Strategy

5th June 2015

Role Play For Real

Role Play For Real

For a long time I have tried not to use too many sporting analogies when speaking, writing or coaching, partly because I am conscious that the differences between sports people and business people are so massive. A professional sportsperson might practice for 30 hours and perform for 90 minutes a week. A business person will try to perform for 40 to 50 hours per week and may get one or two days training a quarter.

However when I study how the most elite sports teams train I realise that more and more their training is designed to replicate actual competitive situations. Rugby teams hold actual games, racers do laps at race pace in race conditions, boxers spar, sprinters sprint and marathon runners do marathons at marathon pace alongside their training partners.

Of course this sits alongside their intensive technical and conditioning training but they go to some lengths to get as close to match situations as frequently as they can. Why? Well one reason is that only by playing the game can we encounter the real, random series of events that we will experience in a genuine game. Nothing prepares us for that better than game time. These games are played with a significant intensity because it is only through that intensity that we learn, grow and develop.

As business people the fact that we are always performing, always having game time always being confronted with new situations is in fact an advantage if we choose to use it as such. I wrote some months ago about the concept of deliberate practice and the significance of 10,000 hours of practice. The difference between playing a game and actually practicing has to lie in the intent with which we operate. Is our intent ‘to get through’ or is our intent ‘to get better’?

When cycling teams practice, when race riders practice in real life conditions you can guarantee that there will be a significant, detailed post event review. When rugby, football, basketball teams have held a practice match there will be detailed video reviews of the game. Each move will be analysed, discussed and improved. They turn the match into a learning opportunity. When motor racers return to the garage they are presented with a telemetry screen and their coach will help them understand the tracings so that they can shave a tenth of a second here and there when they next go out again.

I think it was Jim Rohn who said that “reflection turns experience into insight”. The simple discipline that is so often missing in the world of business is reflection and not just solitary reflection but assisted, intentional reflection. Why assisted reflection? Well we only know what we know and we don’t know what we don’t know and so it is very easy to lock ourselves into poor habits with the wrong beliefs.

I ride motorcycles and I would brake before a corner in the mistaken belief that it would transfer the weight to the front wheel and therefore improve the way the bike went round a corner. It made sense in the world of my limited knowledge (I only knew what I knew). It wasn’t until I invested in some advanced tuition that my coach helped me understand that for a motorbike to go round a corner best I needed to ‘load up the rear’ and to do that I needed to ’be on the gas’. It totally altered my riding style, which took some getting used to and has made me altogether safer and faster. Riding a motorbike is like running a business; if you are not good you die.

In business we have the advantage of being on ‘game time’ most of the time. And to make the most of that advantage we need to make use of professional assisted reflection, intense and unflinching observation and the overriding desire to be better tomorrow than today. As Tiger Woods said “I can’t see my own swing”.

The great thing is, as a business leader, when that is our attitude, practiced and voiced every day, in everything that we do, we will start to create a learning organisation, which just might perpetuate that spiralling upwards in the culture of the business thereby creating an environment where everyone can play at their best, as an individual and as a team always.

What a legacy that would be!