Thursday, February 15, 2007

Serve or Receive?

M or W? P or D? As your opponent's tennis racket spins at your feet the next question is one you hope you get to answer... Serve or Receive? If you are familiar with tennis this line of questioning is all too familiar. If you are lost at this point, I will attempt to clear it up by pointing out that in tennis, players are able to dictate who serves first by spinning a racket (sort of like a coin toss) and the winner is left with the decision of serve or receive the first game. It was pounded in my head at an early age by my tennis coach that you ALWAYS choose serve because you are able to set a confident and dominate precedent early. Of course she followed up this lesson with a 45 minute intensive serving drill which allowed my skills the ability to back up my self-assured proclamation of "SERVE."

Is it always better to be in the driver's seat of our professional life, or at some point is it okay to sit back, survey, and play a little defense? I'll give an example of each and hope to get some feedback on this one. I am not so sure my opinion is formed quite yet...

Carl Candidate arrives to a final interview anxious to talk turkey about his compensation. Carl's approach to salary negotiations has been worn by the waters of experience and of course the online article he read just before he left for the interview. All signs point to patience and strategic placement of his volley back across the table. Wait for their offer and counter if need be. By the way, Carl's manhood would be questioned at this point by my tennis coach followed by his quick assignment to ball boy for the remainder of the practice.

A very important man shows up in a very important looking suit at a very important client site to pitch a very important deal. Let's just call him VP of VIT (Very Important Things for the slow learners). So our aggressive and confident VP begins his pitch on the in's and out's of his company and what they have to offer the client. He does such a tremendous job of researching the client and selling his resources the client cannot help but envision their union. No questions or patience, but an all out arsenal of intellect, research, and propositions. VP of VIT would be leading drills at tennis practice and nailing Carl with tennis balls when he wasn't looking.

The reality of it is though is Carl probably landed the job, and probably was content with the salary he got. Although, Carl may have been able to demand a higher salary had he staked his six figure claim early.

If the VP went in and asked question and dug deep into the pain point of the clients perhaps he could have better suited their needs. On the other hand, the VP may have realized from answers of his clients he was not the best suited company for the job and may have tried to close to deal anyway (face it, he's human) resulting in over promising.

I think with tennis, if you can gain the mental edge of confidence early on and follow it up with a high powered serve that rocks your opponent back on their heels, the point and more than likely the game, is yours. The match however, is not. It seems to me, our professional life parallels. There are times when aggression will win you the deal, but often times we don't find contentment and consistent success in our jobs until we grow to love both serving and receiving.

As far as Coach Beckham is concerned however, always SERVE first.