This morning over a cup of much-needed coffee, I was reading an article that resonated with me. It was a story a from a Harvard business professor. He spoke of how they coached an under seven kids’ soccer team, and when they put the ball in the middle of the field what did all the kids do?
“They just followed the ball around the field,”
“But when you become a professional they all have positions on the field, they all have structure. They might pass the ball all the way back to the goalkeeper but eventually, they’d get an opportunity to strike.”
This is a fantastic business analogy. One that I feel is particularly relevant to our business right now. I have seen first-hand in our business where sometimes we have players in assigned positions, yet they’re doing everything but their role, and chasing balls all over the field.
Sometimes, this can be admirable, but it can also be dangerous and lead to inefficiency. It’s the equivalent of everyone on the soccer field running after the ball, which means bumping into each other, and no goals scored.
It’s vital we have clearly defined roles with set out responsibilities in order for our company to function as one. When I started SponsoredLinX, I was the goalkeeper, defence, midfield and attack (with my partner Shannah as the coach).
Now, we’ve got a full team and we’re top of the league, but in order to stay there, sometimes we need to go back to basics and work on our fundamentals. This, I believe, is vital for any business.
Remember where you came from, and keep your eye on the ball going forward.
If I’m the striker, I trust my defence to keep the ball in possession so that I may have a chance to score. Of course, there’ll be times when I need to get back to defend, or when we’re chasing a goal and I need the defence to come up, but essentially we’ve all got our own jobs to do.
And, when we’re all doing those jobs independently, but still operating as a team, there’s no stopping us.
You’ve seen the video by now I’m sure—the one of the beaten and bloodied passenger being dragged from the seat of a United Airlines flight.
As a fellow business owner, I’m sure you can agree that there are PR nightmares (see Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad), and then there are full-on PR meltdowns! The United Airlines debacle was definitely the latter—and more specifically, the type that results in huge losses, endless streams of sarcastic memes, and incidents that spread like wildfire online and severely harm your business.
As I watched this gigantic disaster unfold, I couldn’t help but wonder what sort of pre-mortem business analysis United Airlines had in place. After all, I’m sure they didn’t anticipate this sort of result!
Before any company enacts a new policy or plan, they should always begin by asking themselves one question, “What is the worst thing that could happen?”
This is essentially the gist of an old technique called Pre-Mortem Analysis (PMA), a method developed by cognitive psychologist Dr Gary Klein to help businesses test out new strategies and identify possible vulnerabilities in their planning. At its core, PMA helps companies to evaluate potential unintended consequences of new procedures and/or policies.
When it comes to United Airlines, their policy is to fly staff to where they need to go, on their own airline. However, problems occur when planes are overbooked and they have to remove passengers from seats they’ve rightfully paid for. Usually, an airline would solve this issue by incentivising people to move (usually by refunding the person and paying for their inconvenience). However, if a passenger refuses to give up their seat despite the incentives…well, this is clearly a scenario United had not planned for! As a result, the airline company is now facing their worst ever PR disaster, and likely millions in lost revenue and lawsuits.
When putting into place a Pre-Mortem Analysis, consider the following:
Despite what you may think, the chain of events leading to Dr Dao being violently ejected from United Airlines was not the result of employees forgetting procedure—rather, it’s unlikely anyone at United ever anticipated a chain of events such as this!
If only they’d conducted a more comprehensive PMA then there would likely have been less room for surprise and a better contingency plan—saving them millions of dollars (and Dr Dao’s teeth).
It takes a lot of hard work to become a manager, but even more to become a leader.
There’s a saying by Motivational Speaker and Author Brian Tracy: “Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily; even if you had no title or position.”
It’s a powerful statement, because the truth is, management is about more than just directing and managing people. Staff also need someone who will take the time to encourage their strengths and develop their weaknesses; the kind of leadership that makes staff want to work with you to achieve a goal, rather than be pushed to do so.
There’s a great little illustration that’s been doing the rounds on LinkedIn lately; it’s likely you’ve already seen it, but it truly is a powerful reminder of the importance of developing your employees. It takes skill to become the ‘boss’ of a company, but it takes humility, insight and a willingness to work with your staff, to become a great leader.
Many times throughout the last decade I’ve been asked about how I motivate my staff, and as I’ve commonly shared, it’s important to show people the value of their work. For example, back when we were in our early years I’d often take the time to just sit down with our sales staff and run them through the process of contacting customers. I did this because I not only wanted them to succeed in their role but to also know that I understood the challenges of their job. After all, when I started SponsoredLinX I was not only the Founder, but also the receptionist and salesperson!.
Anyone can hire just another cog in the machine to get the job done, but do you want robots or motivated employees? Do you want to be the kind of person who barks out orders that fall on deaf ears, or do you want to be a leader?
If you’re struggling to get results from your staff it’s worth taking a look at the bigger picture. You might even want to ask your team (via an anonymous survey) for their true thoughts on the company and what would make them feel more valued. It could be confronting, and maybe even a bit scary…but above all, it’s guaranteed to give you vital feedback on how you can become more than just a boss to your employees.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams.