This past week I had the pleasure of seeing living tennis legend Martina Navratalova play at my tennis club with a young 15-year old hot shot junior player.
During warm-ups with her coach, the 15-year old looked unbeatable. She had huge power, accuracy, and youth on her side.
But Navratalova — now over 50 years old — creamed her. How? By playing smart. The junior was a one-trick pony, all power to the middle with the occasional winner to the side. Meanwhile, Navratalova mixed her shots up — some topspin, some underspin, some deep, some short, some to the left, and some to the right. Even though she was older and arguably had less power, she won.
A lot of what we do as executive coaches is show the up and comers how to develop the kind of flexibility and smarts that Navratalova has. Lots of “hotshots” have a single way of influencing people, whereas more seasoned executives know how to use different styles and strategies for different situations. The same is true for motivating employees, thinking about strategy, making decisions, and switching from long to short-term perspectives.
This “style flexibility” is key to ongoing success. Up and comers sometimes are myopic. They need to learn how to see the whole court and plan their games more strategically.
That’s where we executive coaches come in!