I am a die hard cricket buff, you may be thinking what’s unique about that especially in India where a majority of us are not just buffs but have strong opinions on the game and especially on the Indian cricket team. The recently concluded world cup was a spectacle and lived up to its billing as being exciting and equally at times being very predictable. Predictable since champion players came back with their reputations enhanced while certain teams played like how champion teams do and should play. Team games like cricket are similar to corporations, being an amalgamation of people who come together and ‘play’ for a purpose, which is to give their best and eventually win.
The World Cup got me thinking on whether there are any parallels between these two worlds; the world of business and the world of cricket. Here are 10 lessons that I took out from the Cricket World Cup 2015:
- Don’t underestimate the opposition
The upsets caused by the ‘so called’ smaller cricketing nations like Bangladesh and Ireland where they upset bigger opposition teams, makes me think no matter how big or small your opposition/ competition, it is never a good idea to take them lightly or dismiss them. One need not lose sleep thinking about the opposition but don’t make the mistake of thinking that you are invincible however big or strong you may be
- Respect the conditions
Just like how cricketers need to adapt to the pitch, the conditions, the direction of the breeze businesses (which puts them in a bit of uncertainty every time they play), businesses also face the uncertainty of markets, customer behaviour, people and competition. Every company needs to respect the conditions or the rules of the game. Despite having the best players and using the best technology in the game, if one is does not adapt to the conditions, the game will be up very soon
- Play to your strengths
A Smart team lead by an astute captain will play to his team’s strengths. The Indian team lead by Kapil Dev in 1983 had good medium pace bowlers who could just about swing the cricket ball. They did not have pace bowlers, which teams like West Indies and Australia had at that point in time. The conditions favoured swing bowling and India saw a weakness in the way West Indies batted on the 25th of June, 1983 which allowed them to cause an ‘upset’. Had they aped what other teams were doing and believed what they did was right, they wouldn’t have picked the team that eventually went on to win the cup. Businesses, CEO’s and entrepreneurs must also take decisions within a certain context. Playing to the strengths of the team and the business proposition within a context should be their prerogative.
- The captain need not be the best man
A common belief atleast with most businesses is that a leader should always be the ‘best’; a leader should be more aware, more articulate, more knowledgeable and more intelligent. That explains why we a lot of businesses have not been able to attract and retain top notch managers/ talent. A leader should be someone who steps in to fill the gaps that the team is not able to fill regardless of the function where the gap is. A leader also needs to be able to get the team together to be able to guide them towards a purpose, which is larger than self. The best example is a Mahendra Singh Dhoni who we all agree may not be the most gifted cricketer and yet has been India’s best captain till date. You need more than just skills to reach the top and stay there
- Use technology as an enabler and don’t become a slave
The penetration of technology into sports has enabled teams to analyse performance, iron out weaknesses and study the opposition to spot areas, which can be targeted. How much ever one uses technology, the execution of the strategy derived through technology on the field is what separates a winner from the rest. Technology is an enabler, it is a not a substitute to contextual thinking/ decision-making. The software will only help us get to a point, beyond that leaders take the call. It is important to build technology-enabled businesses but leaders need to have the wisdom to question/ improve the technology itself and take calls which technology sometimes may not be able to do.
- The experts are not always right
Every leader should surround himself/herself with people who are better than him/her. There are advisors, a board, mentors around great leaders and the corollary that they became great is because they surrounded themselves with great people. While it is extremely important to listen and heed to the advice given by experts, one must not stop at just that. There is a need to use one’s judgement, instincts and an understanding of the business itself since a leader plays the game on the ‘pitch’ while the role of the coaches, mentors and experts is beyond the ‘boundary line’
- Talent will give you an edge but won’t take you all the way
‘What got you here, won’t take you there’ is an oft-used adage. This means that what you did for a certain period of time or during a certain stage in life or business may not be relevant when you need to shift gears. People whether in sports or in business who last longer are not necessarily the ones who are the most talented, the most intelligent people; these are people who have stayed the course, have seen the ups and downs, have got better at their game and not thrown it away. There have been some extremely talented cricketers who have risen through the ranks and played for India but there have been only very few who have lasted for long by being consistent and gone on to attain ‘greatness’
- Getting up every time you fall
During the world cup, what caught my attention was this moment from the Australia vs New Zealand game during the league stages. McCullum was hit on his forearm by a thunderbolt by Mitchell Johnson. The pain was severe. The target was small and McCullum could have walked back to the pavilion and allow others to finish the game. He instead stayed back and bludgeoned the aussie attack over the next few overs. The game went on to the wire but the captain’s heroics caught everyone’s imagination.
As a leader, you are vulnerable and may occasionally display your vulnerable side; what is important is to get back on your feet every time you are stuck. When the leader is down, it has a psychological impact on the team. Getting up doesn’t mean the pain doesn’t exist, it just means that you have found the will to overcome the pain
- Play for the paying spectators first and then for yourself
Businesses exist because of customers. They should be placed at the centre of the universe and not at the periphery. If one is not able to deliver solutions to the ‘paying’ customer/(s) then one doesn’t deserve to be in business. Business leaders and corporations have grown today simply because of their customers and focus on customers. Similarly in cricket, the paying spectator creates the players. Imagine a scenario where a player becomes famous by playing in front of ‘empty stands’. Not possible!
- Champion teams are created through discipline and culture
Why is Australia the most successful cricket team ever? It is their commitment to the cause, the work ethic, discipline, execution of plans and players who are lead by captains who put the team above everything else. Champion teams are created through sustained teamwork, discipline and culture so is the case with Champion organizations. They were built over a period of time and had outstanding leaders in every era who not just carried on the ‘flame’ passed on to them but also improved it every time this was passed on to the next generation of leaders.