Friday, 6 July 2012

The Secret to Success is No Big Secret

While watching Game 5 of the NBA Finals with my 13-year-old, I was trying to figure out where I had failed as a parent. He is a vocal Miami Heat fan and my repeated attempts to convince him that it's wrong to root for a team in a city he's never even visited — we live in Houston — were ineffective.

So, I sat there and weathered the increasing volume of his cheers as it became evident that "his team" was on the verge of a championship.

My patience was rewarded late in the game when a clip of Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks was aired. I've since seen the clip replayed and commented upon on several sports shows, and I have made sure that both of my sons have seen it.

Brooks was speaking in a team huddle late in the game when the outcome was no longer in doubt. He told his players that things may not have turned out the way they wanted this year, but that they could still hold their heads high. He also told them that when the game was over, he wanted them to shake the Heat players' hands and treat them like champions because they had won "fair and square."

It may be an indictment on our culture today that a call for simple sportsmanship stood out as much as it did. But it was a classy move and deserving of the chatter it generated.

And while the sportsmanship aspect of Brooks' words resonated with me, it was the "they beat us fair and square" comment that struck a bigger chord. He didn't blame tough breaks or unfair calls for the results. He and his team had competed hard, but this time around, someone else was better.

It's that kind of honest assessment that tends to separate folks who actually do strive to improve from those who, well, don't.

When speaking to banker groups about building productive sales cultures, I often joke about the kinds of reactions I've frequently seen over the years when bankers are acknowledged for sales production in meetings of their peers. Other bankers smile and applaud politely while telling themselves under their breath that the person being recognized has cheated, was lucky, or both. I'm not saying that it may not be true sometimes, but too many folks immediately discount others' success as anything but the fact that they were better than us this time around.

I frequently like to pose a few questions to folks in these groups to make a point. I ask, "How many of you have ever lost a sales competition?" Almost all hands will go up. Next, I ask, "How many of you have ever sought out the winner or winners of these competitions to congratulate them?" Sometimes, a few hands go up.

I follow with, "How many have ever asked the winners if they might have a few minutes to talk about why they believe they were as successful as they were?" No hands ever go up.

I used to tell my top-performing managers that part of the price they had to pay for being acknowledged as stars was talking about how they did it.

Sometimes they'd share a marketing idea or new strategy that generated great results. But as often, we wouldn't really learn any new tricks. It often came down to folks simply outhustling the pack. Usually, it wasn't their strategies that differentiated them, it was effort.

We're not exactly breaking new ground with the suggestion that working hard is the key to success, but that doesn't mean there isn't power in reinforcing that fact. When folks see time and again that their peers who put in the most effort are almost always producing the best results, it tends to resonate.

Coach Brooks wasn't telling his team that they were going to be luckier next time, or that they would "be due." He told them they were going to get where they wanted to be by outworking the other guys next time.

Whether your job is jump shots and rebounds or customer service and sales calls, it's a message worth hearing.

Is your team listening?

Author:Dave Martin

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