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Hockey and Sailing Leadership Insights

Hockey and Sailing Leadership Insights

What does the game of hockey and sailing tell us about leading in today's business environment? sailing, leadership insights

A number of years ago after evaluating a large company's compensation and performance management programs it was determined that no meaningful program existed. The assessment was easy from that perspective. There wasn’t much in place to assess.

However, even though programmatically there was not much in place, years of past practice had to be considered, many of which violated a traditional sense of what it means to administer and manage annual compensation adjustments and annual employee evaluations.

Our choices were few. Design a new program while continuing current practices or design a new program and suspend current practices. Given the size and complexity of the company, its leadership structure, the lack of available data, and what our team knew about the company’s decision making process and the budget cycle, any new program was 12 to 15 months away from implementation.

There were some on the assessment team that strongly advocated for suspension of current activity, followed by building and implementing a new program in the 12 to 15 month time frame. This would mean that no employee raises, adjustments, promotions, evaluations or other related activities would take place until the new program was in place. Part of the argument was that this would be a clean break, and would allow for a complete fresh start. The old way would not interfere with the new way.

Those who thought keeping current practices in place agreed that added complexity would be layered into the design and implementation. While this would make the work more difficult for program designers, a major benefit was that there would be no negative impact on thousands of employees. Meaning, we would continue with increases, evaluations, and other adjustments. During the course of the year, any of these changes could potentially interfere with or not conform to the new program.

Recently, attending some local hockey games, I noticed that the players on the ice move all the time. Seldom, if ever, does the game stop. Even during a face off, players are still moving on the ice. This is a game of constant motion. To change direction a player does not get to stop and turn. Changes in direction, strategy, approach, priory and focus all happen while moving very quickly on the ice.

I grew up sailing with my father on the Chesapeake Bay. We sailed a 28 footer Columbia cabin cruiser. When we had that boat on the water it moved. Sometimes slow and sometimes faster, depending on the wind. But, it was always moving. If we wanted to change direction, we did so on the move. It took planning, timing and some advanced thought. Pulling in or letting out sail, tacking to change the boat’s position relative to the prevailing wind all took planning. Sometimes we headed north because we really wanted to go east.

Our decision with the compensation and performance management plan was to maintain current practice and to plan for the future. We did lose some team members as a result of these decisions.

As hockey and sailing illustrate for us, we don’t get to stop in our tracks in order to plan a new approach. The business world will not stop for us. It continues to move, all day, all night, every day of the year.

We need to figure out how to keep moving and how to plan for and change all at the same time.

The compensation and performance management plans were deployed in phases, and current practice was retired in phases. However, our focus in this post is not on the success of that program, rather that success can be achieved tomorrow even while continuing with today’s practices.

It might be tempting to avoid the extra work involved, however, doing so runs the risk of failing some of our most vulnerable stakeholders.

Questions to Ponder:

Do you plan for future efficiencies while living with today’s in-efficiencies?

Do you actively rebuild programs even while those programs are in active use?

About Philip Espinosa

Philip Espinosa partners with people to deliver value: People | Partnerships | Value serves as his tag line. As a strategic human resources leader, he believes that service starts with the customer. His book "Deliver Excellent Customer Service with a SNAP” helps others drive customer engagement using simple and consistent communication strategies. A second book titled "Focus On Your Success - 24 Simple Insights To Drive Daily Achievement" (ebook) helps working professionals view their daily choices through a different perspective. In addition to his writing, Philip works with strategic human capital initiatives and has delivered successful results over a career spanning more than 25 years.

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