Problems and Opportunities
I recently sat down for a chat with a successful business leader. I started the conversation and asked a simple question, “how’s business going”?
For the next 10 minutes, I heard a list of all the problems and issues that this executive was faced with. It ranged from HR type issues, to performance issues, to company vision issues and a bunch of stuff in between. I’ll admit that at about the 5-minute mark in the conversation, I quit listening.
I started thinking to myself that this company is one of the most admired companies in the United States right now. From all perspectives, this company is a big success and this interaction was reminding me of some wise words once shared with me, “problems and opportunities will always coexist in business”.
It’s all a Game
The day I heard those words “problems and opportunities will always coexist” was the day I realized that it’s all a game. I interrupted the conversation and asked 3 quick questions:
- “What’s the game that your company is playing?”
- “Is everyone playing the same game?”
- “Is everyone playing to win?”
I had a hunch what the answers were going to be and sure enough, that hunch was confirmed.
- “I’m not sure.”
- “It’s hard to tell.”
My response: “There you go. That’s your problem. Nobody has defined the game you are playing, how you are playing it and what winning the game looks like. The rest of what you shared are just symptoms of this bigger problem.”
Define the Game You’re Playing
As the leader of an organization, start with defining or re-defining the game that you’re playing. You need a vision that clearly outlines the game you are playing, how you intend to play the game and what winning the game looks like. At the top levels of any organization, this fundamental understanding of the game that you are playing is paramount to success.
Can you imagine Bill Belichick (coach of the New England Patriots) going into the Superbowl without a game-plan? Can you imagine if Tom Brady, the assistant coaches and the rest of the players were all left to come up with their own game-plan? It would be chaos.
Whether it’s the game of business or the game of life, always start with a game plan. Defining the game that you’re playing and your plan to play that game is essential before you can lead yourself or others.
Start with answering these questions:
- What is your strength? (This is the cornerstone of your game plan.)
- What does winning look like? (What’s your vision?)
- Who’s your competition? (What fears do you need to manage?)
- What does success look like? (What goals will tell you if you’re on track or not?)
- Who are the players on your team? (Who can you enroll to help you?)
- How are you preparing to win the game? (What’s your next step?)
Co-pilots and Couples
As humans, we’re self-centered but sometimes we need to build a plan together (couples, partners, teammates, etc.) It’s the same exercise as above. Simply substitute the words “your/you” for “our/we”.
Problems and Opportunities will always coexist. Expect the unexpected. When you’re playing the game to win, there will be all sorts of twists and turns that will cause you to pause and reevaluate. That’s ok.
When you are responsible for playing the game with a partner, pause at these moments and redefine the game plan together. Answer the questions above together.
Is everyone on the same page?
The fun part about life, business and being a leader is that you can define the game however you’d like to play it. Sure, there are a few positive fundamentals to playing these games.
- Being a good human
- Being respectful
- Being profitable
- Being honest
We recognize the traits that we look for and like in good leaders and organizations when we see them. One of the big traits that we look for is consistency. Consistency matters. It empowers us.
When the game plan isn’t defined, we lack consistency and we are left with no way to clearly articulate it to those (coaches, players, coworkers, employees, friends, family, etc.…) who will be playing the game with us.
Sure, it’s ok if we don’t know how to play the game. There’s always going to be more to learn and what we need to learn should be part of our game plan or added to the game plan as we revise it down the road.
However, when we are unable to communicate our plan with clarity, the best we do is leave ourselves and our teams to operate in a “reactive” fashion. Leaderless.
The point being is that the team needs to be on the same page and playing the same game. Everyone’s self-centered and constantly looking to define success for themselves. When you’re leading a team and the definition of success isn’t defined, then various definitions will start to spring up across your team. Teams can become splintered and eventually break up.
Ask those around you (your team) to answer the questions above. If the answers are inconsistent, pause, and redefine your plan. Then communicate it with clarity.
The amount of wins you will experience is directly related to how well your team understands the plan multiplied by how often they hear it.
Are you playing to win?
Like it or not, winning feels better than losing. Winning triggers of a series of chemicals in our brain that make us feel good. A neuroscientist can explain this better than I can, but the takeaway is that it’s ok to play the game to win.
When you are defining your game and what winning looks like, then you’re also in control of defining how you want to play the game. Winning isn’t about crushing an opponent or stripping someone of their dignity. Winning is going as far as you can, giving it all that you’ve got.
Remove the fear and play to win. The quickest path to removing the fear for yourself and your team is to define the game you are playing, how you intend to play the game and what winning looks like. Then, be sure to share it with those on your team. Those that have a vested interest in seeing you win your game.
If you’re not winning, reinvent your game.
Get your team onboard so you can lead with confidence!
If you’re ready to define your game.
If you’re ready to lead your team.
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