Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Importance of WHY

I’m going to slightly move away from my typical blog posting strategy of writing about some sports experience I’ve recently had followed by a slew of pictures in an attempt to document my sporting adventures and sporting EQ while showcasing how cool my life is to the readers of this blog.

I’ve been reading this interesting book called Start with Why by Simon Sinek.  I first found out about the author a few weeks when an eyo-opening interview of his on millennials went viral and soon after a friend recommended that I read this book.  I bought it on Kindle and have been reading it in the mornings during my 30 minute drive to work which I’ve found is an excellent strategy to mentally prepare myself for office each day.    

The book has a simple message for leadership: focus on the Why.  This means to clearly understand and identify the purpose of building your organisation; more generically be clear on the organisation’s intended contribution to the world.  I’ve taken this approach in my professional life and preached it to all people who give me their listening ear, especially all those youngsters who want to work in sports because they are “passionate” about playing or watching sport.  My narrative to them is that while passion is an important ingredient especially when pursuing a dream job, it is more important to hone in on the type of contribution they want to make in the world while leveraging their God given strengths and talents. This always stumps, confuses, frustrates, etc…. the person who has come to me seeking advice on working in sports as they usually do not request my time to be posed broad questions about their dreams, they typically want a job or at least an introduction to someone else who can get them a job. 

Back to the book.  The author goes on to say that once the leader is clear on the Why, then it’s critical to enroll a team of people to create the How and then collectively ensure that the What can be produced or offered with the Why visible in every stage of the process.  Many examples of successful companies that have followed this “Golden Circle” are mentioned such as Apple, Southwest Airlines and Costco.  Also, examples of companies that lost their way in rolling out the Golden Circle are discussed such as Microsoft, Starbucks and Walmart. 

While reading the book, I kept relating it back to my current professional opportunity. DSK Shivajians FC and the Liverpool FC International Academy – DSK was established to transform football in India.  More clearly, to create a football development model that ensures impactful and sustainable growth that other industry stakeholders can emulate, thus creating a thriving football industry for the country.  This means investing in infrastructure, developing young talent and creating new revenue streams.  The Owner, Shirish Kulkarni, fully embodies this as do I and my biggest opportunity (and challenge) is to ensure the entire Shivajians organisation embodies this Why and industry stakeholders begin to embrace it.   

Ironically, I’m writing this post as I head to our 4th match of the season, a home fixture against Churchill Brothers from Goa.  Like any supporter of a club or, in this case, senior management I want to win.  When you win in sport it not only feels good it serves as a validation to others that what you are doing is working. However, while this may be slightly true, I know for a fact that winning this season’s I-League is not the indicator of if we are operating within our Why.  The metrics are the quality of the facilities we are providing the technical department, the number of young talents that we have developed, the revenue we have generated from outreach programming and the strength of the relationships with key influencers we have established. 

In sports, especially during the season, it’s so easy to lose track of the Why.  Everyone from the Owner to the ball boys want to win and when a few results don’t go the club’s way, the immediate reaction is to start signing new players, change strategies and re-direct investment from the base of the pyramid to the top.  As someone who completely believes in our Why it is critical that we stay committed to being the change that we want to make in this industry which means staying true to our principles, values and belief system. 

Thankfully the leadership of the club is deeply entrenched in the Why and I know that we will see this through and transform the way football investment is approached in this country. 

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