Olympic Preparation

I enjoy the background stories of individual Olympians – how they got to where they are.  At some point, each of them had a vision of winning Olympic Gold and they made a commitment to be the best.  The Olympics are all about performing when the pressure is the highest and when everything is on the line.  That requires both rigorous physical training, and also mental conditioning so that when it matters most, they focus on performance.   The vision, the dedication to a sport, and aligning both physical and mental strengths are all important.  The same is true of every great company – each one had a clear and graphic vision of their future, a dedication to achieving a goal, and a relentless focus on developing and aligning specific organizational strengths to achieve their vision. 

Leadership – Pure and Simple

Whether you lead a billion dollar company or a small department, your primary accountability is to leverage the talent of your people to get results.  That is the opposite of control.  If you want to get the most from your people, give them a clear vision of where you’re headed, challenge them with high expectations, give them feedback on how they can improve performance (vs what they didn’t do well,) remove performance roadblocks they identify, and recognize them for their achievements.  It’s not rocket science.

Shifting responsibility from skipper to crew

The new America’s Cup boats are high-tech catamarans that can exceed 40mph.  The action is so fast and the crew needs to be so responsive and precise the skipper no longer gives commands – the crew must learn their roles and be in the moment,  acting with split-second precision. 

Google’s culture eschews hierarchical power where managers are obeyed simply because of their positions.  Instead, power over subordinates comes from the quality of ideas and ability to persuade.

I know of a suburban town government where an entire layer of first line supervision has disappeared.

This is a trend – where managers who give orders are replaced by employees who make decisions and take action. It creates cultures that many find difficult to acclimate to, but I also have witnesses more and more people who find the traditional command and control culture even more difficult to accept.