Manning demonstrates value of preparation; JaMarcus doesn’t

Preparation enables Peyton Manning to make what he does look easy

I’ve long been a proponent of the adage that preparation is the only things over which you have total control.  And I’m always glad to get reminders of that…from the world of sports or wherever.

I was reading Sports Illustrated’s NFL Midseason Report on an airplane the other day and smiled as I read how Indianapolis QB Peyton Manning texted Connecticut running back Donald Brown just hours after he had been drafted by the Colts:  “Meet me at the facility at 8 a.m. tomorrow.  Warmed up.  Ready to go.”

Former Colts coach Tony Dungy talked about Manning’s great season so far — despite a number of challenges — saying, “To understand why he hasn’t struggled, you have to understand the way his mind works.  It drives him every day that the offense will be better, not just as good as it was.  The new guys will fit in.  He’ll make them fit in.”

Juxtapose that with a conversation that Mike and Mike had this morning on ESPN Radio with analyst Tim Hasselbeck about Oakland QB JaMarcus Russell and his challenges.  The discussion centered on whispers around the Raiders camp that the now-benched quarterback is always “last in, first out” of meetings and practices.  He won’t put in the work necessary to prepare for the next week’s game.

There are other reasons Manning is a future hall-of-famer, but preparation can overcome many things — rookie wide receivers and running backs, injuries in many positions.  Lack of preparation just exposes you.

How have you helped yourself through preparation (or hurt yourself because you didn’t take the time)?  If you don’t know where to start to help yourself prepare more effectively, please contact me.

Fixing problems is easy. Be a problem finder!

At MBNA America, we regularly held “autopsies” of recently completed negotiations.  We opened these meetings to a larger audience in hopes that they might learn from the mistakes others had made and avoid them in the future.

A lot of people are proud of their ability to resolve problems, to find solutions.  I’m one of them.  But as I’ve struggled to define my own personal brand, it’s become increasingly clear that the skill I should be highlighting is my ability to find problems (along with taking responsibility for eliminating their root causes).

Know What You Don't KnowThis message has been driven home by two great books — Rules of Thumb by Alan Webber and Know What You Don’t Know by Michael Roberto.  I’m going to discuss Rules of Thumb in more depth next week, but Webber’s point is that while we recognize that prevention and early intervention work for health care, energy policy, public education and transportation, business leaders don’t put the same emphasis on it in the workplace.  Or they fix the symptoms rather than the root cause — buying buckets for under the leaky roof rather than patching the roof.

Roberto, a Bryant University professor whose blog is worth a read, talks about the seven skills required for being a great problem finder.  They include watching the game films (that’s the autopsy reference); circumventing the gatekeeper to get the real data; encouraging useful failures; and the somewhat similar ideas of hunting for patterns and connecting the dots in smaller issues that come up long before something becomes the bigger problem.

What can you do to become a better problem finder?

Negotiations: Keep Your Eye on the Big Picture

As the fantasy baseball season winds to a close, I was reminded of an important negotiations principle the other day.  My two biggest problems are at the catcher and middle-infield positions and I’m very strong in the outfield, with great players sitting on my bench because of the numbers.  I was considering a proposal where I would give up the best player in the deal and a replacement for the much stronger catcher I’d be receiving and was thinking that wasn’t a particularly bright move.

As I discussed this with another friend who also plays fantasy baseball, he said, “Don’t worry about winning the deal.  Win the league.”

I clicked the Accept button.