To run a great business, it’s important to draw inspiration from an array of different sources. If you’re very competitive, and a sports fan (like I am), it’s not difficult to find lessons in dynasties and winning teams.
Whether it’s a first-time champion like the Toronto Raptors or an international dynasty like the U.S. women’s national soccer team, 2019 has already proven that in order to win, you need a strong foundation and dedication to a winning process.
Winning doesn’t happen by accident.
Winning companies - like winning teams - have an intentional approach to their success. This means establishing strong structures and guidelines that are proven to deliver results.
For example, the best teams don’t tolerate misconduct from their players; the best workplaces don’t tolerate toxic employees. The best teams are obsessed with stats and maximizing results; the best businesses make and meet quantifiable, data-driven goals - think “Moneyball.”
But in my experience, one of most prominent parallels, and one of the most crucial of these structures, is hiring and interviewing.
In sports, you never want to get caught “practicing on gameday” - that is, getting caught off guard and improvising when the stakes are high. In business, the stakes are rarely higher than when you’re hiring for an impact role. Getting caught unprepared for an interview can detail the entire process.
This is why, at my company, Arkadium, we’ve created interview training sessions for all hiring managers, and have enacted tools like The Predictive Index to put our team in the best position to hire A-players.
A deep bench of talent is better than one superstar.
When you’re intentionally and consistently approaching interviews and hiring in the ways outlined above, you’re better positioned for the next tenet of winning teams and businesses: establishing a deep “bench” of talented leaders.
The best teams aren’t reliant on one player - regardless of how talented they are. Just ask LeBron James, whose teams have won the championship just once over the last six years despite his superstar talent.
In stark contrast was this year’s U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team. Their leaders, stars Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, tied the tournament lead with six goals each. But even more noteworthy was that more than half of their starting players scored at least one goal. And when Rapinoe was on the sideline during a crucial game versus England, her teammates had her back to help the U.S. win.
Successful companies are cognizant of this. It’s why we teach our managers to fill roles not just with capable employees, but ones with leadership qualities, “coachability” and whose values closely align with our company’s culture.
Difficult conversations are sometimes necessary.
Running a successful business, and striving to be the best, often means having uncomfortable conversations and making unpopular decisions. In the sports world, there’s no better proof of this than the Toronto Raptors, who just stunned everybody by winning their first NBA Finals.
Before this season, the team had made the playoffs five years in a row, their coach had just won Coach of the Year and their best player had made three consecutive All-Star teams. But they kept coming up short of their ultimate goal of winning a championship. Knowing that change was necessary, the team made two decisions that were far from popular: They fired their coach and traded their best player.
Why? Because they decided it made them a better team. A year later, they all finally raised a trophy together.
To be clear, the message here is not “fire everyone.” But there’s a clear takeaway for business owners: Sometimes, the most crucial conversations and decisions are the ones you’re least looking forward to. The best leaders recognize these moments and, uncomfortable as they may be, take action sooner rather than later. Because whether you lead a sports team or a tech company, mediocrity shouldn’t be tolerated in any organization.