Last week I spent time with a team of very sharp software
developers who are designing a new product. A well-oiled machine, this group of
men and women embodied the best practices in agile and lean software
development–keep things simple, deliver working software rapidly, and adapt
to changing circumstances. They were very impressive. That is until I lobbed an
innocent, seemingly easy-to-answer, question at them. “What does a ‘win’
look like with regards to this product in 12 months?”
The team did not have a clear, compelling, and aligned
answer. Differing perspectives (that should have been fleshed out months
earlier) started to rear their heads. The team, it turned out, was in the
process of flawlessly executing on a vague set of objectives. And ones that,
frankly, weren’t stretching them. A recipe for losing.
The old expression “it’s not whether you win or
lose, it’s how you play the game” is flat out wrong. Winning matters. It
matters for an obvious reason–because you achieve something important. But it
matters for a much bigger reason also.
It drives growth–personal, professional, revenue, you
When you have to find a way to stretch yourself and win,
it changes you. It makes you realize what you’re capable of and builds your
confidence. That doesn’t happen when you merely play the game well.
Of course–you can’t win all the time–and how you play
the game does matter too. But it will never take the place of defining a
stretch goal, digging down, and figuring out how to win when the going gets
- Define what a “win” is for you now–be
specific, stretch yourself, and know how you’ll measure it.
- Get feedback from trusted friends/colleagues to ensure
you’ve set the bar at the right level
- If you’re working with others, ensure you’re all aligned.
- Keep the goal in front of you on a regular basis, so it’s
top of mind, perhaps posting it in your office
- Take on the mindset that failure is not an option (notice
how this changes your plan of attack).
- Find a to play the game with excellence and win
Doug Sundheim is a leadership consultant, author, and speaker. He is currently working on a book on the topic of smart risk-taking. You can find him online at clarityconsulting.com and follow him on twitter @DougSundheim.