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Winning the Infinite Game

As a coach, I’m always looking for patterns – what’s the societal vibe, what’s a theme among my clients, etc.  Over the past year or so,…

As a coach, I’m always looking for patterns – what’s the societal vibe, what’s a theme among my clients, etc. 

Over the past year or so, I’ve been puzzled by several of my clients reporting worry over possibly losing their jobs. That would make sense if they were on a performance improvement plan, but I rarely get those types of clients anymore. Instead I would describe my clients as high achievers and viewed as high potentials in their organizations. Not to mention, their organizations are making an investment in them to have the developmental experience of working with an executive coach.

I’ve also heard the term VUCA the past couple of years. It’s an American military term that stands for volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. You can even study this and get a VUCA Leadership Certificate from Cornell University. Yes, that can certainly describe our current times. But then a colleague gave me Simon Sinek’s new book, “The Infinite Game.”  Sinek talks about infinite games versus finite games. Are you playing to keep the “game” – i.e., your company – going strong until long after you are gone or are you playing to just win this 90-day period?

The book jacket reads: “I started to see that many of the struggles that organizations face exist simply because their leaders were in an infinite game with a finite mindset. These organizations tend to lag behind in innovation, discretionary effort, morale and, ultimately, performance.”

Aha! That explains the lack of safety my clients were feeling – leaders focused on making the short-term numbers however they can and not investing in things like developing trust, offering training and development opportunities, and showing courage in leadership. These are things that are needed for a long-running infinite game. Of course, not all organizations function that way. We have many really great companies in our region that do a fantastic job creating a welcoming, trusting and performing culture. A big round of applause should go to them. But for those that could use some help, pick up this book and think about how you could cultivate an infinite mindset – planting seeds now that will help your organizations grow and thrive for years and years to come.

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