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Play to Win, 5 Perspectives I Learned to Capitalize on Opportunities


Graphic with Trophy and Chart

Do you know that feeling when you finally know what you’re doing? It could be learning a new skill, playing a new sport or making a new recipe. That moment when you finally feel like you have your bearings and you’re even maybe a little comfortable. I’m well aware of that feeling and even more acutely aware of having that feeling taken away suddenly. 


A few years ago, I was in a role where I had finally started to make some real progress in my department. A department that I enjoyed working in. It was a small, young, female-led team. The type of department where you felt like the entire team was bought into the vision and you could easily be friends with your colleagues outside of work. Then suddenly, I was asked to move to another department where things were not going quite as smoothly. 


My initial reaction was apprehension and, if I’m being honest, some disappointment. In my foregoing role, I had managed to shape the department to be a leader for some of the key metrics that we were being evaluated against. Not that it was a competition but I felt very proud of that accomplishment. Now, I was going to have to start over from scratch with a department that not only didn’t have a stellar record but also a hole to dig out of before we could even compete. I didn’t feel great about it. 


Then I started to look at the new job in front of me as an opportunity. No, not “opportunity” - code for crap no one wants to deal with. But, opportunity, opportunity, as in, if I could pull this off, not only would I have grown and overcome a challenge but the department that I was now responsible for would have grown and improved right along with me. So, I decided to Play to Win and here are the 5 perspectives I learned that helped me to make the most of a difficult, at times overwhelming situation. 


1. Figure Out What Winning Looks Like For You

Scrabble Pieces with the Word Win

At the end of the week, month, quarter, year, what does success in your role look like? That’s the question that you’re going to want your manager to articulate. You should also know what success in your role looks like to the managers for all your key counterparts. Also, how does your success impact the broader organization? It’s important to know the answers to these questions if you’re going to execute a focused, effective approach to the significant challenge you’ve been given. Also, come performance appraisal time, you should have clear expectations that were given from day one. 


2. Figure Out What Winning Looks Like for Your Counterparts

Diverse Group Holding Chat Bubbles

How does the old saying go, “no one is an island”? We often become tunnel-visioned with our responsibilities, objectives, and deliverables. However, they are only meaningful if they are also providing value to our functional partners. If our priorities don’t form a synergistic relationship with that of the rest of our team, we won’t be able to fit and function well within that team. Therefore, we must understand where priorities are interdependent and where they conflict. We need to quickly establish ownership and communication around interdependent priorities and clarify conflicts while building acceptance and support. A winning formula cannot be developed without understanding the rules of the game, especially the rules about how we will all play together. 


3. Make Friends, Allies…Countrymen?

Four Fists Bumping Over a Desk

We all differ in how we get work done. Some of us need to discuss, brainstorm and challenge ideas. Others need an environment to internally formulate and refine ideas before moving forward. Regardless of your work style, having the foundation of trusted relationships will make the execution of tasks considerably more manageable. Remember, growing trusted relationships is no different than growing anything else. It requires investing time, energy and resources, especially before conflict arises. Make a habit out of supporting the members of your team wherever possible and show them that you’re also committed to their successes. 


4. Determine Your Strategy, Make it Simple

Man Writing on Whiteboard

Now, you’ve completed your groundwork. Figure out what winning looks like for you. Check. Figure out what winning looks like for the rest of your team. Check. Invest in building trusted relationships. Check. What next? Now, you need to figure out a simple winning strategy to accomplish your priorities. Of course, there is no one “right” strategy, no one action that will guarantee success. However, you greatly increase your odds of success if you keep your strategy simple, clear and easily implementable. You and your team should be able to quickly determine if you are winning or if you still have some work to be done. Ideally, having ONE metric that is displayed or easily accessible at all times is a huge motivator. Finally, ensuring that you and your team have a clear understanding of what can be done daily to push that metric in the right direction will be transformational. 


5. Get Feedback

Red Yellow Green Feedback Checkbox

The secret sauce to any winning strategy is implementing feedback early and often. Like I mentioned before, there is no perfect, one-size-fits-all strategy. What will keep you heading in the right direction is measuring where you are relative to where you need to be. That health check will give you a pulse into whether or not your strategy is working over time and whether or not you need to pivot and adjust your strategy to course correct or improve. If your goal is behavior centric, you need to get feedback from a trusted source to qualitatively determine your progress. This will also be a great tool to determine the overall perception of the change you’re working to implement or improve. 


Now the only thing that's left is to remember to enjoy the ride. This is the key to making the journey worthwhile. Don’t be so consumed with the result that you miss the pain, joy, disappointment, excitement, and fulfillment of the adventure you’re on!