Is victory at any cost a real victory?

There are many CEO types,
some successful, some
not, who have taken a page from the playbook of the
legendary Green Bay Packers’
football coach Vince Lombardi.
He was known for proclaiming his hard-nosed theories
about winning, some say, at
any cost. Then there’s the
hugely successful, yet equally
infamous, Indiana college
basketball coach who believed
more in action than words.
Unfortunately, his actions sometimes included hurling objects
onto the court when he lost.

Similarly, too many business
leaders focus almost exclusively
on winning for the sake of winning without fully understanding the economic and human
energy commitment needed to
reach the goal.

It’s well established at self-help meetings that each
attendee must stand
before the group, introduce himself or herself by
first name and state that he or
she has a problem. For those
in business who are addicted
to the need to win without
regard to ramifications, imagine this assertion, “Hello, my
name is (you fill in the first
name here) and I’m an irrational, compulsive winner.”

Every organization has associates who must always be first,
be right and never lose. The
problem is, many times, the
cost of being numero uno is
simply not worth the price.
Remember, your team doesn’t
have to win every game to win
the championship.

As leaders and managers, we
must recognize when an all-out
effort is warranted and, just as
important, when it’s not.

In addition, we must
train our associates,
particularly the younger ones, to know how to assess
the cost of a victory and how
and when to pick their spots.

“Business is a marathon, not
a sprint.” This is an overused
saying but, nonetheless, it’s
dead-on right. Leaders must
operate their organizations to
achieve continuous progress
and growth, not to win every
single battle just for the sake
of the fight.

The concept of zero defects,
the same as in always needing
to win, is not only unsustainable, but it is also simply too
costly and painful.

Sure, if you’re the maker of
airplane jet engines, then I’m all
for zero defects, particularly if
I’m flying on the plane. However, if you’re the producer of a
widget that is not essential to
maintaining safety, it’s cheaper
and more practical for the end
user to replace the widget as
needed rather than to pay the
higher price for zero defects.

There are some simple practices to follow to ensure you
invest your organization’s resources wisely to achieve a win.

Weigh the ROI. First, before you
start any project, determine
the payback. All victories contribute something, but they’re
not always of equal value.

It’s critical to know when
enough is enough and it’s time to
just pull back and settle for second, third or drop out completely. This is easier said than done
because there are many factors
at work, including the mysterious chemicals that drive the
alpha male and alpha female.

One problem is that for type
A personalities, winning sometimes just feels so darn good.

Analyze the costs. A second
consideration is burnout. You
can’t let your employees put in
100 percent or more on every
undertaking. Associates who
constantly do so serve you
well for a short time, but, in
the end, they unceremoniously fizzle out like a cheap firecracker.

Measure results. Third, when
launching every meaningful
effort, create a 1 to 10 scoring
scale, with the lower numbers
representing the less important
goals/projects. You must communicate with your people
when the effort is worthy of a
9 or 10 so they know to turn
on the adrenaline for success.

When dealing with something rated a 1 or a 2, they
must certainly try but also
know how much it’s worth
investing to achieve the goal’s
desired outcome.

As a sanity check, tomorrow
morning when you wake up,
look in the bathroom mirror
and then audibly introduce
yourself to yourself. If, in your
heart of hearts, you hear a little voice saying, “Hello, my
name is (fill in your name
here) and I am an irrational,
compulsive winner,” you’ll
know it’s time to reprioritize
because it does matter how
you play the game if you
want to win consistently
year after year.

MICHAEL FEUER co-founded OfficeMax in 1988 with a friend and partner. Starting with one store during a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide, with annual
sales approximating $5 billion before selling this retail giant for almost $1.5 billion in 2003 to Boise
Cascade Corp. Feuer immediately launched another start-up, Max-Ventures, a retail/consumer products
venture capital operating and consulting firm headquartered in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. Feuer serves
on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and
building entrepreneurial enterprises. Reach him with comments at [email protected].

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