Wednesday, July 9, 2014

5 Leadership Lessons from the Brazilian Meltdown

Germany 7: Brazil 1 (FIFA World Cup Semi Final 1)

1.The Game Is Not Over Till It Is Over: Play till the End.

While the Germans even after building an unassailable lead of 7-0 were playing as if the game was to last another 90 minutes; the Brazilians had essentially given up after the first few goals were scored against them.
Turnarounds are possible in any game.......and in business and life.
For a successful leader the zeal to recover from losses, regroup and fight till the end with an indomitable spirit needs to exist at all times.

2. All for One, One for All: No First Among Equals.

Over-hyping the contributions of some players like Neymar and Thiago Silva made the team mentally over-dependent on them resulting in a situation where the team was psychologically undermined when these players were not available to play in the final game.
A successful leader needs to acknowledge and recognize key contributors but not at the cost of undermining the efficiency and efficacy of the entire team. No one is indispensable and the game need to go on even if some key players are missing should be the mantra.

3. Manage Expectations.

The Brazilian Coach had done nothing to temper the unrealistic expectations that had been created for the home team. The weight of the nation’s expectations was like an albatross around the team-member’s necks. Contrast this with the approach taken by the US coach who had right at the outset of the tournament stated that there was no chance of his team winning (much to the chagrin of US sports-media pundits). However, as a result every win of the US team was a bonus for the fans.
A successful leader needs to manage the expectations of the stakeholders, ground them in reality and also shield the team from the unreasonableness.

4. Be Flexible, Creative and Responsive: You are only as good as your Plan B.

The Brazilian team failed to respond flexibly and creatively to the German onslaught. They seemed to be caught in a warped game-plan and were not able to modify it once they saw it unraveling.
Successful leaders war-game different scenarios and the options to switch between them. Even if the real life scenario may turn out to be different, the practiced ability to switch between scenarios will come in handy. Very rarely will a one trick pony come out on top.

5. Stay Calm, Stay Focused and Execute.

Unfortunately the game played out to the stereotypical “Emotional Brazilian” vs. “Methodical German”.
I am not sure wearing ones emotions on one’s sleeves is the best approach for high stress scenarios. One may ascribe the display of emotions to socio-cultural reasons but there is something to be said about staying focused and keeping the emotions bottled up till after the game when they can be all let out.
Successful leaders have the ability to channelize their teams emotions – anger, sadness, joy towards achieving the goal at hand rather than wasting that energy on unproductive displays.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Cars, Car Dealers and Service

First published as a web-essay in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

One thing even a child would know about, even before they learn about U.S. presidents, is the names of the owners of car dealerships in the area. Their presence is ubiquitous on billboards, television advertisements, radio jingles, newspaper inserts. Name a media outlet and you'll find them there — the loud guy, the father-daughter duo, the family of color, the animal lover, etc., etc.
Their very presence is supposed to be an indication of their willingness to stand behind the product and their store, per se. A reassurance to the customer that they are not dealing with a faceless impersonal behemoth which a large auto company can be; but with the owners' smiling charm.
Is this for real? Or is this veneer of personal touch just there to lull us into a false sense of complacence? My car was in a dealership recently and I was appalled by the poor service. I thought I would reach out to the "friendly" owners whose names grace the dealership and whose faces smile at me from countless hoardings. A request for the email address or phone number of the owner was greeted by a surprised silence. The person on the phone reacted as if she had just come across an extraterrestrial. Well, the least I had expected was that a ghost email or phone would have been set up for the owners, so that requests such as this could be passed along to them or their minions for addressing. Looks like customer service, like beauty, is just skin deep.
For my next car I will look for the owner who is willing to place his direct email or phone number where his/her mugshot is. You may not answer in person but at least I will have the reassurance that you care enough to be reachable (if only through your staff).
If not, you're just a pretty face which has no bearing on where I buy my car or get it serviced. And I'll be another one joining the clamor to allow new cars to be sold on the Internet like almost everything else. A distant behemoth is as good as a near but unreachable owner.

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