March 19, 2013
No matter the field of endeavor, when a potentially great team's performance declines through complacency, members will constantly search for new and more inventive reasons to explain away a defeat. As time goes by, that same team becomes much more accomplished at thinking up reasons for a loss than thinking of new ways to win.
The hard truth is winning gets more difficult every day for a multitude of reasons. The challenge of competition always demands new ways to outperform the Klingons across the street. If your group thrives on great product, you can be sure even in today's reduced condition, other brands will bring everything they can muster to block your strategies and emulate your best tactics. In turn, you'll eventually be required to win a marketing battle or a price-point game. The never-ending process of competitive maneuvering requires you to get in the habit of finding new ways to win. Yet no matter how much progress a team makes lifting their aspiration and swagger, old patterns that exist in each of us will always try to surface. This reality of human effort is in itself not a big deal. Becoming aware of it and trying new things to avoid a slide are the golden ticket for perennial winners.
Pat Riley once confessed he occasionally used a technique he called "temporary insanity." He described these carefully choreographed displays as a punctuation-outburst for effect. He chose the moment to fit the mood of the team using his keen sense of situational analysis. It might be kicking over an ice chest or slamming a locker. It was rationally stage-managed, only for effect.
The Temporary Insanity Prompter:
A leader's outburst is not an explosion, nor a regular predictable event. It is the art of being angry at the right time, to the right degree, at the right people.
The "Temporary Insanity" technique requires advanced thought; a focused object-lesson as opposed to an emotion based monologue for the sake of display.
A dose of Temporary Insanity demands a rapid sequel of compassion.
A colleague from your leadership team should observe and monitor the net effect of the episode for an accurate reading of potential emotional short-term damage so as to redirect the prevailing mood back to positive collaboration. After employing the same technique, Patton was approached by his aid. "General, sometimes the men can't tell when you're acting." Patton quipped, "It's not important for them to know."
The past and present celebrate leaders unafraid to "act" at just the right time and place to force a re-start of team effort and focus. But compassion is vital; without it resentment can set in while the process of defeat rationalizing starts all over again. It's a rough road that leads us to the apogee of greatness. You may not be the lion, but it may be left to you to give the lion's roar.