Half the battle of business is…

In the movie, The Untouchables, Kevin Costner’s character, Elliot Ness, sits on horseback overlooking the US-Canadian border. He’s there with his fellow Untouchables and the Canadian Mounties to arrest Al Capone’s men running contraband whisky across the border.

The Mounty Captain says to his troops, “Let’s take the fight to them, men.” Turning to Ness he says, “As you know it’s half the battle.” Ness replies coldly, “Many things are half the battle. Losing is half the battle. Let’s do what is all the battle, winning.”

Before Google Reader, in the days when I’d buy The Sunday Times, I’d head straight for the business section and the big interview within it. The interviewees were typically folks that you couldn’t name in a line up; maybe a telecoms or hotel chain CEO. But what became familiar every week was the ‘half the battle’ line.

Each would say something like, “Gaining market share has been our key objective.” Or, “In this business, retaining customers is the most vital aspect of our jobs.” Others would point to market dominance, or a diverse portfolio of projects, or customer satisfaction, or retaining capital, or driving earnings per share (at least news for the market to create a drive). And so on…

Who am I to disagree with those leaders? Yet every time I hear a Big Cheese/Chief Exec stating so adamantly that X is half the battle, I’m reminded of that movie scene.

The one thing that the whole group of interviewees had in common as a key to running a great business? No, it’s not chasing a profit, as some could be CEOs of charities. It’s communication. Without effective communication, none of those leaders would achieve their goals. It’s the binding glue around which all successful organisations are built.

To win football’s Premiership title a team needs to score more points than all its competitors. Ultimately, to score more points you need to win more matches (not just draw). To win matches you need to score more goals than your immediate opponent. Therefore it all comes down to scoring goals. Why then don’t you see football managers scream ‘score a goal’ all throughout their matches and for hours at time on the training ground?

Because successful football requires thousands of components to fit into place. Only after hundreds or even thousands of actions from the whole team of players, support staff and management (passing, running, talking, teamwork, patience, skill, understanding, tactics, etc) can a goal happen. It is the result of ALL those actions. To perform those actions to the highest standard the team needs effective communication both before and during the match.

Shouting ‘make a profit’ to your team is as effective as Alex Ferguson telling the team doctor to score a goal – NOW!

How do you communicate that with your team? What’s the #1 thing they should have front of mind and how are you getting that agenda across to them? Isn’t that more than half the battle?

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