Among all the classrooms I have attended till date, Sports field is the best learning place. The recently concluded Test series between India & Australia has many lessons for everyone but for corporates it’s more important to understand learning from this great series & implement in the organization which can help them in building high performance team. I have no doubt in my mind that this test series will soon be a part of leading B-Schools case study curriculum but that may take some time to have a positive effect on corporate world. Let’s try to analyze this great series from the learning perspective & how it can help corporate world. There are many learnings, but in this blog, I wish to focus on few key ones
- Identify & mentor next gen leaders– Since Virat Kohli took the reins of Indian cricket team, the team had never clear no.2 in test or in limited overs game. The responsibility is shared between many Shikhar, Rohit, Rahane, Rahul, until a year ago when they finally identified Rohit as limited over vice-captain & Rahane as Test’s vice-captain. The clarity of leadership facilitated the team to drive effortlessly behind Rahane in the time of crisis & absence of the regular leader not felt by the team. Rahane surely the man of the moment but one should understand that its Kohli thought process & legacy which he taken a step forward & helped the team winning the series. So, a clear identification of the successor helps the leader to sync his thoughts with the deputy ultimately helping the organization.
- Developmental training for Mid-level Managers- In today’s world, Trainers prioritize skill training & only few organizations invest in developmental training. Its imperative for the organization to invest in overall development of employees especially mid-level managers who in future if needed will have everything to step up in leadership shoes. The effort should be to develop them with real life company case studies or from time to time give them an opportunity to lead on some key projects. The chances of his success will be far higher. Her is the answer, Team India despite having a great pool of 15-16 players, kept training fresh set of players. BCCI provided them opportunity of real match scenario by sending India A on tours to different country. The success of Sundar, Thakur, Saini, Pant & others have not come by chance but by sheer determination & trainings. BCCI was making them future ready so when the opportunity arrives, they excel in the game. I suggest, organization can create a small team which are tasked for overall development of Key employees. This is very important for mid-level manager who are likely to grow into leadership roles. It will help organizations to retain these key employees who otherwise will be edging to move other organization for better opportunities.
- Supporting, celebrating another person success– One may call it team spirit, but organization must create culture where employees celebrate each other success. The way Ashwin hug Sundar & Bumrah hugged Siraj speaks a lot about this high performing team. Siraj & Sundar may not feature in starting 11 for the next match but they know they are not playing with strangers but brothers. Similarly, if organization can successfully create such culture, productivity & efficiency will go northwards. It doesn’t need much of the effort, just transparent communication & appreciations.
- Decision making during uncertain times- One of the biggest learnings’ corporates can take from this series is decision making during uncertain times. Whether its Sydney or Brisbane, on a day 5 pitch- India started in uncertain scenario, whether to go for win or draw but smartly they took the decision in phases. In Sydney, they first consolidated & then went after the target but once they lost Pujara & Pant in quick succession, immediately change their goal & played for the draw. While in Brisbane, they consolidated & in final session went after the target. The best way to deal with uncertain time to set smaller goals and avoid thinking ahead of the time.
- Survival – Not every day, you are going to win or not every product launch is going to be successful. On some day, survival is enough. It’s important to groom people for mental toughness so they can survive in difficult situation. Organization is made from employees & it can only survive if the people in working in the organization can survive. In current scenario, many smaller companies could survive the pandemic because their leadership group is trained to survive & fully understand the importance of survival. “Winning is important, but survival is more important. If you don’t survive, you don’t get to fight the next battle.”
- Appreciate the workhorse of the team- In corporate world, it does happen that credit always goes to a person who is at forefront of the projects. But there are people like Pujara, Cummins who tirelessly work for cause of the team & are backbone of the team. Leaders must recognize & appreciate these work horses because they lead team to a situation where Pant, Kohli, KL’s of the world cash on to cross the milestone. A champion team is better than a team of champions because they have work horses to fall on at the time of crisis.
- Welcome fresh ideas & thoughts- Stable team is recipe for success but at the same time leaders must try to bring some fresh face in the team. It allows team to have another perspective for the same situation. Same group of peoples working together over the years keep on thinking on the same lines. Had it been any other player who was 25 had played 25 matches, would have given the wickets easily but Shardul & Sundar have different ideas because they were not carrying any baggage of the past. If you keep doing the same thing again & again, you are bound to get the same results. One of the biggest reasons of Australia loss was lack of fresh ideas. Mitchel Stark is one of the greatest bowlers of this generation but right from the beginning of this series, he was off colour. Australia persisted with him & paid the price. They needed someone who thinks differently than this group of four legendary bowlers.
- Surprise your opposition with thoughts & planning- One of the reasons why Australian bowlers were ineffective on day five of Gabba test is because Indians outsmarted them in the mind games. While Australia took the field happily assuming India will play for the draw, India went for the target. It taken Australian bowlers by surprise as they never planned for this situation. By the time they tried to adjust, the game has gone out of their hands. As quoted by Sun Tzu in art of war, “Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”
- A champion rise to the occasion- Looser crib for the unfavorable situation whereas champions embrace unfavorable times. They don’t complain & grab the opportunity with both hands. Shardul, Natarajan, Sundar, Saini could have complained to God for choosing them to debut against Australia in Australia which could virtually mean end of the career, but they took opportunity with both hands & risen to the occasion. If anyone rising to a difficult situation & taking responsibility, then groom him, give him more opportunity as he is a champion & destined to be successful.
Leadership, empathy, compassion, team spirit, rivalry, mentoring coaching… sports has everything. We just need to learn, choose & implement it in the corporate world for better results. I will leave you with Lord Krishna lines of BhagwatGita, “Man is made by his belief. As he believes so he is.”