MIX AND MATCH
(Eighteenth in the series of alternative learning from Krav Maga.)
It was pure chaos. Is this a meeting or a wholesale fish market? One person was trying to bully and bulldoze his way. Another was smirking and passing cynical remarks, bringing everyone down.
A couple of members tried suggesting new ideas and were shot down immediately — by personal attacks. There was one historian in the meeting whose only job was to “quote from memory”. He listed down projects that had not been performed to the expectations. One was a questioner repeatedly stating that I asked this question then, I am asking this now. Clearly, one who wasn’t keen on doing much to assist, only to create a veneer of doing so!
When one new member did something right, a couple jumped to claim the credit. All the while, parallel conversations were going on. The head of the meeting, though, was conspicuous by his absence. Lethargy, Cynicism, Apathy, Fatalistic, Passive-aggressive: all were in full display. Could anything be achieved with a group that was clearly at loggerheads — for the sake of it!
I am Ronnie, and I was parachuted into this division — right into the meeting that I described earlier. My first experience with this team — and I was supposed to set things right!
One 33-year old female, new to the company, was me. My task was to shepherd this gang and align them towards the set objective, to grow this division 5x in the next 18 months.
David vs. Goliath, anyone?
Either my boss was a masochist, clearly having fun at the torture I would be putting myself to. Or was I a patsy, added on for diversity, and tagged to this team which had seen a round-robin of heads and exits in the last year?
I was in an impossible situation. There’s the cliche, “Caught between the devil and the deep sea.” Here though, there was no devil. In the deep sea, with sharks swarming around.
You have been in this predicament as well. Not the same but one where you had a mountain to climb. No support, no gear, a civil war to deal with but the objective very clear. The path to the mountain top, invisible. A feeling of loss, a hollow sensation in the pit of the stomach. Some want to throw up at the thought of this crisis. I was facing it. Isn’t it our job to share and support each other?
When caught in such a division battle, all of us suffer. There’s an old Tamil saying, and I paraphrase:
“If your dress falls on barbed wire, or if the barbed wire falls on your dress, the damage is always to the dress!”.
We are all working together for the same cause. When the meeting scene repeated week after week, followed by off-meeting political memos and snides, what can I do? What would you do? We have to do something, though, for us, for the company we work for!
Have you heard the story of the crabs? There were a few crabs in a well. As soon as one crab tried to climb its way out of the well, a gang of crabs attacked it and ensured it fell back to the bottom of the well. No escape for me, then no escape for anyone. The one that attempted and failed tried a few more times. Then either it resigned itself to the fate of living the whole life in the well, or worse! That crab joined the bully gang in ensuring no other crab got out. Then it rained, and the well filled up. All crabs died.
We’ve got to learn from the story. We have to do something, though. That is what we signed up for. I cannot be a part of the silent majority in such meetings. I will not allow ideas to be shot down for petty politics or personal reasons. Each crab is trying to move its agenda forward and trying to build separate gangs.
What would he do?
I thought of my dad. His favourite time was when he sat in the garden in front of our house. Neighbours and friends used to come to him with their problems, business and personal. He would listen patiently and provide possible solutions. When the other party frowned and mentioned the idea was silly or downright rejected it, he would simply smile. Then, acknowledge that the person could be right but request that he sleep over the solution and do as deemed fit.
His advice to me: when you are playing a game of cricket, sometimes you get to pick the team based on the conditions and the strength of the opposition. In most times, though, you are given a team, and you’ve got to make the best of it. You need to assess what skill each player brings to the team — even negative skills. Use them accordingly.
Every match, though, you have to ensure that each team member is aligned to perform very well together. Winning will happen automatically. If winning is the only objective, then each member will try to outshine the other. If the goal is to perform well together, the only goal, then each member will encourage the other. Together, we rise.
He used to shower me with such random bits of advice. Random, at that point. He was seeding solutions into my subconscious.
What could I do now?
What could we do now? Now, that becomes such a critical point. If we do not realize the urgency of the business situation and continue to behave, it will lead to a loss and the close of this business division. A bunch of my dad’s idea seeding and other “dots” came to mind.
- “There are no original ideas. Only original combinations.” Said Seth Godin.
- “Divide and rule”, a British policy they used for a completely different context.
- “Goods artists copy. Great artists steal.” attributed to Picasso.
- “There is always an escape from a chokehold. Always.” Krav Maga Sreeram
- “The only way to go past a glass ceiling is to break it.” Pravin Shekar
I sat down and wrote down my business objective. What needed to be done by you and me, NOW?
