Continuing with a plan for handling adversity

4. Separate From The Results

Does your team understand and believe in your why? Simon Sinek wrote a book (“It Starts With Why”) based on the premise that people “don’t believe in what you do, they believe in why you do it.” The book is just okay, but the premise is a strong one. People buy-in to why you are doing things.

It’s a popular narrative today to “explain the why” because of the digital age we live in. Everyone has quicker and better access to information than they ever have, so they want to know why you are doing what you are doing. As a leader, you have to assess how this works in your organization. In a team sport the “why” isn’t always at the forefront. You are here to help the team and we are trying to win games, that’s why. But even for the most committed athletes, buying in to positive results likely isn’t enough.

Jim Steen, the longtime legendary swimming coach at Kenyon University (he’s won more national titles in any sport than anyone in the history of the NCAA) used a great quote with his teams:

“Find a place within yourself where success and failure do not matter, a place where you can compete without compromise.”

Compete without compromise. That always resonated with me. Getting to a place where nothing gets in the way of how you compete. That’s a pretty special place for a team or an individual. But it’s a hard place to get to, especially when you factor in the results.

When adversity hits it’s crucial to be able to separate from the results. Negative results can have a powerful impact on the way we operate every day, and that is a place where mediocre to bad teams remain. It’s really hard to focus simply on what you are doing every day and finding a way to evaluate your approach without thinking about – or achieving – the desired results. You have to understand the why, and that why needs to be something more than a win or a trophy.

If your team really believes in what you are doing every day – the way you operate, and the impact it will have – you’ll be able to stick together through adversity. When I took over at the University of Maine we had the worst team in the league by far, and we knew it would be at least two years before we started seeing results. After our second year, when most of our young talent transferred to higher levels, we continued to struggle to win. It was essential that we showed our kids why we were doing things the way we were, and the impact it would have on them moving forward if they bought into it. It was about character development and a winning approach – things that would translate to success for the rest of their lives. We dealt with adversity just about every day in the form of consistent, negative results. It wasn’t easy, but I was very proud of the culture we built and the way we operated despite our lack of success on the scoreboard.

A long-term commitment to the process over results will help your group overcome challenges. Get your team to understand that the journey is the reward. The time spent investing in doing something great is extremely valuable, regardless of whether they win or lose. And it will lead to great success moving forward.

Compete without compromise. Results are just the product of your process. That type of approach will help a great deal when adversity hits.

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