Pizzie Case Study #1: Do Leadership Skills Honed in Pharmaceutical R&D Transfer to being Clan Leader in Clash of Clans?
Whether you are leading 400 highly skilled professionals or 50 school kid/granddads from a dozen different countries, the principles of leadership are universal: People want to know where they are going and why. They want the rules to be clear and enforced. They want to know how to progress. And, most of all, they want to be supported and feel like they are part of something special.
Want to know the whole story? Then read on...
In December of 2013 I “retired” from the leadership of the clinical supply function of a very large pharmaceutical company to start Brizzey LLC, a consulting company, with a couple of very talented partners.
All of a sudden I was no longer the leader of an organization of approximately 400 professionals!
I have been in the industry for 30 years and for 27 of them I have had a managerial role of some description. For most of those years I have also tried to be a leader. Not an easy thing. Sometimes (I think) I have done well and at other times (I know) I have not done so well. During this time though, I have had the good fortune to be led by, and to observe, some pretty wonderful leaders and I have developed my thoughts on what it takes to be a good leader.
But now, I lead no one. It’s just me, my computer and my two partners.
So, did I say that I have always been interested in games and military history? Well it should come as no surprise then, that in this age of iPad’s and smart phones, I am a big fan of the game “Clash of Clans” from SUPERCELL. If you have never played it, or if you have never heard of it, the concept is simple; you build a village, build defences, make an army and attack other players to gain resources (to build ever bigger and better defences and armies). The clever part is that you can join a clan with up to 49 other players and support each other by donating troops and sharing advice through a very basic messaging system. It is truly a blast! I have been playing for two years and have been a member of a clan with about ten members called TOON Army for most of that time.
Well at the end of 2013 three things happened. Not only did I leave big pharma, but SUPERCELL launched Clan Wars which allowed Clans to go head to head in wars for glory (and loot!) AND the Clan Leader of TOON Army left and put me in charge! The launch of Clan Wars spiked interest in the game and before we knew it we had 50 members in our clan ranging in age from 8 to 56 who lived in Europe, the USA, Asia and South America. Needless to say things did not go well and we lost three wars on the trot! The Clan members were not communicating, they were not aligned and they were not happy…and…it suddenly occurred to me…I was not leading!
I decided to try to apply everything that I had learned about leadership to my responsibility as Clan Leader. After all, I had the time!
I got to know the Clan (at least those who would chat with me). I tried to find out who was mature, shared my views in where the clan should be going and was interested in leading. I described a vision: “this clan is about supporting each other, helping the weaker players grow, so that the clan grows stronger and wins more wars”. I described a code of conduct: “no profanity and no abuse of any other player”. I promoted several of the older players to be “elders” with the express job of coaching the younger players. I described a “career path” with measurable criteria for how players could get to be elders and even co-leader. I reviewed clan member performance and praised them for their successes and their failures (with some free coaching added in on how to succeed next time). I “booted” several players who did not act in accordance with the vision or code of conduct. Most of all I was “present” as much as I could be and made sure that I delivered on anything I said I would do. I led by example by donating three times as many troops as I received. Did it work? We have won fourteen wars out of eighteen and eight on the trot! Clan members are texting each other through the game all the time and not just about Clash of Clans! A community has developed within the Clan! Just this weekend a seventeen year old clan member based in the US messaged that it “Was the best Clan he had been in”!
What did I learn from this experience? First, if your text messaging is limited to 125 characters your vision statement and code of conduct has to be succinct! But most importantly, whether you are leading 400 highly skilled professionals or 50 school kid/granddads from a dozen different countries, the principles of leadership are universal: People want to know where they are going and why. They want the rules to be clear and enforced. They want to know how to progress. And, most of all, they want to be supported and feel like they are part of something special.
I hope you enjoyed my “case study” and observations. If you have a few minutes, try Clash of Clans, you might enjoy it!
Rob Pizzie - June 2014
We, the three partners in Brizzey, came together largely due to a shared conviction that People, Partnership & Process are the essence of success in every part of a business and that when we keep all 3 elements at the forefront of our strategic approach, real magic can happen. People, Partnership, Process forms the foundation of our philosophy, our principles and our methodologies. We'll talk more about these elements of our philosophy in future posts, but we wanted to start with a brief overview of why we believe so firmly in each of these principles.
Obviously people are a fundamental part of any business. People are also inherently complex creatures, endowed with a complicated mixture of emotions and beliefs, which in turn drive behaviours, attitudes and approaches. Yet, it's surprisingly easy to overlook the impact of those complexities when we're focused on the goals, plans and activities our businesses demand.
The good news is that the emotional and behavioural path people take in times of major change is rather predictable, whether the change is perceived as positive or negative: denial, resistance, exploration, acceptance (the change curve). To acknowledge these emotions and behaviors, to accept them as normal and invest in supporting people through the change curve requires patience and courage and may appear to be time-consuming.
Yet investing in the people factor of change will, in fact, not only accelerate the change, but also ensure its sustainability and therefore return on investment, while preserving the energy and morale of our most important asset: our people.
Silos have taken a lot of stick over recent years, being blamed for inefficiency and dysfunctional behaviours; the call often being to break them down. While silos are important structures in an organisation - they allow specific skills and expertise to focus on what they're good at and they assign clear accountabilities to groups set up to deliver on them – if we build them with such dense walls that messages can't penetrate, then people don't share information across silos and we impede the communication and collaboration essential to meeting the broader goals of the business.
By forging strong cross-functional partnerships, we can ensure that leaders develop a more holistic approach, set realistic objectives and align on appropriate risk taking. By ensuring that cross-functional project teams collaborate from the project's inception, we are most likely to meet our customers' needs and expend our energy on innovation and creativity rather than on recovery and rework.
If we invest in looking beyond our silos, to understand the inter-dependencies between objectives and processes, we improve our chances of getting things right first time, in less time and with less frustration.
As our elder partner Rob is known to say, if each of us were to get up each day and cut a new path to the watering hole, when the watering hole didn't move overnight, we'd be using a lot of energy that we could be using in more productive pursuits. If only we'd agree on a single path to that watering hole…
We're all in the business of producing deliverables or providing services (the proverbial water hole) and to be as efficient and reliable as possible, we need to find the fastest, safest, most reliable path to that water hole, mark it with signs, pave it and make sure our teams all know about it, so that we can preserve their creative energy for the steps that genuinely do require some alternative navigation.
In the case of a major change, it's essential to define and clearly articulate the new process and understand just how it differs from the old process. But more than that, the process for process development can be a powerful change management tool itself, creating a pragmatic framework for potentially difficult discussions within and across silos, engaging the people who do the work to define the new way of working and providing a roadmap to help the unknown rapidly become the known.
If you have any comments on our post or would like to talk to us about how we might be able to help your organisation, we'd love to hear from you.