Recently, I was asked to organize a webinar with some of our company’s most influential customers. As this was my first introduction to many of them, I wanted to make sure this call went perfect. Our team put together a great agenda and worked with our logistics partner to review the technical specifics for all attendees. We setup a meeting the day before the call to run through the details and to practice executing the call which went perfect.
As we all know well, life is not perfect. We can role play and practice in artificial models or scenarios, but these types of interactions are not what determines success. Accomplishment is determined by the end result, in this case, the 8:00PM call with our top customers and educators. We had instructed all of our presenters to login 30 minutes prior to the call starting to make sure we were prepared. At 7:40, everything went wrong…the slides were not advancing, there was background noise on the phone from one of our presenters, attendees were in-correctly allowed into our presenter “room” and heard us going through solutions to the multitude of technical problems we were experiencing. Luckily, our team remain composed and we were able to conduct a positive call, overcoming the obstacles we faced.
The reason I share this story with you relates to how you and your team determine success versus failure. When evaluating the company handling the logistics for this call, the practice call was great, but that was not the performance which mattered. The only call that mattered was the 8:00PM call and this experience did not meet our expectations.
In running a training department for several years, our team witnessed many people who flourished in a controlled environment, participating well in simulated drills/role plays/testing modules. Many of them achieved great things after training, yet we also witnessed people whose success in the classroom did not translate to the job they were hired to do. We also saw people who performed at an average level in the training room but truly excelled in their jobs in front of our customers. The best employees are the ones who perform on game days, combining the skills they learned in training with the will to succeed when it mattered. Practice is essential to success, but companies or teams are only judged by their performance after training. I will take the employee who rates a seven out of ten in the training room and performs at a ten out of ten level when it counts versus the employee who is a ten out of ten in simulated practices but only a seven out of ten when they have to produce. If your scoreboard is based on practices or simulated exercises and results only, you are setting your teams up for failure.
- Make sure you are holding your players accountable to their performance “in games” versus their performance “in practice”. Again, this does not minimize the value of practice. However, accomplishment is measured by the performance when it matters. If a person’s success is only seen on the practice field or in the training room and does not translate to the job they were hired to do, then we need to ask if they are the right person for the job.
- When determining the right person for a role or job, make sure to gain feedback from others on the decision. Great leaders do not make decisions in a silo. Listen to what peers and others say about any person you are evaluating for a position. An example – a couple of years ago, we had a leadership position come available which we had 3 highly qualified people for. In my mind and the mind of others, there was a clear-cut leader for this promotion, who was the most tenured and we had the most involvement with. We asked for feedback from many people, especially the direct supervisors and peers of the other two candidates who had applied for this position. These other two candidates had less tenure with our company and we did not have as many touchpoints or experiences with them. In the end, we promoted the least tenured person for the position because of what her performance was and for the intangibles she brought to the interview and evaluation process, which we were not initially aware of. The other two candidates did well in simulations, but when it came to specific performance when it mattered, it was an easy decision. If we would not have asked for the feedback of her peers and managers, we would not have endorsed the right person. And this new manager has been crushing it for two straight years in her role.
- In training environments, don’t set a goal to be perfect, but to get better. There will be times when your practice is perfect, but it will not be every day. Work on minimizing mistakes and set a goal of improving on 1-2 things per week. Very few people in life perform at a 10 out of 10 level in all areas every day (maybe they exist but I have never met them). We all have strengths and development areas. Prolific people and teams work to improve on both.
When I was living in Texas, I had the pleasure of attending a breakfast with a Division I college football coach who described the “it” factor he looked for when recruiting players. He would spend a lot of time watching practices, but the most important metric to his staff was how these recruits performed in games, when the pressure was on and when performance was tested outside of the simulations of drills and practice. While he was talking about players he wanted in his program, he would ask their high school coaches if their player had “it”. This was defined by intangibles such as leadership, determination, handling of pressure, grit and many times could not be replicated on a practice field. These “it” factors were important in every interaction every day, but he wanted players on his team who performed most on Saturday game days in front of 60,000 screaming fans and not just on Monday through Friday practice days. If a player did not have “it” then he would typically pass on them. Gary Patterson has won 167 games and lost only 63 games in his 19 years as a coach at Texas Christian University because he has recruited players into his program whose performance is analyzed by both practices and games, but most importantly the way they play and win on Saturdays, when it counts. Successful businesses should do the same!
Well Done > Well Said-