There is a difference between becoming a championship team and a championship club.
Sometimes it’s possible to stumble across success, like a happy accident of sorts. When you find your company, team or organisation (because let’s face it the context really doesn’t matter) on a roll of winning it creates an energy that has real momentum. But you can’t rely on such coincidences, because rarely does sustained success occur without lots of well thought through contributory factors.
What are the ingredients of sustained success?
Achieving the heady heights of success is one thing, hanging on to it is another story. One thing for sure is it’s not something that’s created on the back of a proverbial cigarette packet. If you want to wear the winning shirt and maintain that prime position in the face of tough competition, take note of the following:
- It starts with a solid foundation. You can’t align all the necessary factors without the creation of a culture of success
- Have clear, achievable and well-communicated expectations
- Reward and motivate people. Fear is not a precursor of sustained high performance because it limits people’s potential rather than nurturing it
- Your standard of performance isn’t just a theoretical spreadsheet in a file somewhere, it’s something you commit to wholeheartedly and ‘live’
- Creating sustained success is not just the boss’s job, it’s everyone’s responsibility. Think ‘we’ not ‘I’. You win or lose collectively and share the glory or shoulder the pain as a team
Setting the scene
Success is not a destination you reach without some form of road map. It’s vital to have a clear, centralised vision that is pursued with steadfast determination. As a leader, you need to work out who your ‘key players’ are and whether you can rely on them when the going gets more than a little challenging. For me it always comes back to the basic adage of knowing your team - something so many leaders repeatedly overlook.
An important benchmarking exercise is to evaluate where you are in the cycle of development and ask yourself what mode you’re operating in. Those with a ‘survival mindset’ aren’t able to reach beyond the confines of their comfort zone to unchartered territory. Comfort zone dwellers are not at ease with raising the bar and they create a culture of complacency which is a massive stifler of success. Make it your business to identify the people in your organisation who are holding you back. They are often the ones who require validation and seek ego-massaging because they’re unable to handle success unless they are the sole glory takers.
Don't be tempted to revert to default
We’ve all been in a situation when we’re faced with pressure and, rather than embracing it, we either shy away into our shells, sulk or get defensive and aggressive. These negative expressions of fear are an almost inherent ‘default’ button within our genetic make-up that kick in when we’re under threat. Although there is a temptation to fall back into this mode, it’s important we remain alert and aware so that our behaviour is calm and consistent.
The strongest leaders are those who remain focused and ‘together’ under pressure. They are authentic and they take responsibility.
Preserve the authentic story
When a culture is strong it is cultivated over time and it holds within its very fabric an authentic story - a history and tradition that shouldn’t be denied. That’s why it’s so important that everyone is part of the culture because an organisation isn’t a building or a physical entity - it’s always about the people. I’m a firm believer in respecting history and tradition and recognising the importance of driving the past into the present to inform the future. We are, after all, a culmination of everything that has gone before.
Managing pressure to create the best outcome
We’ve all seen the hot shot bosses in action who pile pressure on their teams in the run up to an important pitch or deal. A degree of pressure can be motivational but if the balance tips the results can be cataclysmic.
The most competent leaders recognise the importance of shouldering the responsibility in those times and create a high tempo environment imbued with confidence. A leader also has to understand the importance of setting the tone well in advance and putting the measures in place that help the team to exude confidence.
Make it count
Developing the competitive edge that enables winners to dominate the top spot is a craft that requires a blend of skills and abilities. It’s about making every element count and there is no room for shortcuts. It’s important to remember to:
- Pay attention to detail - leave no stone unturned and don’t adopt of a ‘seat of pants’ attitude
- Always reflect and learn from experiences. Stay alert and aware
- Make sure everyone buys into the vision and is passionate about it
- Create a learning environment - leaders seek knowledge, share knowledge and are on a quest for constant improvement
- Influence the influencers
Sustained success isn’t built on fragile foundations, it is carefully developed on a solid bedrock - an enduring culture of success. This culture is lived and breathed by a team of leaders and not followers, each with their own responsibilities, strengths and skills, but part of a larger, formidable whole.