I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been a major fan of the Olympic games. We thrill to the hard won victories and ache with empathy as some athletes see their Olympic dreams go up in smoke. It’s no wonder that sports analogies are so frequently used in business. We can all see bits of ourselves in these games – in the ups and downs. As a marketing consultant, these games often remind me of some important truths; especially about leadership, individual strengths, the importance of team, effective strategy and awesome execution.
The First Ring: The Ability to Set a Winning Strategy.
As consultants, we play a dual role in our clients’ organizations. We are both team members and team coaches. As coaches, we work with organization leaders to set strategy. Setting strategy requires knowing exactly where to compete, developing plans to win and then coaching leadership on implementing the strategy(ies).
Great strategies are built on repeatable, adaptable models. For instance, a powerful brand-house like Proctor & Gamble owns a wide collection of brands. Each is in its own stage of the product life cycle. Different brands will be in one of four stages of the PLC (introduction through decline). My role as a consultant is to help my clients identify which stage the brand is in and then plan and execute strategies that ultimately build sales.
Adaptability is a key factor. All products will transition between the four stages. Game tactics have to adapt as well. Companies must make tough choices about which markets they can compete in most effectively and then revisit those choices as new information becomes available. They must make hard decisions about where they will develop world-class capabilities and assets and where they will be satisfied with “good enough” for now. Adapt. Repeat.
The Second Ring: Learning From Game Film: Identifying and Acquiring the Right Skills.
Great consultants have the talent to bring out the best in the teams they work with. They can do it, because they, themselves, have these same skills.
Every team player has their own set of skills and talents. Getting the best out of the team requires an ability to identify talent and then put the right players in the positions each player is best equipped to excel in.
There are four workplace strengths; Envisioner strength, Designer strength, Build strength and Operator strength. Team members with great envision strength are visionaries who are energized by answering the right questions and solving the right problems. For example, ‘Where do we intend to go and why?’ It is common to find these strengths with strategists, marketers, and CEOs. They think strategically, setting visionary destinations, thinking inventively and brainstorming and pioneering new ideas.
Designers ask ‘What do we need to do when?’. These people are MBA’s, analysts, planners, and CFOs.
Builders are more focused on facts and figures, and are process-oriented. They implement step-by-step procedures, projects, programs, methods and solutions.
The fourth type of workplace strength is the Operate strength. With knowledge work, Operators make things happen by building effective teams. They get a lot of energy from human interaction. They focus on the ‘who’. Sales people and good mentors are often very strong in the ‘operate’ area.
Great Olympians Demonstrate Workplace Strengths
When Michael Phelps made his big comeback in 2016, he’d already won more individual medals than most participating countries ever do. Phelps is a winner because he demonstrates several indispensable traits.
Chief among these is his talent for goal-setting. He writes down his goals and checks on them daily. He has been quoted as saying “I have my goals somewhere I can see them, so when I get out of bed I know I’m waking up to work on what I’m going to achieve”. His childhood coach started him on a habit he has adhered to throughout his career. He envisions the ‘perfect race’ every time he competes. Phelps will visualize himself in a race both from the perspective of someone in the stands and from his viewpoint in the water. He imagines himself swimming flawlessly from start to finish, assessing his competition and going over even the smallest of details, like the water dripping from his lips. Phelps flexes his ‘design’ strength in the way he plans for every possibility. During the 2008 games in Beijing, Phelps’s goggles broke at the start of the 200-meter butterfly final. Although most would think that losing your sight in the middle of an Olympic race may be a cause for panic, Phelps continued on. Because he had mentally prepared for such a situation, it did not hold him back. Finishing the race with a new world record showed the power of Phelps’s use of visualization and mental preparation.
No “I” In Team.
Successful leaders emphasize collective results over the individual. “There is no ‘I’ in ‘team’.” Awesome teams will ensure that all members, regardless of their individual responsibilities or areas of expertise, are doing whatever they can to help the team accomplish its goals.
