The first time I heard the term SUDDEN CHANGE, I knew it had so much potential to be applied and understood in business.
Zach Boren was on a roll, and the phone was about to jump out of my hand as he passionately gave examples of SUDDEN CHANGE going on in his company. I could tell from the conversation that he knew that his team must continue to learn how to respond to it if they were going to reach the potential they are capable of. Zach is the leader of BOREN BROTHERS, a fast-growing and very successful company in the waste industry located in Columbus, Ohio. His brothers, Justin and Jacoby, lead GrassGroomers, an equally successful and fast-growing company in the landscape and snow and ice profession. All three brothers had the unique opportunity to gain their work ethic, leadership skills, and competitive spirit where few people have the privilege to learn it: on the football field. Each of the brothers created their own uniquely successful careers that led them all the way to starting positions on championship teams with the Ohio State Buckeyes football program.
After that particular call with Zach, I was intrigued with the concept of SUDDEN CHANGE and have caught myself several times discussing it with other business leaders.
Your Company and Sudden Change
Think about that term for a moment. Where could your company experience SUDDEN CHANGE? For some, SUDDEN CHANGE might be something as basic as a person not showing up for work, a piece of equipment breaking down, or the weather causing you to have to choose how to respond to an unexpected change in the schedule. On a slightly bigger scale, you may have suddenly had a key employee leave the company, or maybe a major client decided to part ways. In a more positive sense, SUDDEN CHANGE can be brought on with a large, new client coming on board, and, again, you are faced with key choices that need to be made, as a result of this new business. Possibly, at the very highest level today, there is the opportunity to examine your response to COVID-19 and the impact it has had on you or your company or the economy. The situation and how you have chosen to respond to the crisis may have both suddenly changed your current reality drastically. The difference in the way you choose to respond to each situation, large or small, may be an indication of how mentally prepared you have trained yourself to be in responding to SUDDEN CHANGE.
To be Ready for It, You Have to Experience It
Zach said that the Ohio State coaches were constantly trying to create scenarios in practice that would allow a player to experience SUDDEN CHANGE and then learn how to choose the right responses to it. "In practice, after the first string offense and defense scrimmaged for eight straight plays, the coaches would send them to the sideline and bring in the second string teams to scrimmage, which meant first string could catch their breath, get a drink, and take a knee, while the team on the field ran 6 plays. Sometimes though, after only two plays, a coach would blow his whistle and call the first string back on the field . . . earlier than expected. IT WAS SUDDEN CHANGE!" Zach's enthusiasm was growing by the minute in the retelling of his experiences. "The coaches watched how we would respond to it. Complaining or head shaking was not regarded as the right choice to make, and we usually heard about it later in a strong conversation about SUDDEN CHANGE."
How are you preparing yourself and your team for the SUDDEN CHANGES that will happen in the game of business or life? Are you being intentional in talking about how an individual responds either positively or negatively and making sure they are understanding that a key element to their success is found in how they choose to respond?
The Importance of Senior Leadership
"In my freshmen and sophomore seasons, we had a great group of senior leaders," Zach continues. "They would rally around the younger players and not let us get down when negative SUDDEN CHANGE occurred or get too jacked up when a positive SUDDEN CHANGE came like a fumble recovery or interception made by the defense. They taught us to be ready and made sure we understood the importance of choosing to respond appropriately. Both of those years we had great teams winning the Big 10 Championships and some big wins against great teams, and a big part of it was because of our senior leadership."
He stopped for a breath and then continued making his point on senior leadership. "In my junior year, that group of seniors who understood leadership was all about mentoring the team and lifting them up had graduated. Our approach to successfully managing sudden change had been replaced by constant complaining, finger pointing, and arguments, resulting in the first losing season in nearly 100 years for Ohio State."
This is a good place for all of us reading this to stop for a moment and consider ourselves as leaders of a company, a department, a crew, or a household. What example are you setting as a leader? Would those you lead see you complaining about an inconvenient change to the schedule or new process to follow? Would you be more likely to join them in their complaining about SUDDEN CHANGE, or are you setting an example that will produce winning results? Our honest response to those questions may determine the outcome of our year or the long-term success of our companies.
2012 Ohio State Buckeyes Football Team
Zach remembers one lesson he took away from that year when Tedy Bruschi of the New England Patriots was brought in to speak to the team and shared this bit of wisdom, "The next time you catch yourself blaming and pointing fingers at someone else, pull your thumb backwards It directs your finger toward the person who first must accept the responsibility . . . YOU."
Zach went on to say, "That one quote was powerful for me as a leader and the battle cry of the team my senior year. 'Pull the thumb back' was something I thought of every day in 2012, as well as today, leading the team here at BOREN BROTHERS. I am responsible for helping everyone own their response to SUDDEN CHANGE."
Lessons Learned and Responsibility Accepted
With the disappointments of 2011 now in the past and the lessons learned fueling them going into the 2012 season, a mentally prepared Buckeyes Team took the field and proceeded to win their first 10 games. Zach gives a tremendous example of SUDDEN CHANGE that took place in the 11th game of the season. I could type out his story, but there is nothing like hearing an enthusiastic leader talk about lessons, competition, and success. I happened to have a recorder going when he started his story.
NOTE: To all of our WISCONSIN BADGERS FRIENDS and READERS, you may just want to check your voicemails instead.
What Is Your Game Plan?
Zach has traded footballs and helmets for trucks and equipment, yet one thing is consistent . . . PEOPLE. Being able to build a winning team, whether it is on the football field or in business, does not happen by accident. Think about the lessons and strategies he discussed in his story: the importance of senior leadership setting the right example, intentionally developing training exercises that will prepare the team for real game situations, recognize the culture that will keep you from winning and do something about it, expose the team to speakers and leaders that offer insights into success, and take what could be an obstacle and give it a name such as SUDDEN CHANGE! Every one of those concepts applies to business as much as football, and your commitment to putting together the right game plan may very well determine how your team responds to those 4th and goal from the one yard line situations. If you are wondering where to start, consider pulling your thumb!
Look closely at the branding on these trucks!