No job is immune to stress, and some maybe more stressful than others. Of those, the job of the Indian Cricket Team captain occupies the top ranks. So what can entrepreneurs learn from an Indian team captain who handles so much stress and adulation, highs and lows, criticism, success and failures? Quite a few lessons for sure.
While the movie on M.S. Dhoni has just released, I thought of exploring the topic on how the life and trails of Dhoni can be good entrepreneurship lessons.
Plan the work, work the plan
Dhoni has a mind for strategy. He plans for competition and playing conditions and plays to the strengths of the team. But he doesn’t just stop at planning. He executes plans perfectly and keeps a 20 percent contingency flexibility for on-field tactics – in other words, last minute changes in strategy.
Similarly, an entrepreneur needs to plan well, have effective strategies in place and go with full force in executing those strategies.
Build your team
Dhoni took to the helm of Indian cricket following the disastrous 2007 West Indies World cup. He built the team brick by brick to make them a force to be reckoned with for the 2011 World Cup. The 2011 team was a good mix of youth, experience, exuberance and attitude with a good dose of motivation to succeed.
Following this, Dhoni did a great job of managing the Indian team during a transition period that saw the exit of legends like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman and Anil Kumble. He ensured that the team never succumbed to the vacuum created by these high profile exits.
During the team building process, Dhoni had to groom many youngsters and back them through their initial failures, manage the egos of seniors, work with biased selectors and put together a winning team whose collective strength surpassed individual talent. This is ideally what an entrepreneur should do in his business to bring together a successful team.
Handle criticism well
Few have matched Dhoni’s calm demeanour during post-match press conferences. His witty, humorous, thoughtful and insightful comments at these conferences have earned him the respect of viewers and the journalists alike. He handles criticism well — accepting mistakes and giving back what is not fair, thus displaying a rare equanimity in the face of the press and critics alike.
This is an important learning for entrepreneurs. During our entrepreneurial journey, each and every step of ours will be scrutinised, commented and critiqued upon by employees, customers, vendors, investors, family and friends. We should learn from the calmness and confidence of Dhoni in handling such situations.
How to keep cool under pressure
Also known as Captain Cool, Dhoni is famously known be cool in the toughest of situations and positions.
The answer might also be in what Indian spiritual science calls ‘detached attachment’. The Gita says that the best way to handle life is by forgoing the fruits of your actions. As a result of this, only your efforts and contributions matter and not the end result. This detached feeling gives a sense of calmness in ‘pressure cooker’ situations. People practising this appear cool under fire no matter how stressful the situation.
High-pressure situations are part of the daily work-life of every entrepreneur. Deriving strength from long-term goals and being detached in the short term is a great way of keeping yourself cool under fire.
Have a sense of humour
Humour is a grossly underrated quality in leaders. It can make tough moments lighter and difficult tasks appear easier to approach. It even lends adds new perspectives to challenges.
Humour, when dealt at the right time in the right doses, is the best remedy for any negative situation.
Dhoni is as famous for his humour as he is for his composure. For instance, following a 2015 match with Australia Dhoni was asked, “Their tail is like Hanuman’s. Yours is like a Doberman’s. That must be hurting your side?” To this, he replied, “Now even PETA has said you can’t cosmetically remove a tail.” Even a serious captain like Dhoni uses humour to ease uncomfortable situations, a useful lesson for any entrepreneur.
Lead from the front, take tough decisions, and stand by them
During the 2011 World Cup Final, Dhoni placed himself ahead of Yuvraj and played the innings of a lifetime, scoring the winning runs for Team India. He took the pressure on himself and led from the front. There have been other tough decisions did not go his way, but he still stood by them. This is a good lesson for all entrepreneurs to imbibe.
Don’t give up
Dhoni’s life is an excellent underdog story. He is someone who worked hard to succeed against all odds – odds of coming from a small town, odds of education, odds of being weighed down by family pressure and odds of performance. He could’ve given up at any point, but instead he held on and blew away all the odds that weighed against him through sheer hard work and perseverance.
Create your own brand identity
“Dhoni koi Tendulkar nahi hai, Dhoni, Dhoni hai.” The famous lines in the movie describe Dhoni’s ascent in the cricket world where he worked hard in creating a niche for himself and established his own brand. He didn’t try to be Sachin, he showed the world who Dhoni is.
As an entrepreneur, there is no point trying to be a Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg or a Sachin Bansal. Go create your own identity which will be unique only to you.
Get your priorities right
When playing in South Africa, Dhoni’s girlfriend passed away in a tragic accident, and when Dhoni was playing the 2015 world cup at Australia his wife gave birth to his first baby. During neither time did he abandon his job and leave. He silently stayed back and performed his duty as a team member and leader. This shows Dhoni’s capability to lead from the front and also his clarity of thought in living for the moment and setting his priorities right.
Share the success
In all the post-win celebrations involving Dhoni in the team, one aspect stands the same — he gives the credit to his team and lets the team take the limelight. How Dhoni shares his success is a huge lesson for entrepreneurs leading teams. Take the brickbats but share the bouquets with your team.