Sports have always played a big part of my life. I played basketball, soccer and field hockey growing up, and I still find time for a Masters swimming program at my local public swim club every morning.
Like many others will tell you, my experience playing team sports has informed my approach to business and leadership. And while sports comparisons and metaphors are commonly used – some might even say overused – in business, I still find them instructive: from how you relate to your teammates, to playing your particular position, to the joy of winning as a team.
So with the Winter Olympics upon us, I thought I would share a few sports-related principles I’ve tried to follow throughout my career and instill at HP.
Create a winning environmentWinning starts with creating an environment that encourages openness, meritocracy and teamwork. One of my first actions at HP was to tear down the walls of the plush executive offices in Palo Alto and convert the workspace into cubicles. We also did away with the gated executive parking area and the private entrance.
Every HP employee now shares the same kind of work space and we all park in the same lots and walk through the same doors. This sets an example for the culture we want to create. It makes us more accessible and helps us to become a stronger and more cohesive team.
People are more productive and successful when a company has an open and collaborative environment, and leaders should do everything they can to encourage it.
Earn your spot on the teamWhen I think about earning your spot on the team, I’m reminded of a story from a former colleague of mine, Maynard Webb. Maynard was the chief operating officer at eBay and today is the chairman of the board at Yahoo!.
Maynard got his start at IBM as a security guard and worked his way up over the years through a number of different organizations. He attributes his success to how he approached being a team member and being a leader. Maynard believes that you need to be voted onto the team you’re a part of every single day.
Over the years, I have applied Maynard’s philosophy to my own career. I wake up every single day trying to live up to the expectations that I have set for everyone at HP. Letting my team down is not an option. Every morning, my goal is to make sure I’m still picked for the HP team.
Step up, move quicklyBeing an effective team member is also about taking initiative. As I’ve told employees, problems don’t get better with age. Demonstrate the initiative and urgency to get issues resolved.
At HP, I’ve implemented a new rule: escalate in 24 hours and resolve in 48 hours. Too often decisions get lost in the ether. It’s important to be able to make decisions faster in order to be more agile. If you have got something standing in your way, you have got to escalate it to your managers and leaders quickly. Success requires employees who run to the fire and fix problems quickly. Winners never make excuses – they figure it out.
Have the will to winI talk about having the will to win with HP employees a lot. To me, it means executing, communicating, collaborating and being accountable. Things are never going to be perfect. There’s always going to be some disadvantage that has to be overcome. But winners don’t wait around for perfect conditions. Winners improvise. They fight on and they refuse to lose.
No company anywhere, at any time, is guaranteed a future. The competitive global technology market place, in particular, simply doesn’t allow for free rides. So I’m asking a lot of our folks at HP right now – the same way I work to earn my spot on the team each day.
Having the will to win is the ultimate catalyst for success. It’s also about never taking success for granted.
So ask yourself, do you know who you have to beat in order to win? Do you know the moves your competitors are about to make? And when you lose, do you know why you lost?
That kind of competitive intensity is on display at Sochi, and the best leaders find ways to encourage it throughout their organizations.
Photo: Sochi 2014 Winter Games / Flickr