It has been said that “life imitates art.” In a similar vein, I would suggest that, in many respects, business imitates sport, notably major collegiate and professional athletics.
Think about it. Business lexicon is rife with the use of sports jargon (e.g., goal line, slump, go deep, etc.) to describe business situations. It is quite common to see current and former athletes and coaches on the dais at business conferences. Pro sports created player free agentry. Business is perfecting it.
Taking it a step further, I will suggest that being a business leader these days is becoming almost as hazardous as being an NBA coach. Since the end of the 2013 regular season, 12 of 30 NBA coaches have been de-selected, including outright winners like George Karl (Denver) and Lionel Hollins (Memphis). And, according to Booz and Company, annual CEO turnover at the world’s largest public companies has risen to match that seen in pre-recession years of 14.2%.
For the record, I’m not worried about CEOs or NBA coaches though. They’ll do just fine. I’m worried about those who are just climbing into the management ranks, and face as short, steep, and treacherous a learning curve as your average NFL rookie - minus the coaching and college experience.
Here are three things that will get (and hopefully keep) you in the game:
- 1. Get dialed in on your boss, early. Find out on day 1, if not pre-start, what your boss’s top 3 priorities and preferred operating modes are. Never (repeat, never) assume. What are their priorities, their strengths, weaknesses, foibles? How do they like to communicate? What are their broader ambitions? What (and who) agitates them? Whenever you start to feel that you’ve got more than one or two degrees of separation, reconfirm - not so you can be a sycophant, but so you can be on the same page. We are all moving at too fast a pace these days to have any doubt. With any luck, they will extend the same consideration to you.
- 2. DIY Development – Become a student of leadership. That’s your new job. Read books on leadership, participate in webinars (like those offered on this forum), or enroll in some MOOC’s. One of the first skills you should master is managing your time and priorities. Forget multi-tasking. (Really. It’s tough enough to do one thing well at a time). Get a Coach and a Sponsor, and there is a difference. A coach is someone who works for you, has your best interest at heart, and will always tell you the truth, while helping you get stronger, quicker, better. If the organization won’t pay for it, make the investment yourself. A sponsor is someone who is aware of your interests and talents, and is willing to invest in you with their time, influence, or capital.
- 3. Become a Talent Magnet - Become the leader that you would like to work for... someone who offers interesting work, the freedom to pursue it, downfield blocking, and recognition for excellence. The rule of the jungle in capitalism used to be that, “He who has the most gold rules.” Today, he or she who collects and engages the best talent rules. That’s not likely to change any time soon.
A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow him on Twitter.