swimming in the flood

20. Jockeying for Position

Corporations invest billions of dollars daily on whether projects will become successful. They will measure the potential for economic value added or market value added. Assessments will be made about the track for success in the marketplace and the hurdles the competitors will face. Investments will be based on the number of the competitors in the field and where they will enter the market. Decisions are often made based on the quality of the manager. Their ability to succeed…or maybe just the color of their silks.

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business. My name is Trent Theroux.

I recently attended the horse races at Royal Musselburgh Race Course in Scotland. A dozen highly polished friends joined in the restaurant for a fantastic lunch and an afternoon of wagering on horses. Watching the races left me with countless ideas for how to prepare this episode. My mind was rife with metaphors for resilient leaders. So many that I am going to break format and give you ten unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theories. Are you ready? Got those pencils and wagering forms out?  Okay here we go.

Number 1 – The person who wins first doesn’t win every time.

The twelve of us made our initial wagers.  Eleven lost. The sole winner was viewed by the balance as a handicapping savant.  Ten minutes earlier he was enjoying tuna tartar. Now he’s the second coming of Jimmy the Greek. Everyone wanted to know his secret. The truth is he guessed. It is easy to follow someone based on their success. Resilient leaders need to be wary of trendy business models. What works once may never work again.

Number 2 – Horse betting requires an advance mathematical degree.

Each patron receives a book upon entering the track which gives volumes of data about each horse. Data like how much extra weight the horse is carrying or average finishing place on firm tracks versus wet tracks. I was thinking, “It’s Scotland. You can have both tracks in the same race.” Analyzing data you are given will greatly aid your opportunity for success. This is always the case. The more you study the data the better your odds for success.

Number 3 – Bet to win, not show.

We spend hours, years training for our opportunities. Some on the track, some in the office, some in school. Prove the value of your investments by betting on your horses to win. Betting to show – finishing third – shows a lack of confidence in your skills. Be confident…bet on yourself.

Number 4 – Get your horse to the starting gate.

I wagered on a horse named Honey GG. He looked like a great horse on paper. For some reason, the jockey dismounted before entering the gate and Honey GG backed up, went around the starting gate and galloped along the track. The crowd cheered as the rider-less horse frolicked down the track. Me, I held a useless ticket. You can’t win your events unless you are on the line at the start.

Number 5 – Cheer when someone else’s horse comes in. 

It is easy to be frustrated when you lose a large contract or your book submission is rejected by a publisher. Failure has many faces. Be happy for others around you. Cheer when they succeed. Happiness and karma are easily spread and warmly received.  Revel in someone else’s victories. In time, they will be there to support yours.

Number 6 – Race because you want to be racing.

Watching the horses thunder down the track makes me think how much they enjoy showing off their speed. Resilient leaders need to be in places where they can exhibit their skills. Be in a place that they enjoy working or playing. The more excited you are about your surroundings the greater you will perform on the track.

Number 7 – Throw away your losing tickets.

Movies emphasize how losers at the track will ceremoniously tear up their losing tickets and toss them into the air with disgust.  This point is spot on…save for the disgust. Take the experience and lessons of losing the race with you, but tear up the ticket and move onto the next race. How often have you wallowed in what you lost? What could have been? Worse, how often have you drained the person next to you in the story of your loss. Extracting lessons learned from failures is essential. Figuring out how much you possibly could have won if the three-horse placed on your superfecta will only send you to another strata of unfruitful aggravation.

Number 8 –  Put blinders on your horse.

Horses have enormous peripheral vision. Their eyes are located at the sides of the head allowing him to see a panoramic view of the world. In fact, horses can see a nearly full circle around themselves except for a small blind spot in front of their noses and behind their tails.

Blinders cover the rear and side vision of the horse, forcing him to focus only in a forward direction. The reduction in vision for the horses wearing blinders is significant and can reduce a horse’s vision from 180 degrees to as little as 30 degrees. Sometimes when we are managing projects we need to put blinders on ourselves and our teammates to block out the distractions of social media, competing projects…life in general. Blinders give you focus when it is needed most.

Number 9 – Don’t use the whip.

In the final furlong, the final stretch of the race, the jockeys are permitted to whip their horses. New regulations allow the jockeys to whip their horses up to five times down the stretch. I am not a proponent of this practice. The horses are working hard. The concept of the whipping the horse is to motivate them to finish strong as they are fatiguing. I think it’s barbaric.  Whipping your employees is wrong, completely wrong. I understand the desire. But, it’s still wrong. If you are frustrated with your teammates performance to the point you want to go to the whip you should realize. It’s not your teammates…it’s you.

Number 10 – Put a bed of roses on your winning horse.

I followed one of the horses after he won his race back to a marshaling area. His handlers were cooling him down by pouring buckets of water down his back. People were taking pictures of him and calling out his name. The horse glowed in the attention. Reward your people for a job well done. Reward them directly after their race. Let them bask in glory. Lay a bed of roses across their back.

A quick postscript about picking horses based on the jockey’s silks color. The day I went to Royal Musselburgh, if you bet on all green, if you bet on every jockey whose silks were green, you would have won 5 of 9 races…it’s not scientific, but I’m just sayin’ it is a method.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood. Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together. You can find more podcasts and videos on my website at www.trenttheroux.com. I recently provided resiliency leadership training to a sales team that was struggling with integration following an acquisition. If I can help your team, please write to me at info@trenttheroux.com. Also, send me a quick message if you have an idea that needs to be looked at through a resilient leader lens. Thanks again for listening. I look forward to getting together next week.