At age eight Jana Novotna first picked up a tennis racket. By 14, she had fully committed to the game and within a few more years had centred on her endgame - to win a Grand Slam title. Over the next decade she earned her way into the top ranks through a combination of hard work, gritty determination and a distinctly uncommon style of play.
During the 1993 Wimbledon women’s singles final, Jana Novotna suffered what would become a series of ignominious chokes that would earn her the nickname “No-No-Novotna.” In her ensuing attempts at winning a Grand Slam title she was plagued by a near identical breakdown in clutch moments.
What’s Your Endgame?
Before we go any further into how history played out, I want you to close your eyes for a minute (play along, this will pay off). Picture your agency’s endgame. What does that “trophy” look like? Is it a mountain of new clients? Is it a highlight reel of graceful yet powerful mechanics, an unadulterated embodiment of the phrase “smooth operator?”
Now, zoom out a little. What’s standing between you and that trophy? Is it a saucy sweatband-sporting take-no-prisoners competitor? Or, is it you?
Let’s get back to our legendary tennis star. In 1998 she finally tasted the sweet victory from the Rosewater Dish that had been so elusive. What do you think changed? Diehard tennis fans can debate me on this, but the explanation I buy is that her coach, Hana Mandlikova, was finally successful in changing up Novotna’s game plan from one focused on analysing each shot to a more holistic concentration on how she broadly needed to win. While she had previously let a single blown shot rattle her nerves, giving her opponent total advantage, on that fateful July day, she successfully maintained her composure under intense pressure and carried out her strategy that was independent of who she faced over the net.
Why did that make the difference? Sports psychologists have found that in high outcome pressure situations, choking happens either because worry creates a distraction from the actual task at hand, preventing you from tapping into your talent, or because it leads to over analysis of individual components, which interrupts a smooth overall execution. Some historic performance failures might have also stemmed from lingering or hidden injuries.
Okay, that’s all well and good to acknowledge we’re buckling under pressure. But, is there any effective defense against those situations?
The good news is you can relieve the amount of pressure you’re performing under in the first place. The catch is you need to identify the real cause of the pressure in order to effectively relieve it. This means digging deeper than the obvious symptoms (e.g. not delivering projects on time, losing clients to DIY services or competing agencies).
Before we delve into that, let’s come back to that endgame of yours. If your silver gilt cup looked like something you can win in the next 6 months, chances are good you’re not thinking big enough.Taking things one game at a time, or rather one project or growth tactic at a time, is a sure way to wind up with a lot of little wins that add up to a whole lot of right-where-you-are-now-ness. If you’re satisfied with treading water like that, stop reading now and go about your day as you have for the last umpteen grueling days.
If on the other hand, you’d like to take your agency game to Michael Phelps proportions (yep, we’re off the grass and into the pool now), let’s dive into exactly where and how to start.
First things first, we need to get you in the champion mindset.
Visualise your long term goal and your long term weaknesses before you start making moves. Make a commitment to a long term plan to keep yourself on track. This will help avoid distractions and rushing into an endgame that doesn’t mesh with your values and vision.
Naturally, this means we’ve got to check at this point that you’re straight about those values and vision. Are you clear about why you exist?
The only way to win the endgame is to know the options, calculate the possible moves, develop a game plan, implement your strategy and maintain complete focus on carrying it out. By that I mean you need to make your vision and strategy crystal, then wholeheartedly commit to them and throw everything into developing and maintaining the discipline to follow through.
Do that again. And again. And again. Because you’re not just after making the finals once, you’re in this to win the long game, baby.
Train Like A Champion
Top-notch! We’ve got you believing the win is yours for the taking. Now comes the real work.
No brilliant athlete is able to turn in ace performance after ace performance without spending most of their time on training and conditioning. Those activities aren’t singular and they don’t happen in isolation.
What that means is that overcoming any or all of the 7 reasons we’re about to cover will require involvement from your whole team, in some cases your clients, and necessitate consistent, repeated effort in order to produce results. Namely, our chief goal is to reduce the pressure you’re operating under so you can execute on your long-term strategy.
Like my favourite fast-serving, fast-talking, tennis-playing quote fountain once said,
"At one point in your life,
you’ll have the thing you want or the reasons why you don’t.”
Over the course of the next seven posts, we’ll aim to knock out each of those reasons why you’re not winning your endgame.
Shout from the bleachers
Our aim is to deliver more than cheesy sports metaphors. We want to help you diagnose the issues holding you back and give you super actionable tips you can implement in your agency starting today.
To keep us honest and on target, you can get involved in the conversation by heading over to Twitter and searching #AgencyEndgame. Let us know the challenges you're facing, or if you've already got a mantel of metal, share how you're winning the long game at your agency.
What's coming up...
This post kicks off our series examining 7 reasons creative agencies are missing their mark and what they can do to overcome those obstacles. Here's a preview of where we're heading.
- Thinking like everyone else
- Too much lip service
- Waiting for perfection
- Wrong growth focus
- Bad client relationships
- Process debt
- Not seeking & optimising partnerships