Reaching the goal. Close-up of bright red bowling ball rolling along bowling alley

Balance of Power

I have had a lot of experiences in my life and one of them was bowling in a league.  I’ve played a lot of sports, so you can substitute pretty much any sport for this analogy.  But as you might expect, when I first started out, I was ok.  I was not setting the world on fire with my bowling skills, and the Professional Bowlers Association was not scouting me! I had fun, it was time with my wife and friends, so it was all good.  But I am a bit competitive.   

There were three key elements to my bowling game; my attitude, my delivery, and the bowling ball.  My competitive nature is such that I don’t like to be just ok at something.  I want to be better tomorrow than I was yesterday.  What’s fun about league bowling is that there are all kinds of people who are cheering for you…as long as you are not a threat.  They will help you with technique or point out flaws in your strategy.  They may even describe how you can place the ball to take out the 7-10 split. 

What I learned is that there is no one thing that you can do to move from “Ok” to a team leader.  It takes equal growth among three key elements: the person, the process and the tool.  If any one of the three is inferior, it will limit what you can do. To consistently hit strikes, you need to refine your process for sending your ball down the lane.  Your “process” includes how you hold the ball, where you start your steps, the number of steps you take, where you place the ball on the lane as you release it and how much spin you put on the ball.  

The more consistent we can be in delivering the ball, the easier it is to understand what we need to do to get better.  But there is a huge assumption here…that the ball is good. How do you know if your tool is a good one?  A lot of people will choose their bowling ball based on color, or glitter, or some other external feature because “It looks really cool.”  But the power and the consistency come from deep within the ball.  The things you can’t see are the things that really matter.  It’s the quality that is built into the ball that allows your skill to shine through.  But the best bowling ball won’t make you a great bowler.  You are still limited by your skills and technique. 

Let’s say a new router comes on the market.  It is super awesome looking…flashy LEDs, nifty buttons, and it even makes your coffee, too. You bought it and put it in the lab.  You show all your friends.  I mean, it looks really cool, really modern.  But when you turn it on you find a wobble in the shaft. I don’t care how steady your hand is or how good you are, the tool is going to limit your ability to create your best work.  You will never be able to outperform the machine.  On the other hand, you can have the best tools money can buy, but if you don’t have the right people in the right jobs following good processes, you won’t be able to leverage the tool to your advantage.  

So, as you think about practice management, no one item in your arsenal of People, Processes and Tools will solve your challenges.  But any one of them can be your Achilles heel. Substance is key.  We don’t hire people based on their appearance (thankfully), we don’t create a process because it looks cool, and we shouldn’t buy a critical tool because it looks good.  You have to drill into the core and make sure your mission won’t be limited because of appearances.  Balance your power. 

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