Have you heard the phrase … “the race is often won or lost before it starts”?  Starting this weekend, we will witness several weeks of races and contests of many different varieties as the 2016 Olympics finally arrives in Brazil.  This phrase might even apply to the entire Olympics with as much controversy, uncertainty and potential drama that could unfold.  Whether your competitive landscape is 100 meters swimming or swimming with the corporate sharks on Main Street, there is one thing that is definitely true … MINDSET MATTERS.

In our work, we get to see wide varieties of organizations, teams and leaders competing in the stadiums of their work zones and battling fearlessly against fierce competitors or sometimes just content to battle aimlessly internally with the department next door.  Some operate in the major leagues and on grand stages while others are plowing away in modest surroundings just doing the best they can with what they have. The best examples of winning leaders and teams are those with a deeply rooted optimism for success.  They have a determination to believe and persevere not matter the adversity or viscosity of the VUCA that they face every day.  

When I finished graduate school back in the mid 1970’s, I was fortunate to spend a dozen years working for a company then called Blue Bell, Inc and now known as VF Corporation – the world’s largest apparel company with around $14 billion in sales.   Blue Bell was best known for its tough line of Wrangler Jeans as well as its engineering mindset for quality and continuous improvement.  I will never forget the desktop signs on all managers’ desks declaring a shared mindset for overcoming obstacles  IT CAN BE DONE!

Agile organizations, teams and leaders start with a shared mindset that involves optimism, determination, resourcefulness, team affinity, caring, creativity and candor. The true AGILE WINNERS believe in these values and have the grit to persevere even when they run into the inevitable obstacles – silos, NIHS (not invented here syndrome) or even “psycho-schlerosis” a term my partner Nick Horney coined to mean “hardening of the attitudes”.  There seems to be way too much of this dynamic occurring in many circles of our overly polarized world especially during this election season.  But even in that arena, we can’t give up on what is so dear and important. We must keep on believing in those values that bind us together and persevere through communication and greater understanding.

Let’s hope these OLYMPICS bring out the best in all participants as well as the rest of us watching – and let’s hope no crazy or nefarious drama steals the show.  What are your thoughts around the kind of mindset needed for agility in your experience?  I would love to hear from you.