You may be wondering what on earth tongues and tennis have to do with business coaching. One of the big differences between business coaching and business consulting can be that business coaches will teach business owners the how and why of important business actions and concepts – so that you can make the right decisions – whereas a business consultant often will just lay out the work that needs to be done.
One of the snippets of teaching I recently delivered involved an anecdote about tennis players Andre Agassi and Boris Becker…
You see, earlier this year, Agassi told the press about a bizarre-yet- crucial observation that had enabled him to defeat Becker (whom he had lost against in all three of their previous matches) from 1990 onwards. He had spotted that Becker’s tongue gave the player’s game away every time.
Whenever Becker was about to serve, he would unconsciously poke out his tongue as he tossed the ball into the air. Agassi had realised that every time Becker’s tongue went to the left side of his mouth, he would serve the ball wide; if it stayed in the middle, he would keep the ball in the central parts of the court. This subtle tick meant that Agassi was able to adapt his game accordingly and stay one step ahead of his rival in crucial moments. However, he had to also keep a fine balance so that Becker didn’t cotton on to his discovery! In the next 11 games, Becker achieved just one victory – with Agassi taking the glory for the other 10.
So what on earth has this got to do with business? Well, there are two major learnings to be had from Agassi’s revelation.
Lesson 1: Who is Helping Watch Your Plays?
Agassi learned about the tick that was the source of Becker’s downfall by carefully analysing Becker’s game and realising that this was a chink in his armor. Really, Becker’s coach should have been watching Becker’s game and identified this as a flaw in his game.
As a business owner, you could be Becker, and Agassi could potentially be your competitors. So who is helping you make sure that you aren’t giving away your next move? Who is checking your business for the holes where you could trip up or the gaps where you are missing an opportunity to hit that metaphorical ball in the right direction?
Lesson 2: Are You Watching Your Competitors Closely Enough?
On the flipside, you should be keeping a close watch on your competition, so that you can match their moves and stay one step ahead at all times.
In my business coaching, I am frequently reminding clients that it is not enough to focus just on what they are doing as a company – they need to be acutely aware of what other businesses are doing and keep on top of what the market is responding to. This is crucial to achieving growth and winning market share.
By sussing out the ‘Beckers’ of business, and identifying their weak points, you could develop growth strategies that are as strong, forward-thinking and undefeatable as Agassi.