Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Winning Way

"India has no dearth of talent but talent is not much use without the right work ethic, and hugely-talented people can actually be a burden if they can't fit into teams."

Ouch! The recruiter in me was awakened even as I spent the weekend engrossed & relishing some of the well articulated anecdotes in the recent history of sport, reading the book-"The Winning Way-Learnings from Sport for Managers" by Harsha Bhogle and Anita Bhogle-sharing some of their insights from over 300 workshops they have conducted for the corporates.

For over two decades we have been used to following sport thru Harsha's commentary-panel discussions, interviews and quizzes, apart from other references over the digital media. The book is a breeze-with nuggets from some boardrooms of the best managed firms in India-as well as wisdom shared by some of the best sportspersons globally. Harsha, in his characteristic chatty way, weaves through -giving us glimpses into the highly analytic brains of those who have ruled the basketball courts (NBA), historic moments in football, and analysing why some champions had enviable track records in winning consistently!

There are some remarkable coincidences too unveiled, as comparisons are made between the career aspirations of the generation that graduated in the 80's and those in the post liberalisation period-and parallels drawn with the improved economic progress in Indian industry with the assertiveness of Indian cricket at the global level-as well as cases of missed opportunities (as in the case of our national game-where most administrators were oblivious of the impact of astro turf) -and the challenges for the coming years.

As a person who has followed business & sport during the same period, it was an eye-opener in many ways-as I had indeed developed a lot of blind spots even as one was involved in talent spotting & helping clients acquire talent!!

Taking pride in trying to understand culture fit of every possible recruitment, I have often dwelled, beyond the given skills, on the 'need for a job' as one of the parameters for assessing 'attitude' -and tended to equate 'retention' as a positive tradeoff. The longer one stayed and performed & grew-the better was the hire, right?

Some of my takeaways from the book, enabling me to re-look at talent acquisition, comes from trying to understand the salient points of a winning team :

Winning teams are happy teams. Winning teams attract the best talent and because they create a climate where talent is allowed to flourish, players get better faster and that contributed to winning more often.

1)Probably the biggest reason some teams win more often than others is that they know how to win!

2)To know how to win, you must win frequently!

On the flip side, growing up in a losing environment could never have learnt the discipline of winning. Self belief is an essential aspect of development and if you are not winning, you' ll never acquire it

Talent management :

One of the side effects of the IPL -to me- is the transplanting of the best practices of work ethics- for eg the influence of Shane Warne in tranforming an unknown bunch of talented youngsters with Rajasthan Royals into believing they could become a champion side!

-People need to be challenged all the time that is what keeps them hungry and excited-and like nature, organizations must have mechanisms not only for nurturing but also culling.

-Too often teams spend time retaining talent-hanging on to players-and run the risk of getting stuck with those on the declining side of the product life cycle curve

-If young blood instead of competing, stays on the bench for too long. If there is no room for fresh talent, teams can stagnate, in performance and in thought!

Challenges we should watch out for ?

In overpopulated & insecure countries the self will always dominate. And so there is a natural tendency for individuals to put themselves first -ahead of team goals.

Indians have grown up in a system that glorifies flair and style.With increasing globalisation, we would need to benchmark against the global practices and put process above individual style!

There is also a need to be sensitive to the different leadership styles. Especially considering that

-Western leaders depend more on clarity of two way communication and implicit delegation.

-Eastern leadership is perhaps a lot more feudal- they depend on clarity of instruction and alignment!

Personally I felt the icing on the cake was the last word by the classy Rahul Dravid...on.what it means to be a team player!! He sums it up nicely quoting Kipling -"For the strength of the pack is the Wolf and the strength of the Wolf is the pack."

All in all- a wonderful treatise for any student of management and for a practitioner as well - 'full paisa vasool'!!