Monday, January 18, 2010

In Business Today, Your Best Offence is a Strong Defense

I know, I know…you think because I am Canadian, everything comes down to hockey - but bear with me....

Something extraordinary happened at my 8 year old son’s recent hockey game. Winning this particular game was a sense of great pride for both his coach and his team. You see, the coach of the other team had trained my son’s coach and the kids all knew it. Well, one of our best forwards, and strongest overall players, suddenly volunteered to go back and play defense.  This young boy knew exactly where he could help the most, even though this meant he would probably not score any goals. I was amazed.

What my son’s coach had managed to do was teach these kids how valuable all positions on the team were to winning a game and that sometimes your best offence is a strong defense. I think this is doubly true in business today and a valuable lesson we leaders need to learn…Let me explain…

Imagine for a moment that your company is a hockey team; you are the coach, your forwards are sales, your defense is service and of course, the opposing team is your competition....I guess the goalies are PR/marketing but that is another blog…

Most business leaders (the coaches) that I have met, watched and worked with during my career, generally spend the majority of their time with the forwards (sales) - which makes sense since it’s the forwards that are making the goals and winning the game - right? Wrong.

In this age of hyper-connectivity and instant information, your defense (service) is contributing just as much as your forwards to winning the game in the long run. This is especially true when we look at the enormous influence of word-of-mouth.  There aren't any websites called "Great sales reps I have known" but there are hundreds, if not thousands, of sites called "Why this company's service sucks". But sadly, this is a lesson being missed by most coaches. In fact, defense isn't even in the change room when pep talk happens and game strategy is discussed!

Yes, there are some gifted forwards that can do a break-away, scoot up the ice all on their own, and score that first goal but in reality, these are few and far between. It is a strong defense that will keep the puck up at the other end of the ice so your forwards can consistently get you the second, third and fourth (which any board, VC or investor will tell you is much more valuable).

Coaching your defense along with your forwards will help the forwards learn what it takes to win the game rather than just score a goal. This style of coaching helps both lines learn to work with, not against, each other because this style of coaching builds a team.

BTW, we won the game.

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