Going Across the Middle

As a young man I participated in a number of athletic sports. It was not until much later in my business life that I realized how valuable this experience was. Owning or running a business reminds me of when I was a spilt end (the term wide receiver was used a generation later) and had to catch a quick pass over the middle.

The middle was the domain of the linebackers, defensive halfbacks and safety and they enjoyed taking advantage of the receiver concentrating on where the ball was coming from to position themselves to deliver a hit (a knockout blow) so that the receiver would think twice, or hear footsteps upsetting the timing of the pass route, the next time he came into that territory.

In business we find many similar circumstances where there are competitors, regulators, legislators and often customers who are trying to deliver a knockout blow and send a message that could ultimately damage the reputation, brand, financial performance, etc. of the company.

While you cannot eliminate the probability of taking a hit, you can control how prepared you are when they come and how you deal with them.

I always admired Mike Ditka who as a tight end for the Chicago Bears, Phildelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys was the perfect example of how to successfully go across the middle, catch the ball (like a wide receiver) and deliver a hit. He savored the experience of not just catching the ball but delivering a hit (often knocking out the defensive player). The difference, Ditka saw it as an opportunity to control and not be controlled. He prepared physically and mentally to excel under these circumstances and defensive backs and linebackers thought twice about how to bring him down.

Successful companies take and deal with the big hits that can create significant problems for others.

What makes successful companies?

They do the best in recovering from adverse conditions because they anticipate that challenges will happen unexpectedly and what should be done when they occur. They hire the right people who can think on their feet, have the right attitude and adopt disciplines to face problems head on and handle them in a proactive manner. Processes and policies are also examined to see what adjustments if any are needed to reduce their exposure the next time they encounter similar circumstances.

Conditioning your organization to profit from the big hits that come in business will prepare you for high return opportunities. Nurturing your employees to thrive in these circumstances strengthens your company to excel where other, less prepared companies “hear footsteps” and drop the ball. Aggressively responding to tough business situations successfully will deliver a message to the marketplace, future and prospective customers, competitors and employees.

When I was properly prepared – physically and mentally – I was able to catch the ball and run over the defensive back, hardly noticing that he had actually hit me pretty hard.  I was so focused down the field that I ignored the impact.

Is your organization prepared to take the hit, focus on where you need to go and deliver a positive message to all involved as to what your company is about?

Intentionally prepare your company to deal with the unexpected, motivate your people to rise to the occasion when extreme circumstances occur, develop a positive attitude as to how your company deals with adversity that is focused on a successful outcome.

Keep your eye on the ball and look down field.

Be prepared to go across the middle!

Leave a Reply