Every Day is a Contract Year

Much of what I’ve learned about the world of business has its roots in my amateur athletics career. Whether you realize it or not sports and business have many parellels (probably because sports are business), especially when it comes to the areas of talent and performance.

Take the “contract year” phenomenon for example.

Every year a handful of veteran players emerge to dominate professional sports leagues; seemingly from nowhere. It’s the forward who scores 10 goals a year his first three years in the league, then all of sudden nets 40 in his fourth year.

Usually their herculean efforts are spurned by the almighty “contract year.” The year that proceeds becoming a free agent, infamous for inflated performances, because the player knows that the better they perform the more they will make the next year.

The problem with the contract year for teams and players is that the player is often solely judged on that last and is compensated into the future and rarely repeats this performance.

It can be seen year after year. A player gets hot, gets a big contract, then stinks it up until they’re released or come on in another contract year).

Now most of us don’t have contract years, nor the luxury to coast for a few years. We’re somewhere between getting the job done and, well, not.

But what if you played every day like it was your contract year? If you played every day like you’re trying to earn that big signing bonus, salary, promotion or whatever else it is that you’ve got your eye on.

And what if after you’ve got it, you don’t stop, but keep going. Sort of like you had never achieved the goal at all.

What would the impact be on your life, your career and your success?

Unless you’re a rookie, fresh out of college, looking to get drafted, chances are that you’re a veteran somewhere and have this choice every day. You can play every day like it is a contract year or you can not.

Think about it.

Most people jump through all sorts of hoops to get a great job only to coast. Sales professionals kill themselves to land that big deal, only to never call the customer again. Entrepreneurs beg, borrow and steal to get their enterprise off the ground, only to kick back once things are rolling.

My advice?

Make every snap count. Compete. Compete. Compete. With your boss, your peers, but most importantly compete with yourself.

Because unlike that professional athlete, you can’t afford to coast. You’ve got too much to play for.

Who is Your Business Drafting This Year?

As I watched the final rounds of the NFL draft this past weekend, I couldn’t help but think of the parallels between the NFL and businessess. There’s a lot of great things that the NFL does that your business could also do to help bring home a title.

The most important? Drafting.

Each and every year there is a new crop of young, hungry, passionate players dying to get a shot at the big time and the big money. Teams spend years watching and analyzing these players, herding them like cattle, measuring everything possible to ensure they’ve got the right guy.

The draft (and free agency) account for a good 80% of a team’s success in a given year. Coaching, injuries and luck all play a part, but the NFL is about talent.

Just like your business.

So why aren’t you drafting? No, I don’t mean drafting like the NFL does.

You don’t need Radio City Music Hall. You don’t press, media coverage or fast talking analysts.

All you need to do is visit your local college or university.

Every semester there are loads of young, hungry, passionate college students looking for a shot at success within your organization through an internship.Plus every year a newly minted crop of indebted servants walk across the stage with that fat laon repayment in tow.

For most businesses, especially small ones, it is likely that your turn over may be low. Most HR folks would say this is great!

I say bullshit. Turnover can be good.

Without a consistent influx of talent to push veterans how can you expect your company to grow, innovate and prosper as the “times change?”

Like Marvin Lewis, the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals who has grown tired of the antics of Chad Ochocinco and the oft under-performing quarterback Carson Palmer, who decided to go WR and QB one-two in this weekend’s draft, I’m telling you right now that if you’re not going after hungry young talent and passionate free agents to make your team better you’re nuts.

In business, as-in the NFL, we live in “win-now” times. I can’t think of any better way to find inspiration, passion, growth and innovation than in rounding out your roster with some draft picks.

And the best part?

Students don’t command multi-million dollar signing bonuses. Business cards work just fine 😉

Changing a Tire While the Bus is Still Moving

If you’ve ever been a leader chances are you’ve encountered a time when you need to make a change.

Most often change does not come about naturally; it is forced by some event. Especially in business.

Like when you get a flat tire.

The one you had was working fine. It keep going round and round.

Until all of a sudden it just stopped working.

You hit a pot hole. You ran over a sharp object. You neglect to properly maintain it.

