"Branches & Roots": A Look at Strategy and Competition Through the Lens of Business and Sport
A Banyan Tree Strategies Communication
Good Morning, we hope the second 45 days of 2015 have been fruitful and have you looking for continued success in April and May. Like many athletes or competitors who divide up a race into small sections, we have found that breaking the year up into 45 day “splits” allows us to better focus on improving our performance. “Split times” allow you to carry momentum throughout a longer race and keep your edge.
In looking for and trying to keep that edge we noticed a few things with respect to teams and leadership and are curious if you are noticing these trends as well. The first trend is how much faster teams are created for a single purpose and then disbanded almost as quickly, adapting to this trend requires a quick and agile mindset. Second we noticed that having a deep bench on a team for when it really matters late in the season requires getting all players on the floor during the season and the correlations to the workplace are intriguing. Finally we identified a rare and subtle culture killer. Read more to make sure you don’t have this virus flowing through your team or company.
Everywhere you look companies and teams are looking for speed; foot speed, communication speed, and speed of delivery of goods and services. Recently we started to notice a correlation between teamwork challenges and the duration of the team itself. In youth sports the average season is 16 weeks long, an eternity for the player, but a blip on the screen for an adult. In work environments temporary workers are the standard for most Global 1000 companies and they even have different color badges for all to see. The need for speed has created an environment where leaders can fill the room with people, but one layer down all parties are looking around the room to gauge the commitment to the group and the duration and type of contract.
Regardless of your position on one of these new “iTeams”, factoring in the length of the time the team is to be together should help you work well with all parties. If you are the leader missing this key dynamic can be costly to your performance especially with the lowest power participants. Often times the lower power groups will never communicate their frustration, rather they will find a way to hit a personal “release” valve that subtly kills the team culture. It can show up in their engagement level, they are present, but not clicked into the team's goal. Often times they vote with their feet, by not showing up at all. Dr. Suess’s “Yertle the Turtle comes to mind here”
As you build your teams, keep a special eye out for your different groups and don’t overlook the short duration participants, they often times have long duration commitments elsewhere (spouses and children) that if tended to correctly can make a big impact on how they perform on your team. If you don’t, one named “Mack" may burp and like Yertle your team may end up flat on its back.
The Golden State Warriors haven’t just taken the NBA by surprise they’ve knocked it completely on its side. From our vantage point it is another example of highly adaptable Bay Area executive talent deploying a winning strategy, and we would like to share one element that you can use with your team. The NBA’s history of success has been Jordan as the star with a Pippen on the side, Larry Bird as the star with DJ or McHale on the side, or LeBron with a strong second in Wade even won a title. Yet coming out of San Antonio over the past 10 years is a different way and it is less about the one star and more about a fully functioning team of 9 to 10 players getting meaningful minutes throughout the entire season.
There may not be a “Money Ball” book out yet on the this strategy, but the ownership of the Warriors brought Steve Kerr in to run a system similar to the Spurs and it works on many levels. The correlation to your business that we would like to highlight is that you should be taking more people out on sales and service calls. Nothing is more painful than watching a loyal bench warmer thrust on the court at crunch time because they haven’t seen the light of day for months. The ball is moving differently than in practice and the heat of the moment melts them on the spot. Have you not seen this on your work teams, the back office person is left stammering because the prime time player is out on vacation or is sick.
We view this as a mistake by leadership to not develop all members of the team to be able to “leave the building” and go see a client or customer. It doesn't have to be an everyday occurrence but having a system in place to keep all team members on the court will do wonders for your company. We hope the Warriors go all the way this year. Just remember, get the ball in as many people’s hands as you can during the regular season so they won’t drop it in the playoffs!
Culture Killer "Hakuna Matata"
Several client engagements have us focusing on culture and we have started to catalog a few subtle Culture Killers. One particularly subtle virus we picked up is the “I am too cool to care”, or “it’s just a game” attitude. Have you ever noticed this on any of your teams? It typically shows up when things start to really count, it is in its simplest sense a pressure release valve for the individual. “Hey, at least I have my health…” The problem is that attitudes are contagious and at crunch time this virus spreads like crazy and right at the moment you need your team to focus you have them looking for the exits emotionally. We have tagged this challenge The “Hakuna Matata” (translation 'don't worry, be happy') virus and like a grease fire you can’t use the normal tactics to snuff it out, or you will come off looking like a jerk.
Telling someone that they can’t be happy go lucky or try to take the edge off of a situation is a poor tactic bound to get you labeled as a “no fun” or “all work, no play” leader. An alternative might be to recognize that the person expressing this attitude is leaking and that you should seek to flush out their hopes and goals in a safe setting. Many of your people who leak this attitude are actually your leaders in the making. They see the goal, they have stress around it, and therefore they seek to calm others and themselves. What really is missing are facts and reassurance from the leaders to that individual explaining that your company has a culture where it IS “cool to care” about the goal and the community of people who make up that group.
The Hakuna Matata virus was well cataloged in Disney’s “The Lion King” and young Simba rose to the challenge. We hope this helps you identify the potential culture killer and that you can use it to develop some potential future leaders who might just be adjusting to the heat of the battle.
Closing Thoughts On Three Lives That Lasted 300 Years
The past 30 days brought the end of 3 lives that struck us as significant. Irving Kahn died at 109 years old and was a value investor who made his first stock trade in 1929, he was an example of having a life’s work that kept him active mentally for years. We wish this for all of you. Lee Kuan Yew died at 91 having fundamentally altered the country of Singapore and how small countries in Asia can thrive. His optimism and vision changed a nation and his views on the future of the region were expressed in his book The Grand Master's Insights on China, The US, and the World. Of particular note is that he sees China struggling to be the center of commerce in the world due to the fact that the world is not adopting its languages in their commerce. Finally Cecilia Blackfield died at 100 and left in her wake the hills of Diamond Head on the island of Oahu. Mrs. B was a mentor and life long example to us of having a cause centered life. When you see the hills of Diamond Head in their natural state, you can thank her and others who won the battle to make it a protected area. We hope that, like us, you can find inspiration in the lives of others and pass on their values into your current team environments.
Complete Annual Newsletter Volumes