Leadership: Keep Your Eye on the Ball

or Lessons Squash Strategies can teach Business Leaders.

Hashim Khan won the British Open squash championship 7 times between 1951 & 1958, and is considered one of the greatest squash players ever. He was asked the secret of his winning ways and he needed only 67 words to explain them! His English was a little basic, but the points he made can teach modern business leaders a great deal!

  1. Keep eye on ball. Concentration on the objective is an essential element in all success.
  2. Move quick to T (the position on the court from which you can dominate the play). Seek the position of greatest strength and comfort.li>
  3. Stay in crouch (the position from which it is easiest to spring into action). Be ready to act at any time.
  4. Take big step. Think and act big, if that’s what you want to be.
  5. Keep ball far away from opponent. The golden rule of competition is to avoid head-on conflict wherever possible – to bypass the opposition.
  6. Have many different shots ready so opponent does not know what you do next.
  7. Do not relax because you play good shot…better you get ready for next stroke.
  8. Soon as can, find out where opponent has idea to send ball. Know your competitors, and act on your knowledge.
  9. Have reason for every stroke you make. Always think before acting.

He is talking about Focus, Agility, Readiness, Boldness, Competitive Advantage, Planning & Intelligence… almost the core curriculum of an MBA course really.

Take 10 minutes from your busy day today to ask yourself these questions and tomorrow you will probably be much more effective because it:-

  • What are you concentrating on? Is it big picture, how-to-win stuff, or the minutiae? We tend to get more of the things we focus on, so focus on something positive, relevant and worthwhile. Remember… don’t sweat the small stuff!
  • Where can you best control the ‘game’? Are you stuck in your office, or out amongst the troops, or out with your clients and / or prospects?
  • Are you ready to act? If all your resources are fully committed, you need to be able to switch them quickly or have some surplus capacity or the opportunity may disappear before you can respond. [By resources, I don’t just mean just staff, but also your own time and energy.]
  • Are you daring to act boldly? What would that look like for you in your business? Can you take direct steps, and cut out all the things that ultimately just waste time? Does each step add value?
  • Are you able to avoid conflict? Both within the business (where it is often the result of either politics or poor communication) and in the outside world. How can you take steps to seize the competitive advantage?
  • Are you a one-shot wonder? Do you and your business only have a single response (such as cutting price) or have you multiple ways of winning?
  • What is the next key thing for you to focus on? As a leader you have to be thinking ahead of what you are asking people to do today. Even before the current initiative is achieved, you have to be sowing seeds for the next one; ensuring that your messages are consistent, that people have realistic expectations. This helps the business to pace itself
  • What are your competitors planning? And not just today’s competitors, but tomorrow’s; business changes and people who weren’t in the game yesterday are winning it tomorrow. Think about the Chinese and their impact on many businesses!
  • Think before you act… do you have a clear idea of how your strategy holds together? Just as importantly, do the troops know why they are doing what they are doing, or are they just doing what they always do? If they don’t understand the linkages, then how can they really contribute?

“Losers live in the past. Winners learn from the past and enjoy working in the present toward the future.” Denis Waitley

Good Luck and remember, as Vince Lombardi, the famous American football coach, said “if winning isn’t everything, why do we keep score?

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