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Want To Elevate Your Growth Strategy? Have a Champion’s Mindset

Strategic growth expert and advisor Michelle Diamond shares insights on how to apply a champion’s mindset to your growth strategy.

Strategic growth expert and advisor Michelle Diamond shares insights on how to apply a champion's mindset to your growth strategy.

I am a huge sports fan, especially basketball. I love this time of the year as the NBA playoffs are underway. Playoff basketball often has a higher level of competition and intensity, as every game matters, and the teams that play are all fighting to ultimately win the NBA championship.

As an NBA Playoff commercial states, “Legends are made during the playoffs.”

I watched the series between the Lakers and the defending champions, the Denver Nuggets. One of their stars, Jamal Murray, hit the game-winning shot in not one but two games to help the Denver Nuggets advance and win the series. He did this with roughly 3.0 seconds left in one game (Game 2) and with 3.6 seconds left in the other game (Game 4).

What was even more impressive is that during the post game interview, he mentioned that in the first game where he ultimately made the winning shot, he was having an awful game. He struggled to shoot well, and his team as a whole was down 20 points at one point in the game.

He could have easily given up, especially at the end, where it mattered most. However, he stated that his teammates would not let him give up. They told him to keep shooting, believing that he would persevere and get back on track. Of course, they were right.

In the second game where he also made the game-winning shot, Jamal had to deal with a strained left calf and his organization’s suggestion that he not play due to his injury.

How was he able to overcome the internal and external pressures and adversity?

He and his team had a champion’s mindset.

A champion’s mindset is where you not only have the ability to overcome obstacles and challenges but also have the mental toughness and unwavering belief that regardless of the situation — the competition, the referees (regulatory environment), stakeholders, the fans, the staff, the media, injuries, etc. — you are the best and will always figure out a way to win.

How does this translate to a growth strategy?

Years ago, I partnered with a small consulting firm to work on a growth and new market entry strategy for a $1B+ global Fortune 1000 chemical company focused on the pulp and paper industry that had been losing money for quite a long time.

They were #1 in their market and had been in existence for almost 100 years. However, their industry was shrinking, as most individuals and companies do not use as much paper anymore due to the shift to electronic and online communications.

They did what many companies do when losing money: they downsized their workforce and cut costs until they could not cut them anymore.

The board told management that it had to do something to turn the company around. Management hired us (over McKinsey) to help them turn things around and find new ways to grow their top line profitably. I, specifically, was brought in to help the company identify and enter new markets and verticals. I worked with a new leader, who had a sales background, but not a strategic background, who would be responsible for overseeing the new venture and initiative based on my recommendation.

The board was not happy that our team was chosen over McKinsey, so we also had a lot to prove as we had to get buy-in on our recommendations both internally and from the board.

When I met the new leader and some of the staff, I realized that many of them were demoralized due to layoffs and that those who had been employees for many years truly did not believe the company could be successful. They didn’t believe the company could effectively win in any market other than pulp and paper, since that was all many of them ever knew how to do.

They did not have a champion’s mindset.

They did not believe their company could win again. They did not believe they could be successful in any other industry other than the one they were in. They did not believe they were personally adequate enough to succeed.

How did this translate into their growth strategy? Very simple. They did not have one.

They could not get their focus off of what they had always done (their existing industry and markets) and put together a growth strategy and plan that was not going to help them grow at all (more of a preservation strategy and budget exercise).

So aside from doing the analysis and research to identify the right new industries, markets, and verticals, for them to enter, I made it a priority to be as transparent as possible with the steps I took and the findings I discovered during the growth strategy development process.

I also taught the leader of the new venture and some of his staff what a growth strategy is and how it is put together.

I also took the time to:

  • speak with and listen to the naysayers, breaking down and eradicating the losers mindset that they had at the time
  • challenging and eliminating every wrong assumption, and
  • helped them believe that they could still win and instill a champion’s mindset within them.

Fortunately, it worked out well. I was able to identify a new industry vertical for the company to enter, with projected long-term revenues of $300 million. My growth strategy obtained buy-in from not only the new leader and his staff, but the company’s board of directors as well.

However, it was also great to know that I first met with a great group of people who had a defeatist, losers mindset, and left them with a winner’s champion mindset that they could use not only for their company, but for the rest of their lives.

Once a person or an organization learns a champion’s mindset, it is instilled in them. For many, it becomes a habit, where the new question is always, “How do we win?” vs. “How do we survive?”

Jamal Murray and the Denver Nuggets have it. Similar to the Fortune 1000 chemical company, you and your organization can learn how to have and apply a champion’s mindset too.

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