment after we've taken the prescribed action? This is how the Dale Carnegie process works. We get people in action, then evaluate the results (quickly) and take new actions based on what we've learned - in reality.

This is similar to the 15-second conversation in a football huddle. "What happened? What's next? Who's doing what? Let's go!" You can see that being clear about what happened and having choices around what's next and having the competency to complete the assignments are all critical factors in creating the results we want to create.

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