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Having spent many years in the sports world, I often find that sports ideas and business ideas are not that different. During a time when I was serving as a coach in a girls’ lacrosse program, I was asked to help a team that had just had a series of tough games.
Morale was low. My coaching friend and I knew we had to inject energy into them, so we came up with a cheer called the Heart and Hustle chant. It goes like this:
Players: Heart and Hustle!
And repeat until everyone’s pumped up.
Simple, right? We instituted this little cheer and suddenly these young girls — about 12 years old — got fired up. The team was playing as I had never seen them play before. The chant invigorated them and they powered through.
They won in more ways than one.
Fast forward to today, and that chant is still shared by every team that comes through that lacrosse program — which has expanded to over 400 girls playing in any given year. There’s a Heart and Hustle tournament, Heart and Hustle T-shirts and in my last year in the program, I received a necklace from a group of players with an H2, which represents — you guessed it — Heart and Hustle. It never ceases to amaze me that a simple cheer grew from one team and spread across the entire organization.
What does this have to do with business? Everything.
Great ideas run the world. But what makes an idea great? When I think back on that cheer and then on my current career, I think there are three key elements: authentic desire, channeled energy and receptive people.
You can’t fake authenticity
There are fake intentions everywhere — and believe me, they don’t stick. We can intuitively feel whether an idea is coming from an authentic place.
Getting an idea to stick starts with not focusing on sticking but on fueling an intrinsic desire to be of service. I’m convinced that’s why so many successful businesses describe themselves as people-focused or human-centric and then follow up those words with action. A team that truly wants to make a positive change in the world or really values its company mission will inherently be more impactful than one backed only by flimsy, half-hearted slogans.
Focus on your best
We all know (and love) those happy-go-lucky people who always seem cheerful and optimistic. Maybe you’re one of them. But while that kind of positivity can be extremely helpful in creating a welcoming work environment, it won’t make or break a company.
You create force and movement when you channel your positive energy into the best projects with the highest priority. Scattering your motivation into too many projects leaves every project without the momentum needed to deliver true impact. This responsibility often falls on management. Your team may have 10 fantastic projects they’d like to ideate on, but if you only have time for three realistically, you’re doing all 10 projects a disservice by not channeling your energy. Choose your best projects and put everything into them.
Build the best team
It’s often difficult to know when a team member simply isn’t the right fit. Sometimes it’s a matter of skills, but often it’s something beyond a list on a resume.
A team member with average skills who shares your vision will work far more effectively than one who has exemplary skills but doesn’t care. When you’re building your team, seek prospects who lean in when discussing your company’s mission. These employees will pick themselves up after an unsuccessful campaign, get back to work and try even harder to reach shared goals next time. These kinds of people are often the ones who come up with the ideas that stick.
There’s no recipe
Part of what makes ideas stick is having the perfect blend of circumstances that allows all of those three components to come together — along with other far more nebulous elements like timing, community attitudes and trends — which is part of the reason why not all ideas stick. Even good ideas. So what can you do to make sure you get ideas that stick? Focus on the elements you can control and bring them together as frequently as possible.
There’s no perfect roadmap and certainly no instruction manual. But getting the best people together to share their authentic desires toward a shared goal, with targeted focus, puts your team and your business in the best possible place to stir up those world-changing ideas. As a leader, that’s the most important part of my job: to create the best atmosphere I can and encourage creativity, spark and a free flow of ideas. That, to me, is heart and hustle.