1 posts from July 2012

Breakthrough Decisions

Kit, my wife and partner, lost her life to cancer in May 2012. Some events just overwhelm everything despite bringing every available resource to bear. As Kit said, "We did our best, no regrets." So, what does any of this have to do with management?

In September 2011 I wrote a blog "My Wife Has Cancer" sharing a management lesson derived from a family tragedy. The lesson, in a nutshell, is that over the course of time businesses, like people, need a disruptive way to look independently at overall health.

KPIs that at one time gave owners early warning of changes in performance may not be appropriate as business conditions evolve. Undetected growth in international competition or new technology or even the composition of your own management team tend to produce subtle yet incremental changes in vitality, like HGH in building strength or cancer in taking it away. 

One solution is to bring in additional resources and new advisers (business or medical) to audit the way things are and provide invaluable help in spoting trends that entrenched and vested teams miss.

A significant challenge in our cancer battle was keeping hope alive. As a resultI became acutely aware, in a highly personal way, how stress affects decision making. Reflecting on corporate as well as private company leadership roles, I realized that business stress affects everyone in different ways. The one constant is that under high stress (as opposed to everyday stress to achieve) people behave differently from when they are relaxed.

Athletes offer immediate examples of this principle. Think match point at Wimbledon, a field goal kick for a Super Bowl win, sudden death playoff hole at a PGA event...pressure changes behavior. For the majority, nerves seem to expose individual vulnerability. After all, there's only one champion, a few playoff contenders and a ton of all others. Winners and loosers in competition say the same thing: "It's all mental."

Recognizing this behavior characteristic, at another consultancy I helped start with Ken Drossman and Bill Donnelly, Oak & Apple Partners, LLC, we are focused on how teams respond to extraordinary stress involved with either very rapid growth or its evil twin financial distress. 

Do you have a story to share about how high stress brought out the champion or simply the competitor?