Dhoni-ism in Business!

Method not Midas

Sports and business have similarities. A strong team often wins. A strong team becomes stronger if it has an astute leader. Not the one inspired from the movies, who can turn mortals into titans, but rather the often seen sporting heroes, who can make mistakes, but can also turn things around, instill confidence, make a team believe and in turn get the support needed from within the team.

While there have been many leaders in the many sports we watch, no one compares to what the former Indian cricket captain brought to the table and brought to my workmanship. From managing egos bigger than him to change management, from managing success and managing pressure to managing pressure, the man has done it all and for almost a decade and we have seen him do it. Why shouldn’t we learn from him!

Choosing a leader:

Here was a man chosen not because he was the most brilliant, but because he was most deserving. He could lead well. Leadership has often been both overrated and underrated at different times, but to pick a leader who has the ability to lead is something that hasn’t been documented well.

Auto-pilot does not work on the principles of automation, auto-pilot works on the principle of control. While systems put in place can work without a leader after a while, you definitely need a leader who is creative and can work towards bringing in processes and methods that lose entropy.

Why I write about this today is because failures help you gain perspective, and in my case it could help me understand why plans at times can fail. It’s important that the Dronacharyas fail for the Eklavyas need perspective. I could gain more perspective on the subject couple of days ago when Dhoni failed to win a game against West Indies, we could not have lost. That was the event that conceived this post.

The importance of spotting leadership material is immense and while Greg Chappel may well have been India’s worst coach, but he in 2006 did offset that by earmarking Dhoni.

Leadership

In my short career, I had the privilege of being mentored by the Industry’s best. Be it to an extent, by Dhiraj Rajaram the founder of Mu Sigma, or by Shailendra Singh, the Head of Sales at the very firm, or many interactions with Sayandeb Banerjee , who has now founded the Math Company. While working at Symphony Technology Group, I also met Pallab Chatterjee and the one hour interaction I had with him, still is etched in my memory. From Dhiraj I learnt the power of storytelling, from Shelly I learnt the power of always willing to help others, being able to negotiate, being able to make things happen outside the run of play, from Sayan how to never stop learning and how knowledge keeps you humble and grounded, from Pallab the value in detail.

While I learnt a lot from all these good men, I strangely found MS Dhoni to be the man I could try to emulate. I could understand most of what he did. While his moves surprised many, I found them obvious choices. Given leadership more or less should come naturally and therefore being able to relate to most of what Dhoni does made it easier to pick his brains. Coming from the very same backwaters, Jharkhand, the thought process was relatable.

Sales:

In sales there is a tradition of working on your CEO’s calendar everytime s/he goes on a business trip. Every slot that is open needs to be filled with a meeting, to get the best out of the trip. Your best representation of your company meeting your client. The ones who get confirmations early, have it easy. The CEO notices, there are more open slots making getting time simpler while also helping avoid conflicts with others who may want the very same slot. The support team also starts working on collaterals. I for some reason always waited for everyone to confirm their meetings and only then I would work with whatever was left. That made life difficult, getting meetings difficult and at times needed me to work on the collaterals too, as the support team had no bandwidth left. Why did I keep doing it? For I have faith that I can work against the odds and make it work and I have and that helps the rest of the team too for they get a less scribbled canvas to paint.

I could gain perspective on the subject when Dhoni failed to win a game we could not have lost. It his Dhoni’s way to take the game till the very end, when the competition ceases to be between nations, but becomes a dual. Sales, when you represent a new or not so popular entity(brand), becomes a personal interaction. That’s how Dhoni has been all his life. Last over it shall be, one on one, battle of nerves, me vs you. In the last 15 years, “more often than not”, Dhoni came out the winner. “More often than not” is a good business result, a brilliant one in Sales.

However the approach works if the people around you understand it (not just know about it). I have been a culprit of not explaining myself but realize the importance of plans being shared irrespective of your being the captain or just a team man.

Management style:

Scale doesn’t bring scale, man management does. It’s important that The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts — always! That’s the principle on which business run or need to run, or else we would have only independent consultants, not corporations.

Dhoni as the leader of the side always had that objectivity. He mentioned charting roles for all his team mates, having a plan for the team ahead of the game, emphasized on the process more than the results and most importantly understood the power of keeping everyone motivated and mentioned how motivation works differently with different people. Some respond to criticism, some to silent treatment being rather left alone to do their thing, some need false praise and some just need truth, validation and inputs. Motivation has always had positive overtones, but in reality it is any emotion that can get an individual to be more valent without being self destructive. Besides it’s also as important to back your people and back the right ones!

Not just for Indian team but for the Indian Inc. , I hope there would be another couple of years to learn from. #MSD #HBDThalaMSD