Friday, 5 August 2016

Leadership and the Art of Beating Your Opponent

Often, business and sport can be highly adversarial. We think in terms of fights, battles, winning, losing. Our marketing departments invest in competitor analysis, with only a couple of bullet points in the SWOT powerpoint to suggest that they might have any advantage over us. We trivialise our weaknesses to hide our real fear that, actually, our weaknesses would be deadly if such information fell into the wrong hands. If they only knew that we can't meet our shipment targets. If they only knew that our reference customers are all fake. If they only knew that our new product is an empty box.

We're so busy assuming that our competitors have got it together that we forget the most obvious truth, that their business is as much of a shambles as yours is. However, we know the truth about our own businesses, and we buy the marketing hype pushed out by our competitors, even though we know it really is just hype. After all, it's what our customers are reading too. However, your competitors, your industry regulators, these are not your opponents.

Take a look in a mirror. Do it now. Not just a glance. Not a cursory check to see if your hair is how you imagined it. Take a good, long, hard, careful look.

You are looking at your opponent.

By the laws of physics, the reflection you see is already in the past. Your self image is even more out of date. And your reputation? Well, that precedes you, as you know.

An international sports professional who I won't name said to me, "I used to love hurting other people, so the less I hurt, the more they hurt, the more chance I've got of winning the game. There's only one place in the world that bullying is acceptable, and that's on a sports field. Ultimately, that's what you're doing. You're two clans, you're two sides, you're two – it doesn't matter what you call it, you are trying to beat the opposition.

By trying to beat the opposition, you've got to get one over them, you've got to be bigger, you've got to be stronger, you've got to be angrier, you've got to get in that mindset. That's why when you play a game it takes 24 hours, I think, to prepare yourself to play a game.

That 24-hour process is actually allowing you to turn into somebody else to do something if you did on a street, you'd go down for. When you cross that white line, you can't instantly turn it on at game time. Training you can, you can just turn it on, but in a game, because you've got guys who want to hurt you as bad as you want to hurt them, you've got to become somebody else."

When you look in the mirror, who do you see? Is it you, or someone else who you see staring back at you?

Where does this mask come from? Your 'game face' that you put on when you walk into a meeting with a client or supplier. You don't want to show them your weakness, because you don't want them to see how to take advantage of you. Your raise your shields and fix your resolve, believing that you are now unassailable. And that, right there, is your problem.
The sports professional went on to say, "It's wrong thinking that fear is Jekyll and Hyde because fear you can use as a catalyst to something which is brilliant. It inspires you, pulls your chest out, you breathe the fire, feel absolutely fantastic, or you could be a shrinking violet. You can become this absolute monster, or you can just go home and hide. People use fear in different ways. People will use fear. It's about the mindset. Your mind is the most powerful tool that you've got in any of your armoury. If you don't believe you can win, you ain't going to win."

As soon as you raise a shield, you show your opponent precisely where you believe yourself to be vulnerable.

Therefore, to gain true strength, you have to do what you fear most - you have to show your weaknesses, your vulnerabilities, and by seeing your true reflection in the mirror realise the ironic truth. You are the only person who can see your weaknesses, so stop advertising them with your defensive posture.

Show your opponents that you have nothing to hide, nothing to fear and you realise the greatest insight of all - that this is actually true.