Skip to content

Are you playing the game or imposing yourself?

Success in professional sports this year has been not only about survival of the fittest, but survival of those able to adapt to change – just as we have experienced in business.

Spring is high season for sports competition here in Australia – including Australian Football League (AFL) finals, interstate rugby play-offs and thoroughbred horse racing carnivals.

So you get a good look at who’s best and who makes up the rest.

In a year plagued by stops and starts, relocation to different states, new environments (and even climates) and disruption to the rhythm of training programs, success in professional sports has been not only about survival of the fittest, but survival of those able to adapt to change – just as we have experienced in business.

With those events now behind us, an aspect that I’ve reflected on has come from watching Dustin Martin’s performance for Richmond in the AFL Grand Final.

It was a remarkable display of individual will and talent that was crucial in his team winning the flag. Most significantly, ‘Dusty’ won his third Norm Smith Medal – an award presented annually to the player adjudged the best on ground in the AFL Grand Final and named for legendary player Norm Smith, who won four VFL premierships as a player and six as coach for Melbourne Football Club.

The winning distinction in my view: Dusty didn’t just play the game that day, he imposed himself on it.

Asserting himself physically in the contest and doubtless getting inside his opponents’ minds in the process.

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick said, “He’ll go down probably now as the best finals player of all time … the way he just controls a game and knows where to be when to be, is incredibly important.”

A characteristically humble player, Dusty himself commented that his team was critical to his success. “There’s no way I would have been able to do it without my teammates,” Martin said of his third Norm Smith. “We’re an unbelievable team. It’s not a one-man team, we all do our part. We’re humble and we’re hungry. Success is awesome.”

Which raises a question for all of us as leaders …

Are we just ‘playing’ in our chosen game, or are we imposing ourselves on it? Making a statement. Fulfilling our true potential.

If you were to think about a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 was ‘we’re not even in our game’, 5 is ‘we’re playing’, and 10 is ‘we’re the industry benchmark’ … where would you score your business on that continuum?

Then, if you want to shift the needle, what could be the levers? Is it uniquely differentiating yourself through a more robust strategy? Perhaps its through building the quality of the people within your team? What about implementing world-class execution disciplines so that you operationally perform at a higher level? Or is it through tweaks to your cash situation that push up revenue and profit?

What would imposing yourself on the game look like … and what would that take?

And then, within your team, who are the individual players who are really making a statement with what they do? And who is just making up the numbers?

What could it mean for you and your business if you started imposing yourselves on the game you’re playing?

Leave a Reply