“In 2009, documentarian Alex Gibney followed Lance Armstrong for four years chronicling his return to cycling after retirement, as he attempted to win his eighth title. In 2012, Gibney was there when Armstrong admitted to doping, following a federal criminal investigation, public accusations of doping by ex-teammates, and an investigation by the US Anti-Doping Agency, that led USADA’s CEO, Travis Tygart, to conclude that Armstrong’s team had run ‘the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.’”
Said simply, Lance Armstrong lied. Shame on him.
What’s worse? Other cyclists who’ve been doping, won races, and haven’t been caught. Yet.
Is it any different in the world of business?
I don’t believe we set out to lie, but we still do. How come? Armstrong said it best, “I like to win. But more than anything…I can’t stand the thought of losing, because to me, that equals death.” Taken to heart, I believe we employ three very specific strategies to hedge our bets in order to avoid losing. Let’s take a look at how Armstrong employed them:
- Protection = For years, Lance Armstrong denied any wrong doing. He simply refused to be responsible for accusation or fact.
- Control = For years, Lance Armstrong belittled, manipulated, and even threatened his former teammates and family if they accused him of doping or doubt him as the most accomplished cyclist in history.
- Compliance = For years, Lance Armstrong told himself and the world a story that was untrue. After awhile, it became far easier to comply with the lie than to tell the truth.
In the end, these three strategies proved insufficient for Armstrong in the face of truth. He built a cycling empire over years of effort only to see it crumble overnight.
Put in an entrepreneurial context, those are the three worst strategies you could employ to build your team, your reputation, and your business.
So if not those, what does work? Try these on:
- Commitment to the greater good of the company = Why are you in business anyway? Is every, single decision you make in service of the greater good of the company or simply the greater good of you others?
- Prediction based on facts = Does everyone have a number in the company; something they are held accountable to? Are you tracking those numbers on a regular and rigorous basis? Can you accurately predict future outcomes because today’s behavior warrants them?
- Acting upon what’s most important = Is it 3-7 things or 20 of them? How can anything be important if everything is? Does your leadership team make decisions on urgency or value (to the greater good of the company)?
- Trust = Are your leadership team meetings full of “yes’s” and “you betcha”? Or are they full of respectful conflict in service of discerning what’s best for the health of the company? Have you built a culture in which it’s safe, even if uncomfortable, to say “no, that’s not right”?
To be sure, the strategies Lance Armstrong employed are more automatic and easy, sell more advertising time on ESPN or CNN, and create (the mirage of) a quick fix. The latter four strategies are uncomfortable, will not capture a high level of public recognition, and are far slower and full of effort to implement.
Perhaps Armstrong’s ultimate outcome may offer an answer to which ones you might choose.
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