Okay, I really hope this blog post “hits a home run.” I feel like “it’s the bottom of the ninth and the bases are loaded.” The worst thing I can do right now is “strike out.”
So, “here’s the game plan”: I have challenged myself to write an entire post based on sports analogies. Why? Because that’s what “I was trained to do.” All good consultants were conditioned this way. We are all “on the same team,” “rowing in the same direction” and hopefully “singing from the same song sheet.” Oops – wrong genre of analogy. I really need to “get my head in the game.”
You don’t have to be a sports aficionado to appreciate a well-timed sports analogy. Everyday, we look for ways to “push the ball over the goal line.” There are times when we need to put on “a full court press.” We occasionally have to tell our clients to “fish or cut bait.” In certain situations, we even have to call “all hands on deck,” with nary a reaction to this obscure sailing reference.
Now, this uncanny ability does not come easily or without “creating the right muscle memory.” As part of Consulting 101, we spend countless hours with our “Hall of Fame” faculty: Al Michaels teaches us to ask, “Do you believe in miracles?”; we study “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” from Jim McKay; and we even learn some tricks of the trade from Bob Uecker (okay, that reference was “j-u-s-t a bit outside.”).
Successful completion of these courses “puts you in the ballpark” but is really nothing more than “table stakes.” Those of us who “make it to the big leagues” are then trained to use more obscure sports references. We use our passion for hockey to make note of the “top shelf” ideas – or we occasionally show off our familiarity with cricket by pointing out a particular “sticky wicket” in a business plan.
We try not to “punch below our weight” or else we might need to “punt” on one of our ideas. Our task is simple… “Just Do It.” But it’s not that easy. Many times, we just try to “put some points on the board.”
Okay, I just need to slow down. I must remember that this blog post is a “marathon and not a sprint.”
When it comes to sports analogies, some of you may be “out in left field.” But if you’re really “at the top of your game,” you start to understand that some of the more common English idioms come from sports.
To prove my point…I won’t send you on a “wild goose chase” (from horse racing in the 1500s), but I will bet you “across the board” (19th century horse racing) that on the “drop of a hat” (from 19th century sports referees) you can “knuckle down” (term from the kid’s game of marbles) and “play fast and loose” (popular gambling game in the 15th century). So just “throw your hat in the ring” (from the early prizefighter days) as we come “down to the wire” (late 1800s horse racing). You might actually “win hands down” (horse racing yet again).
I’ve watched many people “crash and burn” as they improperly use these weapons of mass analogy. My favorite example came from one of the best leaders that I know. When an outside sales rep complained of his frequent use of sports analogies, he asked her what she liked to do in her spare time. He then gamely used this new knowledge in his next sales team meeting.
But apparently, trying to motivate a sales team for a strong 3Q and 4Q by calling them a “2nd half quilting team” just didn’t do the trick. Fast forward a few years…the leader is now “head coach” of a major organization that has great “bench strength” while the sales rep is “riding the pine” on a different team. Who has the “upper hand” now?
Okay, we are “on the last lap.” That previous story is a reminder that “you won’t get a hit every time” you use a sports analogy. All we ask for is a “level playing field” and the potential of a “win-win situation.” [Which makes no sense, since I can't find a sport that has a win-win situation…but we will deal with that later.]
I could go on and on and on. You know why? Because “it ain’t over until the fat lady sings.” (Who says opera is not a sport?!?!) But I am “calling it quits” for now.
Game. Set. Match.