My daughter plays beach volleyball for Pepperdine University. While I obviously love watching her play beach volleyball because she is my daughter, I also love watching her play beach volleyball because I get to witness countless displays of ordinary leaders practicing extraordinary leadership.
There was one hotly contested match between the Pepperdine lady Waves and an arch rival team. Pepperdine won and after the match a player on the rival team said to one of the Pepperdine coaches something to the effect of 'you just love to beat us, don't you?'
The coach paused, and in a measured tone, with compassion in his voice, he responded, “I don’t ever coach against the other team, I coach for my girls. I coach for my team.”
As a leader, that coach understands at his core, it's never enough to be against the competition; it's never enough to focus on the team on the other side of the net.
Rather, the success of a team is birthed out of being for the players on their own side of the net and in their ability to handle anything that comes to them over the net.
A winning culture comes down to the fundamentals. Every player on the team has to know how to handle every ball that comes to their side of the court, no matter who is on the other side of the net. To take each ball and build a series of successes, each player has to make each touch, on their side of the court, rooted in the right fundamentals.
A ball comes over the net . . .
Each player has to know what it feels like to get the correct passing platform, how to set their body at the right angle, how to set their feet, what it feels like to set their partner up for greatness, how to align their body with the ball for an approach, and how to usher the ball to finish the rally.
All of this, and more, is taught and repeatedly ingrained in each player so the team can parlay mastery of the fundamentals into success.
To synthesize many conversations with my daughter over her volleyball career, she’s told me, “The great thing is when my core fundamentals are good and the team primarily focuses on our side of the court, we can like the competition as people, and still beat them. We can enjoy the competition because we’re confident in the fundamentals. This is not personal. We’re not just trying to beat them, we’re trying to be our best and go all out, on our side. The goal is to always better the ball on our side."
When the ball is volleyed, the receiving team cannot control one single thing the other team does. They can only control their own side and the execution of their own fundamentals.
To relate this to leadership in business, I used to be very focused on my competition. I would call my business mentors and complain about all the things my competition was doing.
Finally, Mr. Bailey said to me, “Hey, you don’t run their company, do you? Focus on your own company. Don’t worry about them.”
As leaders, we cannot control what our competition does. We do, however, have full control over our side of the court.
Here are three things to remember as leaders in a competitive environment:
1. Master your own fundamentals - Seriously consider and answer the question, what makes you (or your company) uniquely you. Define your ideal, spike it over the net, customer. Do you even know what you're looking for and who they are?
There are customers out there, that fit you like a glove because your fundamentals provide them superior value. Define them, go find them, and create the path for them to find you. Then describe the ideal solution and unmatched value you can give them.
2. Focus on your own business - Make your business and the value you provide so appealing to your ideal customer, they want you above all others. There will always be competition, on the other side of the court, looking to gain market share. Don't just be against your competition, focus on being for your business and for your customers.
3. You can only control what you can control - Be laser focused on the things you can control. Make sure, on your own side of the court, you're running on all cylinders when it comes to marketing, operations, your employee well-being, communication with your customers, etc. Your side of the court is all you can control anyway.
The goal is to be so in tune with your fundamentals, you can take anything that comes your way as a leader, be it in life or over the net.
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