Posts Tagged ‘performance’

A Champion’s Mindset

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

There are moments in sport, add an “s” for my American friends, where supreme champions earn legendary status. Watching Rafael Nadal close out an 11th French Open at Roland Garros and Bob Baffert mastermind a second Triple Crown at Belmont, N.Y. this past weekend, we were witness to two rare examples. In Nadal’s case, the “King of the Clay”, we expect him to win but it really isn’t that easy.

Consider his Quarter Final opponent, Diego Schwatrzman, whose stratospheric rise has taken the diminutive Argentinian from No. 41 to No.11 in the ATP rankings over the past 12 months. He talked last Summer about the importance of his own “mindset” over a relaxed post-victory dinner at Pepes Bodega in the scenic resort stop in Bastad, Sweden.

Here in the Bois de Boulogne, Schwartman, a 5’7″ ball of energy, took the first set off Nadal, and appeared on an unstoppable roll until rain intervened. Returning the next day, Nadal had the strength of character to wipe the next three sets and to savour Schwartzman’s passing comment at the press conference, “He (Nadal) has the best mindset of history.”

3,000 miles west, just east of the New York City limits, at a little before 6pm EST on Saturday, Justify, did just that for legendary West Coast trainer, Bob Baffert’s high opinion of his horse. The 12 furlongs of the “Big Sandy” has scuttled many of Baffert’s and his rivals’ previous contenders for immortality with one rare exception, American Pharoah in 2015.

Coming off two wet-track and gruelling victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, Baffert talked about the importance of the horse’s mindset when the gates opened, and the need to be on the lead at the first turn, to not surrender control of the race. True to form, urged on by his pilot Mike “Big Money” Smith, Justify’s exuberance and determination ensured he grabbed hold of the race early on and ground his rivals into the dirt. What sets Baffert apart is his ability to sustain a champion’s mindset in his best horses when others cannot. Some say, his training approach honed in the unforgiving Quarter Horse world of Arizona is too tough but the results belie that easy line.

Perhaps there is a simple explanation with Nadal and Baffert, we are bystanders watching supreme artists at work. Seeing is truly believing.

© James Berkeley 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Avoiding The Regulatory Tailspin

Friday, July 29th, 2016

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Countless businesses today are being thrown miles off course in accomplishing their profitable growth goals (banks, financial services, insurance, gaming, healthcare, energy and so forth) largely because of their own inadequacies. They are like the pilot who hits turbulence at 30,000 feet, loses their bearings and temporarily or permanently is sent into a tailspin. If you are going to fly, you accept there is a high probability of turbulence. If you are providing essential products, services and relationships in society today, expect to be held to account for your standards and behaviour. Stop moaning.

Leaders have two options: embrace or resist regulation. Then adjust the speed, direction and ascent of the profitable growth plans to accommodate the proposed changes. Here is what sets apart my very best clients:

  1. Positive Regulatory Mindset. Business leaders, who maintain a perspective that says “there are abundant opportunities in front of us, we didn’t wish the regulation but we will learn to live with it”, empirical evidence suggests dramatically outperform others. Change is a constant and our futures are about embracing change (biotech, pharma). Contrast this with those business leaders, who only see fear, limited opportunities on the horizon, vent loudly at the negative consequences and create Domesday predictions (airlines, agriculture, bookmakers). Change is a threat to their cosy status quo and they do their level best to resist it until such that they wearily accept it or fold their cards.
  2. Impressive Regulatory Engagement. Seek to be on the front foot with regulators, actively maintain a presence in the regulatory dialogue within the industry, take positions on regulatory boards and consumer watchdogs.
  3. Superb Regulatory Antennae. Most regulation is reactive to events, changes in consumer perception, media perception and political perceptions. Rarely can you accurately predict the timing but you can sense the shifting of opinions and the force fields (changes in critical factors ‘+’, ‘-‘ or ‘neutral’) that create the momentum for change.
  4. Rapidly Mine Regulatory Motives. Behind every regulation lies an emotional imperative. Understand why a powerful voice(s) at the regulator or consumer body discernibly sees their self-interests best served in implementing the new policies and procedures, in the proposed time frame and manner (increased power, greater influence, greater control, greater political influence, greater credibility and so forth).
  5. Quantify Regulatory Value. “Value” in the form of tangible, intangible and peripheral benefits that arise from regulation (although sometimes they may be hard to discern) and the investment required to enact it. Tangible benefits over a defined time period (clawing back funds over trading or market abuse scandals). Intangible benefits and the breadth of scope (bankers behavioural changes and sweeping industrywide cultural changes to treating their customers fairly). Peripheral benefits (structural market changes such as the Dodd Frank Financial Regulatory Reform Bill and the impact on proprietary trading businesses in investment banks). Lawmakers and regulators are typically prudent risk takers, smart business leaders are keenly attuned to how they weigh up the risks and rewards (personal and professional) and act.
  6. Anticipate Regulatory Opportunity. Outstanding businesses have a regulatory radar system (Corporate Affairs) embedded into the upper and mid-level line management tiers that excels at alerting them to: Why there is a need for regulation? (public sentiment) Why now? (window of opportunity) Why on the basis proposed? (tried and failed with other legislative tools)
  7. Acute Sense of Regulatory Timing. Can you identify the priority that is driving the need to enact the regulation (political fall out, media outcry, changes in public opinion etc)? Timing is about regulators and lawmakers priorities. Stuff gets done because they need to be seen to be doing something (seriousness, urgency and gravity behind the issue). Inevitably, it is almost overpowering, ill-conceived and often off target but that is not the point. Lawmakers and regulators can show they acted. Don’t blame us.

Large or small businesses, the dynamics are largely the same but the consequences are often dramatically different. How many of these skills, traits and expertise do you Managers possess today? What do your profitable growth plans demand that you possess in future in order arrive safely at your desired destination? How do you best upgrade your regulatory response toolkit and when?

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Agile Management

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

So the CEO of Swiss Reinsurance Company faced with increasing amounts of uncertainty and rising competitive threat levels in 2016 trumpets this week an “agile capital” strategy. In simple terms, capital allocation will seek to keep pace with foreseen and unforeseen business opportunities. I make no value judgement about his firm’s future but shouldn’t that be something everyone should be doing already in his organisation?

Here is four outcomes that the Board and management in my very best clients rigorously apply, hold each other accountable for and align rewards around:

1. Performance in allocating capital.

2. Performance in people decision-making.

3. Performance in innovation.

4. Performance in implementing strategy.

It reminds me of those classic boxing fights of the 70s and 80s, when fighters such as Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard and so on prided themselves on their agility and their ability to outsmart a more fearsome opponent by constantly dancing around the ring. Some commentators hated the tactics, suggesting it lessened a great contest but the point was those fighters ended up winning the fight, not because they had more power but because they were smarter. Agility was but one of their strengths. Perhaps many insurance and financial services CEOs are waking up to the fact that standing flat footed in the ring is a bum idea in a tough fight, hooray.

© James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.