Great leaders will establish objectives that the team believes are achievable. If team members do not believe in the team’s ability to achieve an overarching goal, they will go rogue to save their individual careers. Great teams are characterized as ones which are achievement-oriented, minimize individualistic behavior (the old saying “there is no ‘I’ in ‘team’), thrive on success and hate failure. Achieving a team like this means that individuals put their personal goals and interests beneath what’s best for the team.
The Fourth Ring: Having ‘The Right Stuff’. Proven Track Record.
Winning teams and athletes are led to greatness by remarkable coaches. In the business world, consultants are often brought in to help bring out the best an organization can aspire to. See how great coaches and consultants are alike and the areas where they’re different.
Great Olympic Coaches: Bela Karolyi.
In the 2016 Rio games, Simone Biles was a member of the US women’s gymnastics team. She won four gold medals and a bronze medal that year. Behind her stands another even more famous name, Bela Karolyi, her coach. Karolyi is the embodiment of a great coach and great consultant. He envisioned a new approach to US gymnastics when he created the semi-centralized training camp that now produces our best gymnasts. He ‘looks for two broad sets of abilities, physical and mental. “The intelligence. The toughness. The acceptance of a disciplined life. And also competitiveness, which you can see in the heart of even the little guys.”
He is flexible and adapts a different approach to working with his gymnasts depending on the skills, strengths and personal temperament of each girl. He knows how to motivate each of them and adapts his communication to bring out the best in his athletes. Of this, recently he stated, ‘Criticism and encouragement have to be alternated and used at the right time and in the right situation.
He is focused on results as he is also focused on team. Karolyi recalled his past in a recent interview and said ‘From the very beginning, I wanted to have a team. Even if I had only one competitive athlete, I always gathered a team around her. The team helps with the positive attitude, the social life, the pride. And the everyday competitiveness is unbelievably productive. There are big-time inside rivalries.
Karolyi also exemplifies incredible personal discipline. After coaching the Romanian gymnast Nadia Comeneci to her Olympics win, he defected to the US with a dream of creating a truly great US women’s gymnastics team. It was a long, hard road which required significant personal sacrifice and discipline. Initially unable to land a coaching job, he started his new life cleaning restaurants. Of this time he has said, “That time was] very difficult. I had to work so hard to get out of it. And I did. I managed to move out from the ghetto to a community with more gymnastic places and to get a casual job as a coach. Eventually, I got in a position to have a little gymnasium, a couple of beams, and a few mats. And I worked so well with those kids, the parents fell in love and they did the advertising for me. And more and more people came. And then I managed to have enough money to rent another little adjacent facility. In less than a year and a half I had about 60 kids. We made a team. Soon we had a national champion, then an international champion, and three and a half years later we had an Olympic champion. The most important thing was the drive to get back to my professional life, to doing what I love. I wanted so desperately to show that what had happened was nothing the Romanian government created. It was my dedication and work. The business side has never been my strength. But we managed to build a bigger empire in the sport of gymnastics than anybody ever had.”
The Fifth Ring: A Strong Work Ethic.
Consulting, like international athletic competition, has its rewards. At A-Cubed Marketing Services, we train business owners and mid-level managers. It’s a fun and exciting job and it’s intellectually challenging.
Succeeding in consulting is similar to being a successful coach of endurance athletes; marathon running, triathlons, long distance cycling for example. Like many athletic coaches, successful business coaches like us have a lot in common with the athletes. We’ve got many years of game-time experience. As athletes, we learned the importance of disciplined training and self-motivation. We have a passion for ‘the game’ and a fierce desire to see our athletes win games.
As we work with you, we identify the opportunities to make good athletes great and we work with you to help you make the needed changes. We know change is not easy and we provide the support you need to develop in the right areas.
Think it’s time to bring in a marketing consultant? Joe Hines has thirty years of combined ‘playing’ and ‘coaching’ experience and over a decade of university-level teaching experience. Nothing changes without effort; your first move is contacting me. Link over to the Contact Us page and send me an email or feel free to phone me at 714-872-0561.