Key Factors in Playing to Win
by Sherri Baldwin
As the holidays are drawing near and we are planning ahead for 2019, we want to make sure we pause and celebrate our successes in 2018. Did we thank our team members for sticking with us through the good and bad times? We don’t ever want to forget that they have a choice. Did we recognize those who went above and beyond or were courageous enough to present new ideas to enhance our business or services? Did we appreciate our clients, who, by the way, ultimately pay our mortgage? Write notes of gratitude or celebrate as a group both the big and small contributions. Then prepare to come out of the gate strong in 2019.
In 2019 have a plan a place to be better than the rest. Have a plan in place to play to win. Be willing to take a risk. The ones who are willing to take risks are the ones who uncover the great ideas first. Those that get there first, win. You see, our real competitor is not XYZ company. The true enemy is settling for the status quo. If we can win that fight, the rest will take care of itself.
Below are 2 reminders on how to push beyond the boundaries of the status quo and play to win.
First, we have to be willing to take risks. In general, we have a tendency to risk less when we have something to gain and we risk more when we have something to lose. Think about Las Vegas, for example. As people lose money, they start doubling down on bets trying to win the money back. That’s what makes Vegas work. However, when we have won money and are in the black, we tend to place smaller bets. Similarly, think of your favorite football team. When they have a lead in the game, the tendency is to play it safe and stop taking risks. They play not to lose, acting more conservatively rather than continuing to take the chances needed to win. Often, the opposing team catches up to them. The losing team is still taking chances and risking big in order to win the game.
This applies to business as well. When everything seems to be doing well, we tend to maintain the status quo, not willing to take bigger risks with change. We hold on to the money and conventional methods that appear to be working. We stay the course, taking the path of least resistance and only seeing what is easiest to see; what we want to see versus what we need to see. The enemy within is an illusion of doing well, while we march in place. We are not going anywhere, but the competitor is moving forward without us. If we start losing, we are more apt to take bigger risks to try to turn the situation around. Those at the higher levels did not get there nor will they stay there by avoiding risks. They got there by being willing to take appropriate risks along the way. However, risk-taking is often viewed as gambling, rolling the dice, all or nothing, Evil Knievel style. The truth is, taking calculated risk can improve performance of a team, department or organization. It is being willing to define and implement the risk after appropriate consideration and planning that makes this approach effective.
Leaders look at risk differently. Leaders play to win versus play not to lose.
Second, leaders have the right attitude. “A young man fell asleep during math class. He woke up as the bell rang, looked up at the blackboard, and copied the two problems that were there. He assumed they were the homework for the night. He went home and labored the rest of the afternoon and into the evening knowing if he didn’t complete his homework, he would surely fail the class. He couldn’t figure out either one, but he kept trying for the rest of the week. Finally, he got the answer to one and brought it to the class. The teacher was absolutely stunned. The boy feared he had done too little too late. It turned out the problem he solved was supposedly “unsolvable”.
“How did he do it? He was able to do what was thought to be impossible because he believed it was possible. He not only believed it was possible, he believed that if he didn’t solve it he would fail the class. Had he known the problem was unsolvable he could never have done it.” – Think and Grow Rich for Coaches – Napoleon Hill and Will Craig.
Sometimes leaders must Take that Hill against all odds and do what others think is impossible. Leaders find a way! Leaders can also motivate the team to take on the challenge. This is not ropes and ladders and simply developing trust, although trust is certainly part of it. This is about believing we as a team can do something remarkable, something greater than ourselves. It is about inspiriting others to follow, even into the abyss. It is about having the right attitude and believing and inspiriting others to believe that we can win.
Coach Phil Jackson, perhaps the greatest NBA Basketball coach of all time, had this to say about a team winning attitude, “Most teams have guys who want to win but aren’t willing to do what it takes. What it takes is to give yourself over to the team and play your part. That may not always make you happy, but you’ve got to do it. Because when you do, that is when you win.”
Perhaps in an ideal world, we could live risk-free. The reality is we do not have that luxury, and that’s probably a good thing. The world is a better place because those who have gone before us were willing to take risks. Our organizations are better because of the chances others have taken that subsequently led to moving our companies forward.
We all take risks every day in our personal and professional life. For example we risk in our relationships with others. We risk in our jobs with decisions we make daily and weekly. Most of the time, we risk by choice. We risk in an effort to make something better versus settling for something less. And sometimes we risk without having a choice. Whatever the reason or circumstance, risk is part of our life and part of our job. It is part of what defines a great leader. And great leaders have a winning attitude and play to win.