Change in life happens. Employees come, employees go. Customers come, customers go. The business landscape evolves. It is usually imperative to evolve along. The question then becomes not just how to evolve, but how to evolve and thrive.
In the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins, Collins explains how greatness in business comes from getting the right people in the company, and putting these people in the right seat where they can use their natural abilities to excell. Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman further expound on this in their great book “First, Break All the Rules”, where the case is made that the average manger focuses on what employees don’t do well and then try to shore up those weaknesses, while successful mangers identify what their employees do well, and focus on making them even better.
Great Business thrive when the business itself and the employees are playing to their strengths. But as the landscape evolves, one has to change so to always being applying strengths and minimizing weakness.
A great example of how applying strengths in an evolving landscape comes from the tale of two coaches in the NFL. One had a great idea, applied it, found success, but it was short lived as he could not evolve. Another found success, but was not afraid to change directions to stay successful.
When Mike Martz was hired to be a first time Offensive Coordinator for the Saint Louis Rams, he quickly became the hottest name in coaching. In his first season at the position, the Rams became the highest scoring offense of the year, and won the Super Bowl. Martz was promoted to Head Coach the next season. In his second year as head coach, he once again lead to the Rams to a Super Bowl. But then a curious thing happened. The opposing coach found a weakness in the Martz’s system and exploited it. The Rams lost the Super Bowl. After that, Martz struggled to keep the team successful, and was fired in 2005. He went back to being an Offensive Coordinator, but routinely found himself getting fired after one or two seasons. The game, the opponents, and the players are forever changing and evolving. Martz continuously ran his system his way, and he expected players to adapt to him, even when his way appeared to no longer be very successful.
The head coach that beat Martz in that Super Bowl was Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots. Belichick played to his teams strength, the defense, and found a way to minimize mistakes by his very young and inexperienced quarterback. As the years went by, Belichick’s team evolved. Many of his defense stars retired, or moved on to other teams, while his young quarterback matured. Belichick refocused on playing to his new strength, the passing offense, while minimizing problem with turn over in his defense. This past season, facing many uncertainties due to player turn over with his passing offense, he refocused on a power running style offense.
Belichick applied all the concepts of “Good to Great” and “First, Break all The Rules” by always being aware of what his players strengths and weaknesses were, and designing his game plan accordingly, even in the face of an ever changing roster and ever evolving opponents. All of which has made him the most successful coach of the last 13 years, bar none. Martz never adapted to his players, and expected them to adjust to his one way of doing things, which appeared to never evolve. As such, he consistently found himself out of a job, and never once got close to returning to the glory of his early success.
If you manage a business, ask yourself, do you adapt to an ever changing world, or do you try the same things over and over? Do you put your employees in positions where they can excel and minimize their weaknesses, or do you put employees in positions where their weakness are exposed and just hope they evolve?
Are you a Belichick or a Martz?