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Leadership Thought #246 – Winning The Games You Should Win

November 14, 2011

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When you are competing for anything, you should be mindful of what winning means.

I know that sports analogies pertaining to business don’t work for everyone, but they can still be instructive.  One of the major characteristics of a high-caliber team is their consistency in winning the games they SHOULD win, not just the games they NEED to win.  Of course, it matters that a group of individuals can perform when their collective “backs are against the wall.”  It is also commendable when an organization can step up its game and play to the caliber of its opponents.  However, winning shouldn’t be viewed as an event that is driven by circumstance but instead as a habit developed through steadiness of effort and a positive mindset.

Adversity is a part of every business and life journey.  Sometimes you will have to prove what you are made of, but your character shouldn’t change based on the challenge in front of you.  When you have the advantage and opportunity, you should seize it.  Small victories always lead to larger ones.  Bringing your “A game” shouldn’t be a matter of choice or require an external catalyst.  In fact, as one of my coaches from many years ago used to say, “You should give it your best effort even when no one else is watching.”  You should perform at your best because of who you are, not because of the perceived rewards at the end of the game.

Throughout time, all great sports teams have won the games they should win.  You can safely put a check box in the victory column when you notice they are playing certain opponents.  They have very few, if any, emotional letdowns.  When they show up on the field, their level of focus and execution is remarkable.  They do not beat themselves.  The weaker team is aware of their disadvantage and is on the defensive before the game even starts.  Upsets rarely happen during championship seasons.

High-performing businesses often resemble their sports counterparts.  There is predictability to their concentration and effort.  Nothing is taken for granted.  People know what is expected of them, and they do it consistently.  Crises are few and far between. Business units don’t beat themselves and are quick to notice and leverage performance advantages. Individuals are self-motivated and do not require external stimuli. Winning is an expectation, not a surprise or stroke of luck.  With all great teams, victory is usually a foregone conclusion.