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BO-lieving – Changing Habits for Business Growth

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Mon, Apr 21, 2014

Twelve exhausted athletes single file into the high school biology room of their new basketball coach.  It’s the first week of basketball season.  Entering a classroom is a unique experience for them.  Practices are in the main auditorium of the high school.  This is the first time they’ve ever been anywhere but the gym.  

The new coach had been the school’s football coach prior to this for several years. He commands respect if not fear simply by his appearance.  His arms and chest are chiseled like a weight trainer.  You can literally see the sinew of muscle ripple in his arms. In his youth he had a try-out with the Chicago Bears.  As school athletic director he assumed the basketball position when the previous coach left last season leaving a promising senior class with no one to coach them in their final season. 

Once seated the coach asks the players to take out a slice. (his term for a blank sheet of paper).  On the paper he directs everyone to forecast where the team will finish this year in the conference.  Everyone fills in their predictions and passes them to the front of the room.  He asks one of the players to tally the score on the blackboard. 

Ten players vote first place, two vote 2ndBo Ryan (1) resized 600

As a player on that team I didn’t learn who voted for second and who for first until well after the season finished.

Where do you think my team finished that season? 

If you chose 2nd place you’re correct.

Looking back on the exercise and now knowing who voted for second place I wonder.  What if I have stood up to inspire those who voted for second to commit to a higher aspiration would it have made a difference in how our team finished that year?  What if our coach had done something to reach a consensus with everyone?  What if he’d required agreement to achieve more?  Would that have made a change in the outcome to our season?

My feeling is, if either I or the coach had done something, it would have influenced the outcome of our season.  My leadership role on the team was unspoken.  It was more by example.  Having lead the conference in scoring the previous season, being 6’4” and well respected by my teammates and our competition, if I’d asked everyone to agree to work harder to finish first I feel it could have impacted the outcome.

At the conclusion of the season I discovered two of the starters were responsible for second place votes.  Could my voice and encouragement made them change their vote?    Would the coach demanding we all agree on and commit to first place made them commit to a higher goal?  If they would have been unwilling to commit could our team reached a higher goal (first place) without their contribution?

I’m not sure.  I only know that two people, who made a considerable contribution to our team’s success, were unwilling to believe we could finish better than second.  We failed to achieve first despite the majority of our team (83%) believing we could finish first.

How does this play out in your organization?  Do you have people that believe you can do only so much?  Do they believe second place is good enough?  Do they not believe the team can hit a certain benchmark or priority for the quarter or the year?  Would you be better off with people on the team who might not be as good or capable but are willing to commit to a higher priority of goal?  Would coaching, mentoring or requiring their commitment help your team do what is necessary to reach the priority?

Do you remember Tony Dungy’s comment to John Lynch after they walked off the field after defeating the San Diego Chargers?  “We’re starting to believe,” Dungy told Lynch after he indicated that, “It feels like something was different out there.”

We’ve all heard the expression; “you’re only as strong as your weakest link.”  The outcome from my senior year of high school basketball confirms that statement.

Changing culture, changing habits is not easy to accomplish.  In addition to The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg and The Power of Habit: How to Build Good Habits that Last for Ever by Businessman Company, I just finished reading Wisconsin basketball coach Bo Ryan’s book Another Hill to Climb

In The Power of Habit: How to Build Good Habits that Last for Ever it notes: “You first have to believe you are capable of ending whatever habit you desire, then your subconscious mind will help turn your desire to reality.” 

Bo Ryan has every team he’s worked with climb a hill to help build endurance, belief, and team unity.  He feels it’s paramount to foster team culture and the foundation for providing that extra commitment and effort necessary to achieve the priorities his teams set out to attain each year.

Bo Ryan doesn’t just teach his team his swing offense and defensive approach; he works to make it a habit.  Consistent practice doing the same routine, running his offense and defensive sets over and over gets his team to react automatically, the same path Tony Dungy used to build championship teams in Tampa Bay and Indianapolis. Once Ryan’s team work in his system long enough they BO-LIEVE. (My expression not his!)

Changing habits in business is similar to sports.  It requires great persistence, commitment, and discipline.  There’s no one I know that is eager to have more meetings.  Yet when the meetings have great relevance to achieving priorities and ultimately making the work environment healthier they embrace, and dare I say even looked forward to meetings.

Starting with the leadership team, contributions for top priority are discovered and committed on an annual and quarterly basis.  Measurements are selected to agree on what success looks like.  The meeting rhythms or as I prefer to call them “cadence of accountability” are structured around achieving the benchmarks for a successful quarter, reviewing dashboards for team, individual and company metrics.   Weekly meetings include good news, employee and customer feedback. Most important is collective intelligence, designed to break down and solve current and long term issues.  Collective Intelligence builds momentum and solves bottlenecks.  

Soon the habit of meetings (cadence of accountability) is no longer seen as a negative, but as a necessary exercise to move the business forward.  When this meeting rhythm structure permeates the entire organization significant progress isn’t intermittent it’s consistent. That’s when momentum on the flywheel builds.

If you asked my clients to live without this meeting rhythm structure they would fight to keep it.  Imagine that for meetings?  They’re a habit, a self-sustaining routine that consistently brings significant rewards.

When this occurs belief grows.  We suggest you follow the meeting rhythm structure for 90 days to develop the habit.  Frequently within 14 – 30 days the team begins to feel the value these meetings have and see momentum building.  A requirement for making this work is the initial set up.  Without a one to two day workshop to teach the fundamental elements, 4-3-2-1 formula of Four Decisions (People, Strategy, Execution and Cash), Three Disciplines (Priorities, Meetings, and Metrics), Two Drivers (People and Process) and one Catalyst (Coach, Advisor or Consultant) the understanding and impact of why to follow this will be more difficult to produce. 

Winning sports programs and business cultures take time to cultivate and develop the proper habits.  When the routine is built and rewards and recognition follow business growth becomes a habit.  That’s the difference between a good business and a great business. 

Having a difficult time finding managers and new leaders in your organization?  Recent research by Gallup finds that companies fail to choose the right candidate with the right talent for the job 82% of the time.  Good managers are harder to find and develop than you may have already imagined.  We’ll explore these difficulties in finding and choosing managers. Plus look at where to find them and how to develop them.

Topics: Business Growth, Strategic Discipline, habits, Business Culture, The Power of Habit

Challenges of Scaling Up a Business 







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Doug Wick, President

Positioning Systems


The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

Our 3 disciplines include:

- Priorities
- Metrics
- Meeting Rhythms

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