It happens every day and when it does happen you are faced with two choices:

  1. Stop, pull over and change it
  2. Keep on driving, hoping and praying you’ll make it to your destination

Pretty easy right?

Except people, groups and businesses aren’t like vehicles. Sure as a leader you rely on them to get you were you want to go, but unfortuantely you can’t always stop, nor can you hope and pray you’ll make it there.

That leaves you with one choice; changing the tire while the bus is still moving.

I never tried it myself, but changing a tire while the vehicle is still moving seems impossible. Sort of like the feeling you get as a leader when you need to make a change.

You want to stop, pull over and make the change, but know you have to keep moving on. Businesses and organizations don’t operate in a vaccum.

Stopping your business or organizational operations can’t happen. Slowing down may allow competitors to speed ahead.

So what’s a leader to do? There’s no clear cut answer.

Maybe you just cut the white cable. Or you choose to hit the reset button.

Perhaps you think you can stop, pull over and make the change. You might even get lucky and have hope pull you through.

Regardless of the direction you take, as a leader, creating, implementing and managing change is a difficult, if not impossible task when the bus is still moving.

It can be done; just not by any ordinary mechanic.

Leaders out there, how have you “changed the tire while the bus was still moving?” Let’s hear about it in the comments.

Sometimes You Really Fuck Up

Sometimes you really fuck up.

Unless you’ve lived a very cautious and measured life you’ve likely made dozens of mistakes. It’s also very likely that you’ve really fucked something up.

You’re only human. You’re not perfect.

And unfortunately it’s likely you’ll really fuck up again before life’s all said and done.

The thing with making a mistake or really fucking up is that 99% of the time you can recover. You can deal with the carnage you’ve created; you can correct your actions, fix the mistake and or reconcile with those who you’ve hurt.

It’s not easy and since this world is more often about what you do after you really fuck up that matters, you’ve really got to do things right in order to chart a course towards improving whatever situation you’ve put yourself in.

As someone who’s prone to royally fucking things up (I’m begining to think I’m an expert), here’s a few steps to take the next time you really fuck up:

  1. Own it – The first step after you really fuck up is to own it. Simply put you have to take responsibility for your actions. It’s not about an apology either; I’m sorry is a great start, but truly owning your actions starts with acknowledging your fuck up and taking responsibility for the problems it has caused.
  2. Understand it – Owning your actions is one thing. Understanding what you did, how if affected others and why it was really fucked up is another one. In order to understand what you’ve done, you must take time to retrace your steps and see exactly where you went wrong. From there you can…
  3. Learn from it – The reason you can recover from really fucking something up 99% of the time is that you learn from what you did and don’t make the same mistake again. Life and those around you is very forgiving; just think about all the second chances people receive. People can forgive, but they very really forget the times when you really fuck up, so take the second chance and learn from what you did so you don’t do it again.
  4. Change it – The reason you fucked up is that you were doing the right things; whether you thought they were right or not. Reversing your fortunes starts with changing your attitude, behaviors or thought patterns so it doesn’t happen again. The problem is that change doesn’t happen over night and it’s not easy. That’s why you need to…
  5. Work at it – No one ever said recovery happens in an hour, day, week or even month. Where most fuck up’s fail is that they only make surface change, paying lips service to the real root of why they fell on their face. Real change take commitment to a better way and a lot of hard work. But chances are the reasons you want to make things right is worth all the hard work.

Obviously, it’s always easier to avoid really fucking up. But the next time you do, remember the above.

And don’t forget to beg for a second chance…that works pretty good too 🙂

Do it Everyday

Greatness.

It’s something many strive for. It’s something few ever achieve.

The difference between those who do and those who don’t is relatively simple; great ones do it every day.

Do what you ask?

“It.” As in whatever “it” takes to push them one step closer to their ultimate goal.

They write those 1,000 words. Make those 50 cold calls. Code the latest feature.

Day in, day out the great ones bring it. To them it’s about incremental improvements (kaizen), the little wins; not rewards and recognition.

In other words, “they love the grind.” They recognize the commitment, sacrifice and hardwork necessary to be great.

It’s not easy. It’s not for every one.

But if you find yourself with greatness as your goal, know you can achieve it.

You just have to do it every day.