“Luck Is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity"
Two weeks ago in part one, I wrote about how purpose plays a role in success for a sports team and a business. In part 2 of Bringing Rugby to the Boardroom, I will be writing about my personal favourite of the three - preparation.
When I think about preparation in sport, I think about Jonny Wilkinson. Here is a man who practiced goal kicking (a goal kick in rugby is an isolated situation where the kicker attempts to kick the ball over the posts to score points - for any of you non-rugby readers) for hours and hours in all kinds of situations so that when the opportunity arose, he successfully slotted the ball over the posts to win the world cup final in 2003 (sorry to any Australians reading for reminding you of this).
The point I am making is that without the constant preparation and game-situation training he put himself through, he would effectively be leaving everything up to chance.
If you look at any elite sports professional they would have trained and prepared for countless hours, to make sure they are ready to execute a particular skill when required. Teams like the All Blacks will prepare for every possible situation & scenario when they train, so that when it comes to performing a skill in a real-life match situation, they can execute effectively.
Even outside of rugby this principle still applies, think Tiger Woods, Conor McGregor, LeBron James, Cristiano Ronaldo - none of these athletes would be where they are today unless they were prepared for all situations possible.
“Fail to prepare, prepare to fail”
As skilled professionals, we need to be prepared in the same way a top athlete is. This means continuous development through training, refining your (role specific) skills and further developing yourself so that when the time arises to execute these skills, you are ready!
Take this example, let’s imagine you want to progress to the next level in your career. You have two main options; progress in your current company or move to an organisation that will offer more progression.
Option 1 - progress in your current company
Let’s say you want to progress in your current company; this will require you to upskill yourself. This can be done proactively by taking courses specific to your role e.g. Technical courses on MS Excel, Tableau, Prince2, Lean Six Sigma, or softer skills like negotiating, public speaking etc.
Showing the initiative by investing in your own development not only demonstrates the right attitude to your line manager, but it enables you to showcase these skills when the opportunity arises to.
This leads me to my next point which is taking the initiative and putting yourself outside of your comfort zone. This comes in various forms - such as:
• Being more vocal in meetings or with stakeholders, offering your point of view or perspective to show your peers that you have insights and therefore gaining more authority & respect.
• Running workshops on specific areas which other employees may be lacking in skill e.g. a commercial analyst running a workshop with property managers around understanding how to read a P&L, or a Finance Manager running a workshop with the sales team on how they should be inputting their deals into the ERP to ensure revenue recognition & compliance is achieved - the list goes on and on.
• Taking on more responsibilities - supervising junior staff members or taking on more responsibilities outside of your current role, again showing willingness to progress to your hiring manager will put you in a greater position to get promoted.
Option 2 - move to another organisation
Let’s say that you want to move to another organisation instead because your current employer can’t offer the progression you desire. In this instance, you will need to be prepared for different situations…. Interviews!
Being prepared for an interview is paramount to securing a new role (speaking from my own experience of not being prepared). Trust me, it’s awkward when you haven’t done your research or not prepared for certain questions and you fumble through the answers…. My advice, always be prepared!
How can you ensure that you are well prepared for an interview?
There are a few things I always would advise you do in order to ensure you are fully prepared going into an interview:
Tip 1 - Research the company
Sounds simple right? But this is often overlooked. Researching the company doesn’t just mean looking through the website & familiarising yourself with what the company does. Look at the company's annual report, research their competitors annual reports, read about current news within their industry and form your own opinions on how the business could drive revenue, reduce costs or steal market share from their competitors. If you are in an interview situation and you can demonstrate all of the above, your interviewer will likely be impressed. Again, your suggestions or opinions about the organisation may not be correct but having an opinion shows the right attitude and will differentiate you from the competition.
Tip 2 - Know your CV - back to front!
Again, pretty straightforward stuff, nothing groundbreaking here but in my opinion, if you can nail the simple stuff you're onto a winner! Be prepared to be questioned on every duty/responsibility you’ve held, every decision you’ve made e.g. moving on from a company, choosing a different role etc. any gaps in between roles and reasons for leaving your current role. Also, make sure you have examples of when you have demonstrated each specific skill. Say for example you are asked around your budgeting & forecasting experience, you should be articulating when you have been exposed to budgeting & forecasting and to what degree? Were you leading the B&F process or assisting? What is your process? Bottom-Up or Top-Down? What challenges have you faced when putting together a budget/forecast? How did you overcome this challenge? How have you added value to the B&F process?
Tip 3 - Have questions for the interviewer
This is something that could really differentiate you from other candidates. Having thought-provoking questions to ask is a fantastic way to inject interest into the interviewer and leave a lasting impression. Some subtle but effective questions like “what does success look like in this role in the first 6-12 months?” or “how is success measured in this team/role?” or “what would the business like to achieve in the next 3 years and how does this role play a part in achieving that goal?”
Questions about working hours, holidays, remuneration, or anything which can be searched through google I would suggest avoiding as this will not differentiate you from your competition.
It is better to be over prepared than underprepared…. After all, the All Blacks apply this principle and it’s worked pretty well for them wouldn’t you agree?
If you have any questions or would like to join the discussion on Part 2, feel free to leave your comments below. Next week I will be sharing the final part in Bringing Rugby to The Boardroom.