I attended the annual inter-house sport completion in my children’s school on Saturday 11 March 2017. This was tough for me as I had a very busy Friday and worked till the early hours of the day.
While I was enjoying the entertainment being provided by those kids during the various track and field events, I couldn’t help but take some lessons from that event, especially during the relay race competition.
The following are the keynotes:
1. DEVELOP BUSINESS, NOT ENEMIES. Business can be a strong competition even with your classmates or friends. So, it must be understood that being a business competitor is not a declaration of war between the individual players.
2. BEYOND FIRST MOVER’S ADVANTAGE. Starting first in a relay is good, but does not automatically translate to success. It is the combination of what you do during the race that determines the chances of success.
3. PASSING THE BATON. In a relay race, runners must pass the baton from one to the next athlete at specific distance intervals (within certain rules). I observed that many teams had strong athletes but didn’t emerge as winners because they struggled with the baton exchange. When a relay (or a business) team masters this aspect of running a relay and combines it with phenomenal skill, it is then that they can achieve sustained high performance results. Baton exchange is involved during delegation of roles and responsibilities in business. This requires a level of precision that can only be developed with practice and considerable communication. The handover of new customers by the Marketing department to the Operations team is also like the baton exchange. Is it always a smooth transition in our businesses? Also, is the DMD (or anyone in a role that acts in the absence of the CEO) able to fit into the CEO’s role in his absence (maybe due to emergencies that could take the CEO away)?
4. TEAMWORK, NOT ONLY SKILL, DELIVERS. Relay teams usually are made up of four of the highly skilled runners in a team. But skill alone isn’t enough. The teams must practice together to get their timing and execution just right. It takes a great deal of teamwork to win a relay event. Building a successful team in a professional environment also requires finding employees who can deliver their individual job roles effectively, but also fit together as a group. When a relay team is working together, they understand how their roles fit together to form a cohesive unit. The same holds for businesses as well, whether SMEs or large organizations. Business leaders need to ensure that all their team members have a reasonable understanding of their individual role and how it relates to the overall corporate business goals and objectives.
5. RESPECT. For the winning relay teams, each of the athletes is decorated with a medal while the team is awarded a trophy (glassware). It was interesting to me that each team already knows who amongst them will step forward to collect the trophy. In at least four instances, I noticed that the “team leader” (who collected the trophy) handed the trophy to the athlete who appeared to have contributed mostly to their award winning performance at the event. I took two lessons away from these acts. First, the “rainmaker” (like the marketing personnel that wins most of the big-ticket clients) does not necessarily need to be the CEO; but he must be duly recognized. In businesses, we must always have processes to recognize and reward good performance.
Apart from having a great time with my kids in school, it was also a great learning and rewarding experience for me. I hope this post is able to ignite some thoughts as to how you can positively influence your various organizations.