My April column for the Kitsap Sun / Kitsap Business Journal…
I love March Madness. I think it’s the best three weeks in sports, period. Nowhere else can so many upsets, drama, and amazing personal stories converge on such a grandiose stage.
As I write this column, the Sweet Sixteen has yet to occur, so I have no idea who wins. Suffice it to say, my bracket was officially “busted” when University of Maryland-Baltimore County upset the overall No. 1 seed — and my chosen champion — University of Virginia. It was the first time in history a No. 16 seed defeated a No. 1 seed. However, other huge upsets to big-name programs came at the hands of the likes of the University of Buffalo, Loyola-Chicago and the University of Nevada. Madness.
As a former high school basketball coach, I always seek to understand the “why.” Why do mid-major teams from smaller conferences and with lesser pure talent upset the higher seeds on a regular basis? Here’s what I’ve decided:
1. The big schools have been besieged with what’s referred to as “one and done” players. The one-year minimum college rule before entering the NBA means the best young players rarely stick around for their sophomore years, opting to go make money. The consequences? There is less consistency and maturity for those big schools as compared to mid-majors that keep players for all four years. You often have 22-year-olds playing against 19-year-olds — plus the more mature teams have played together and create a stronger synergy and teamwork.
2. The pressure gets to younger players with bigger expectations. I’m certain the more talented Virginia team started feeling the pressure midway through the second half when faced with being the first top seed to fall in the first round. You could simply see the change in their body language; they were taught theory and opponents were playing fast and loose.
3. Leadership is everything. I’m not suggesting that the big school coaches are not good leaders, they are. However, I’ve observed that they are more like psychologists dealing with bigger egos. The mid-major coaches resemble more high school coaches because they have the full attention of the players. Their focus can be on strategy and pulling the right strings with strong influencing skills.
Let’s discuss how this correlates to your business and why you can compete with your larger, more highly resourced competitors:
Team: You have the opportunity to build a strong, diverse, and consistent employee base. Small businesses are responsible for the most growth in the North American economy. Large corporations simply exchange the same employees; you grow them.
Once you have good employees on your team, it’s your responsibility to cultivate and develop them. That means having a formal development program where employees at all stages can be mentored, coached, and learn their craft. With the growth of digital technology, there have never been as many resources to utilize.
The problem I see is that small business owners don’t make this a priority. While many say this is what they want to do, their actions and financial investment say otherwise. In order to build a company full of star players, each one has to have an opportunity to grow, develop, and rise in the organization. If they don’t, they won’t stay.
Pressure: We all are familiar with what it means to “choke” in sports. In our business, “choking” means succumbing to the pressure. It means allowing fear and anxiety to win over our talent. As a business owner, you can help allay this issue by becoming a master influencer.
Notice I didn’t use the term “motivator.” Motivation is hardly ever the problem with good employees; it’s fear of failure or rejection. Instead of motivating, your job as a leader is to “influence.” In other words, become that person that can transfer your knowledge, skills, and positive mindset to those that just need the encouragement and — this is the important part — assurance that it’s okay to fail.
Influencing skills are the most crucial part of being a strong boss or manager. Without it, you’re the equivalent of that coach yelling from the bench to try harder. You want to be the coach that shows them how to be better and more confident.
Leadership: Employees don’t leave jobs, they leave people. Business owners and managers hold the future of the business in their hands, and it’s a huge responsibility. Retaining and growing talent is crucial in any industry. That’s why the person in a leadership position must be able to skillfully pull the right strings by understanding what motivates employees under their guidance and how to optimize their skills for the betterment of the company.
When the focus leaves the individual and falls on the team (e.g. the company), then everyone is working towards the same goals. The problem in so many small businesses — especially family businesses — is that agendas and favoritism become part of the culture. The consequence is a crisis worse than any fire or cyber attack to the health and profitability of that business.
The solution is to train and guide those in leadership positions. Leadership is not inherent in people. Just because they have impressive sales skills doesn’t mean they will make a strong sales manager. Don’t make the mistake of choosing leaders and letting them go without development. The investment you make in your “coaches” (including yourself!) might just be the best money you ever spend.
You want to consistently win big in your “bracket.” The follow these three steps:
Step 1: Create a culture of teamwork, consistency, and personal development.
Step 2: Don’t add pressure, but rather find a way to help your employees to work relaxed and unburdened. You will get better results.
Step 3: Grow your coaches. Invest in yourself and your leadership team to become more skilled in developing and influencing your employees.
Do these three things and you’ll find yourself consistently cutting down the nets and increasing your business growth and profitability.
© 2018 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Dan Weedin is a strategist, speaker, author and executive coach. He helps small business and middle market business leaders and entrepreneurs to grow more profitably and create a better life. He was inducted into the Million Dollar Consultant™ Hall of Fame in 2012. You can reach Dan at 360-271-1592; e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his web site at http://www.DanWeedin.com.