Welcome to Take an Aspirin, the monthly newsletter from Aspirin Business Solutions! Our mission is to help you thrive through your work, so we always aim to provide updates, information, tools, and best practices to help you thrive.
In a rush? Here are the Key Takeaways:
Looking Beyond the Win: It's not just about clinching that next big deal or hitting this quarter's targets. Think bigger – like joining a team for mutual long-term success and growth. It's about the marathon, not just the sprint.
From the Rugby Field to the Boardroom: Ever wondered what makes the All Blacks so good? Their focus and team spirit offer a lesson for us in business – it's about building a team that's in it for more than just the quick wins.
Stop Moving the Goalposts: We've all seen it – business goals that shift faster than sand in the desert. It's confusing and demotivating. Let's strive for clarity and consistency in our goals to keep our teams driven and on track.
Sinek’s Spin on Games: Imagine business not as a one-off match to outdo competitors but as an endless game where growing and adapting is the real win. Thanks, Simon Sinek, for flipping the script on how we view competition and success.
Your Life, Your Games: Think of your career and personal life as a mix of short and long games. Aligning your everyday hustle with your big-picture dreams can turn your journey into a thrilling and meaningful adventure.
Are you playing for today or tomorrow? There's a fascinating balance to strike between the finite goals we often chase, like being the top salesperson, and the infinite game of enduring business success. Shifting your focus from short-term victories to long-term vision can redefine your approach to leadership, teamwork, and personal fulfilment. Exploring what drives you in your careers and life will help you discover how to align your daily pursuits with a larger, more meaningful purpose, transforming the way you think about your professional journey, and helping keep you driven and focused through it.
18 months ago, I was fortunate to hear James Kerr, author of the book ‘Legacy’, speak. James spent 5 weeks embedded in the All Blacks set-up to discover what’s made them the most successful rugby team in the world. In his book, he reveals their rituals, mindset, code of conduct and the need to leave ‘the shirt’ in a better place. But, as inspiring as the book and All Blacks are, I was struggling to see how it can be applied to the world of business. Many principles could be directly transferred, but there was one in particular that I asked James Kerr about. How do we create that same desire to win, to commit, to sacrifice, with our teams? And that question, eventually lead me to Simon Sinek’s latest book ‘Infinite Games’.
Everyone knows how to win a rugby match. The players and coaches know their roles and positions, they practice the moves, they know how to score and how to tackle confidently and safely. They know when each match will finish, and they’ll have time and support to prepare for the next one. That’s quite different to business. Business can feel relentless. It can be a never-ending game, where exhaustion can be the norm.
How many sales professionals feel that the more successful they are, the more their individual target will increase? This is regardless of their personal ambition to achieve it, perhaps regardless of a well-understood need for the organisation to achieve it. This is quite different to a rugby match, where the players want to score as often as possible, because they know when the match will finish and that they’ll get time to rest and recover. Perhaps, more importantly, they know how to win, they believe they can win, or at least they’ll enjoy trying.
"Business leaders continually change the goalposts, often without recognising it and without communicating it."
I asked James Kerr, author of Legacy’ about this. My conclusion, from his explanation, was that business leaders continually change the goalposts. They often do so, without recognising it and without communicating it. They do it on large goals, like financial targets, and they do it daily and weekly on the smallest of goals. They fail to communicate what to them is insignificant, but to their team is vital, i.e., “What do I need to get done this week? What does good look like? Do I have the time and resources to get it done?” It is almost impossible to feel a sense of accomplishment and job satisfaction when we don’t believe that we can win, or that trying is worth it.
In his book, ‘Infinite Games’, Simon Sinek explores this difference. Sporting games and matches are examples of finite games, with known rules, and success is about beating other teams. Many businesses are run in this way – hence the focus on ever-increasing turnover and profits as the primary measure of success. Their opponents are competitors, and the goal is to beat them, often as quickly as possible. Marriages and education are examples of infinite games, where the goal is to keep playing, because the game never gets boring.
Organisations and businesses can also play the infinite game. The players will come and go, the rules will change, but the overall purpose will remain until it is fulfilled. It’s this longevity, this belief, that motivates people to commit to being part of an organisation where they can make a difference to a worthwhile cause, and that their personal ambitions and needs will be met at the same time.
Have you ever played a game of Monopoly that was so competitive, it ended in arguments? So, what was the point of the game? Was it to win as quickly as possible by annihilating the competition, or was it to have fun with friends? And I’ve known organisations that think business is like the Squid-Game, and that it’s okay to ‘kill off’ suppliers and employees, as well as competitors. They’re focused on the short-term win, but will eventually run out of people who want to play with them. We do NOT play Monopoly with some of our friends! (Lauren...)
Similarly, Simon Sinek asks how the USA could win every battle in the Vietnam war, but still lose the war. He explains that the USA were playing a finite game, to win with certain parameters (time, money and the goodwill of the USA’s citizens.) The Vietnamese were playing an infinite game – for their independence. For the Vietnamese they had no parameters, they would fight for however long it took, and whatever the personal sacrifice. It was impossible for the USA to win long-term.
Each of us plays a series of both finite and infinite games. We go to school and receive an education. There is an end date, a set of exams which we will pass or fail to varying degrees. It is a finite game. We can go onto another, at college, university, or through an apprenticeship – again it is a finite game. But, if the motivation to continue learning and to excel is within us, education itself and the application of our knowledge, becomes an infinite and enjoyable game. One that creates its own twists and plot changes. Our lives themselves are a finite game – but we do not know when they will end. That creates a tension which we can play with. A guitar with floppy strings creates no tune, after all.
There are other tensions, other strings, which can frustrate and delight us as we strive to create our tunes. How do we balance enjoying today, with saving for our unknown futures? How do we provide our children with freedom, whilst worrying about their safety? How do we hold them to high expectations which will help them be successful adults, whilst worrying about their mental health today? How do we create that sense of achievement and relevancy as we transition into retirement?
I know of a great organisation. An organisation that has already achieved its business plan, 2 years early. So now what? Do they focus on increased growth and expansion, pushing ahead until at some unknown point, they peak or fail? It feels somewhat meaningless, to grow and expand for the sake of it. They have surpassed their finite game, but have not yet defined their infinite game or how to play it.
Understanding how to balance your finite and infinite games is key to navigating both our personal and professional lives. To do that, we need to understand more about the Infinite Game first.
According to Sinek, the 5 Essential Practices of Infinite Games are: Just Cause, Trusting Teams, Worthy Rivals, Existential Flexibility and the Courage to Lead.
If you’re interested in adding more passion into your own game, and helping your team find their passion, the first step is to find your own Just Cause.
What are you passionate about? What are you willing to make sacrifices for? E.g. giving up a better paid opportunity, some of your spare time and comfort.
Why did you choose your career? You’ve made sacrifices along the way, whether that’s investing your own money in education or turning down better paid jobs. What’s the difference you strive to make?
What’s the Just Cause that you’re asking your team to commit to, to make sacrifices for? What’s your equivalent of the All Blacks’s shirt, and what does it stand for?
For example, we work with Housing Associations, especially those that provide services for people who need help, including addictions and homelessness. I’m always inspired by the people who work there. They’ve joined a Just Cause, and they make personal sacrifices in service to that cause. They know they’ll never ‘cure’ addiction and homelessness, but they believe their contribution can make a difference, especially when combined with the contribution of everyone else who’s working towards the same Just Cause.
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