Let me start by just “laying it out there”: I am a Giants fan and have been all of my life. And I believe that Giants fans are some of the saltiest, most cynical and hardened of fans. For instance, we believe that the “prevent defense” really means to prevent us from winning, as opposed to protecting a lead.
I remember as a child when my father would watch the Giants game on Sundays and we would schedule the Sunday dinner so that we sat either before or after the game. Sometimes I would join him in watching, but mostly I was outside playing (this being before xBox’s PS2, Wii’s, the internet and the like). Every time we sat, my father would summarize the end of the game and ask the conclusion something like, “The Giants are leading 35 to 10 with three minutes left in the game – who won and what was the score.”
Inevitably, the Giants squandered their lead (usually by using the prevent defense) and lost the game.
I still remember clearly the day my father gave the following scenario: “The Giants are leading 17-12 with 20 seconds left in the game. The Giants have the ball and the Eagles do not have any more timeouts. Who won and what was the score?” I just looked at him dumbfounded, knowing the Giants had lost… Snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory once again. It sometimes amazed me that there are any Giant fans at all.
But this article is not really about the recent Superbowl – as great a game as it was to watch regardless of your allegiance. Nor is it about the Giants per se. It’s about doing the needful when it matters most in order to succeed.
How many times has your confidence in an endeavor been such that you relaxed and let down your guard, only to lose? And how many times did we blame others for our failing? We know all the stories and anecdotes; such as the story of the “Tortoise and the Hare”, or the Yogi Berra line “It ain’t over till it’s over,” or the saying “We won the battles but lost the war.” Yet we continue to let our confidence in ourselves delude us at the moment when we should be most keenly aware and en-guard. As the Great Bard says, “The fault lies not in the stars but in ourselves”.
Every endeavor follows a process. And every process has steps, milestones, responsibilities and action-items. Wavering on a single step, missing a milestone, or faltering on an action-item will usually not result in failure. But losing focus and dedication will.
We must instill in ourselves a vigilance to guard against complacency and remain in the game – mind, body and soul. We must not rely upon the fates or “hope” to bring us victory, but upon our own tenacity. We must have a clarity of purpose and an empathy for our clients, walking a mile in their shoes if that is what is required to be completely immersed and to gain insight and understanding.
So though there are many – some critical factors to success as learned from this year’s Great Game.
· What you did yesterday does not matter as much as what you are about to do today. Recently, we won a major Operational Excellence project with a Fortune 500 firm. Whilst not the first such project and certainly not the last, I remember the conversation with my sales representative on that day distinctively. Upon the receipt of the signed contract, he looked to me and said, “I think I am going to take it easy for the rest of the day”. Maybe it was deserved and maybe it was even needed… but will it be only a day? Or will it turn into a few days that dull the edge?
The Giants had a terrible season. Early on, there was even talk of sacking the coach (Coughlin) and trading the quarterback (Manning). They lost so many games that their playoff fate was actually in the hands of other teams to win and lose. They had relinquished control of their destiny to others. Yet they did the bare minimum that they had to in order to have their shot at the title and, when it really mattered, they came through.
The Patriots, on the other hand, did everything right during the season and ended with a perfect record – only to lose when it really mattered.
· Attack your opponent’s strategy. Your opponent has developed a strategy which is designed to win against you. If you attack your opponent’s strategy, you will cause him to react. If you attack with enough vigor, you will cause him to play into your strategy.
In the Superbowl, the Patriots were expecting to score big and often on the pass attack like they did all year long. The Giants disrupted this strategy by overwhelming the front line and giving Brady no time to execute. This happened so often that even when Brady did have time, he didn’t think he did and it caused him to be in a constant state of hurry. This gave the Giants the opportunity to play the game by their strategy – the slow grind – and that is precisely what they did.
· Control the field of battle. To control the field of battle, one must seek the Tao (the “way”). You must know the terrain. You must know your adversary. You must have disciplined and trained resources. But most importantly, you must know what is expected of you and rise to the occasion. More essential than knowing your adversary is being empathetic to the aspirations and dreams of your client. In your client, you will find the way to winning. And winning is not merely defined as “sealing the deal”, but by “winning with honour.” Your client has made the best choice in selecting you because you convinced him that YOU were GENUINELY the best choice – and you were.
The Giants controlled all aspects of the game. On defense, the Giants hurried and harassed Brady. They contained the Patriot’s receivers and running backs where it mattered most, at the line of scrimmage and giving up precious few yards. The Giant defense was “water on the rock” – slowly wearing down their adversary. On offense, though not stellar, the Giants were consistent and did not make any critical mistakes.
· See it through to the end. I will confess that I have lost several major deals over my lifetime because – “gasp” – I actually took the clients word for it that we had won. ALWAYS remember that it is “always darkest before the dawn” and that your competitor, knowing he is “out”, will stop at nothing to displace you. After all, what does your competitor have to lose? To be successful, you must maintain your level of engagement until the deal is sealed… and then forever more. Otherwise, you risk losing the momentum, the deal, and the opportunity to be that “strategic partner” to your client.
The Giants knew at all times that they will be winners or losers when the time ran out and they maintained the highest level of intensity that they could muster to the final second. The poise, concentration, and dedication that the Giants demonstrated during the two-minute drill were that of Champions – and deserved Champions they were.
The Patriots didn’t bring their “A-game”. And when they had the lead in the final moments, they failed to see it through to the end. Perhaps they convinced themselves that all the accolades of pre-determined glory that was being prematurely heaped upon them were true. And when they got knocked back, they forgot to get back into the game and see it to the end. Whatever the reason or reasons, they earned the title that they deserved.
So, to mix my sports metaphors as Spring slowly loosens the grip of Winter, “Drive for show, putt for dough”… and, “It’s not the drive, it’s how you arrive.”
Paris is the Founder and Chairman of the XONITEK Group of Companies; an international management consultancy firm specializing in all disciplines related to Operational Excellence, the continuous and deliberate improvement of company performance AND the circumstances of those who work there – to pursue “Operational Excellence by Design” and not by coincidence.
He is also the Founder of the Operational Excellence Society, with hundreds of members and several Chapters located around the world, as well as the Owner of the Operational Excellence Group on Linked-In, with over 25,000 members.
For more information on Paris, please check his Linked-In Profile at: http://de.linkedin.com/in/josephparis