In my previous post ‘Is impossible a fact or an opinion?‘ I wrote about arousing the earnest desire to win and that ‘impossible’, in the context of aiming higher, is an opinion! In business we often use armies or sports analogies when devising strategies to make it ‘catchy’ to our people. After all, we cannot win without the support and engagement of people. A leader succeeding without its people is the part where to me ‘impossible’ become a fact.
Last week it was commemorated the centenary of ‘the battle of the Somme’ and I thought ‘Battle readiness’ could be a handy topic for my next post.
In today’s article I will share two stories. A very short one from history which is army related. The other one a personal story which I witnessed with my son in sports. Then I will try to explain how the two of them are intertwined and how much they influence in my leadership when it comes to driving execution and battle readiness.
An Army Example
I once read a story about Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery (He was a senior British Army officer who fought in both the First World War and the Second World War) on how much he believed in the power of the gaze to the extent that he always inspected his troops before going to the battlefield.
According to that, his soldiers thought it was very strange. “Here comes that crazy”, they said. “We are going to the line of fire and he worries about the haircut, beard, uniform…” But in fact, the explanation from Montgomery himself was that he wanted to see “the light of the battle in their eyes“.
“The light of the battle in their eyes”… profound, isn’t it? Hold that thought for a moment while I share the experience I lived and learned with my son…
My Son’s Example
When he was 6-year-old, my son participated in a Jiu-Jitsu (a martial art and a self-defence system that focuses on grappling and immobilization) tournament in Panama and ended on the 3rd place. As parents, we demonstrated proudness for his performance but he seemed not to be entirely satisfied himself with the outcome. Inside us, we also thought he could have done better but we also know that it depended on him only since we as parents couldn’t go on the mat and help him – once in there, he was on his own.
Being very competitive myself as a person, although satisfied with his performance in the contest, I couldn’t help asking him about his learnings and what could be improved for the next. As his father, I believed in his potential. I somehow knew he could do much better if he ‘wanted to’ and it was my obligation to explore that. Hence, I identified that as a ‘coaching for potential’ opportunity. We had a good dialogue and he realised that the only way to improve his performance on the tournament would be investing on preparation/training.
Ignacy (Jan) Paderewski 1860-1941, Polish Pianist, Composer, Patriot was quoted as saying: “If I miss one day of practice, I notice it. If I miss two days, the critics notice it. If I miss three days, the audience notices it.”
A few months passed by and a new tournament came up. This time, something different happened inside him and we found him very determined in improving his performance. He was focused, he trained harder in preparation for that by going to every single class and also consistently practicing extra hours at home. He was clearly ensuring ‘readiness for the battle’ on his own way.
When the day for his competition came and we arrived at the stadium, I remember him telling us about his anxiety and nervousness. It seemed to be a real battle for him to which he seemed ready.
To summarize it, he made it to the semi-finals against the opponent who had defeated him last time. During the match, he was again losing the fight but in the last couple of minutes before the end of it, something happened and he managed to change the game by applying two consecutive moves which gave him sufficient points and he won! He ended the competition in 2nd place.
We once again discussed after that and we asked him “what was it?” And with the genuine innocence of a child, he answered that he trained hard and that was his chance to deliver his best and for what he devoted so much time for. Then I realized it was not about the score or whether it was the 2nd or 3rd place, it was about having the feeling of accomplishment and knowing that he had delivered his best performance when the opportunity came.
He was only 6 and it was almost 5 years ago but the learned lessons like, focus and dedication pay off and it is very rewarding, stayed in his young mind till now. I also learned important lessons which I carry with me and try to apply in my leadership, as I describe below.
How These Examples Influence My Leadership
One can argue that my son’s case was more a battle against himself. But it was my responsibility helping him surmounting that. It is possible that some soldiers under Montgomery might had being having internal battles like that too. In business, as a leader, there may be situations like that and the responsibility of a leader is to identify such coaching opportunities to help people unleashing their full potential. This is about ensuring battle readiness!
Ensuring battle readiness is the responsibility of the leader. When I moved to India to start a project and a new team, Trevor Sherman and I devised a strategy using ‘driving execution’ framework as a platform for my leadership team.
The plan was about conveying and involving people on the strategy from the very beginning. It was about creating accountability on implementation by ensuring alignment and making full use of available expertise and skills. When the front-line is involved in the strategy, they create a personal attachment to the task and deliver on it with their hearts!
As we moved along, investment to develop team capacity and people capabilities to drive specific strategies and objectives in line with business needs was made along with coaching on areas where skills could be further developed.
The outcome was that challenging the status quo became the norm of the team and they learned to begin with winning mind-set. The team showed persistence and determination, irrespective of barriers or roadblocks and great results were achieved.
How about you? How much do you ensure ‘Battle Readiness’? Let’s exchange ideas … to comment about this article please use the ‘Leave a Reply’ box below.