How did I prepare for my competitive exams? I made flashcards to keep looking at and memorize. I did the same for every single team member. What they were, what they were capable of (positive and negative), their history, likes, and dislikes: I wrote it all down. I was the Operations head but now behaving more like a marketer — segmenting my team and studying more about their needs and wants! Their desires and aspirations.
AND I BROKE UP THE WEEKLY TEAM MEETING.
I scheduled daily meetings but with small teams.
Monday, I tasked the ideation team members to come up with new solutions. Do you remember the silent members in the chaotic meetings, the ones who were shut down by the whales? Of course, you do. You have been there as well. This team came up with 100 different ways to solve that business problem. In one day. 100.
Tuesday, I called in the enthusiastic group. Those with a connection with the clients. The go-getters. They looked at the 100 ideas and picked the top 20 that could be most optimal.
Wednesday, it was the naysayers; the “Senior” team was called in to play. The term “Senior” was not for the age but the duration they were in the group. This term meeting gave them a sense of achievement — and fuelled the entitlement mindset. They did what they always did. When presented with the 20 ideas, they shot every single one of them down. Their mandate was to pick six solutions that would be the best fit for the problem at hand.
The devil’s advocates took up Thursday. They reviewed the shortlisted 20 and the selected six and picked the top three. This group was comprised of associates from outside my core team and from different parts of the company.
Friday was the “Execution team day.” Three ideas were given to three teams with a deadline of one week to get a “proof of concept”. One more week for the prototype. Then the estimate for version one.
Did I solve the problem in a week?
Of course not. This is not that kind of story. I pushed them to focus on the process and fine-tune it.
The “weekly” model was looped until perfected. All the members and their achievements were interconnected. This reflected in the appraisal cycle as well. When one person rises, others benefited too. The converse was also true. The carrot was red and juicy and BIG. The stick was equally strict and BAD!
When the process is worked on to make it better, somehow, the fog clears. The mountain top is visible, and so is the next ten feet in front of me. I need to get to that point of visibility. Step by step, I reach that mountain top, together. The ragtag team can be made to work together. The bullies and whales, though, will remain the same. It is up to us to navigate the terrain and the residents therein. I took the cricket team approach and mixed it up with other learning from the quotes mentioned above.
There I was, receiving a pat on my back from the board.
For accomplishing a task, they all said it could not be done.
Mix and match, for my dress, for my career!
What are you ready to mix up, to provide a solution and meet the goal you have set for yourself?
“Pick the best moves from all available martial arts. Customize for street fighting and survival.”
A lesson from Krav Maga Sreeram.
Krav Maga is an amalgam of the best moves from all possible martial art forms. Each picked for a particular purpose and brought together as a combination of movements.
All to survive, sustain, and succeed during physical attacks.
What can we learn from that?
We can pick and chose our strategies from what has been done before. Pick the best possible combination for the goal at hand.
The role models, too, can be analyzed, and we can pick the best trait that we want to imbibe. Not the whole, but the key trait.
We pick and choose and plan, like chess. All possible moves are analyzed, and counter moves are practiced and ready.
Biz moves: trialed and tested, tweaked, and fine-tuned. Repeat and scale.
For the marketing and business challenges in front of you, assess what you already have with you. Look within for past experiences or advice that can help your cause.
Pick the right experiences and actions, put it all together, and DO.
We do what needs to be done with what we have within and around us.
To succeed, we need to survive. To survive, we need to learn, practice, and implement.
We learn from various sources. The move combination is purely ours.
What are you ready to mix up?
— — — — — — —
This is the eighteenth in the series of learning from Krav Maga.
- A fully extended arm is useless
- Find the weak spot
- Violence: Avoid it as much as possible!
- You many not have started the fight, BUT
- The meditating monk
- The only mindset that counts
- Action Reaction
- When DONE is DONE! Is it ever?
- Which shoe to buy? I have several!
- Can you escape career quicksand?
- Anger Anger
- Show as little as possible
- The need for an Outlier coach
- Why we do what we do
- Impossibility is a challenge
- Peripheral to the core
- How to defend when you don’t know who?
Pravin Shekar is an outlier marketer, parallel entrepreneur and a raconteur.
mic @ PravinShekar.com .
For creative collusions, join: http://bit.ly/JoinMyOutlierTribe
Pravin is the author of seven books: Devil Does Care, Marketing lessons from Mythology, Getting paid to speak, a Virtual Summit Playbook, Climb your way out of hell & a collection of travel pics/romantic poems, and stories from the heart!
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