Five years ago, I was at the Young Presidents’ Organization’s Global Leadership Conference in Istanbul, sitting in a large auditorium with 2,000 CEOs from around the world. As part of the two days of learning, Rick Tamlyn, whose work inspires people to be their best, introduced the audience to The Bigger Game — a tool he co-created which inspires people to get out of their comfort zones and invent the lives they want.
Exposing my clients to this tool individually, and as teams, has helped loosen their grip on the familiar. While there are situations where practical goals can be useful, oversteering on targets they are certain they can achieve (driven by a fear of coming up short) leads to short-term orientations and unfulfilling busyness. Companies trapped in “business as usual” can remain productive for a while, but eventually operate themselves into decline.
Working through The Bigger Game framework has helped my clients design ambitious strategies to cope, and produce new, never before seen outcomes in ever more competitive marketplaces. Their work becomes more exciting, fulfilling, and challenging, while growing capabilities that make the organization a more powerful instrument of service to its customers.
Rick’s Bigger Game framework involves nine categories. For each one, I will share a few prompts, along with an example of contrasting ordinary and extraordinary responses. Let’s dive in!
Invoking The Bigger Game
Hunger | What do you truly want? What do you want to be known for? What would you strive for if you had no fear of failing?
In order to find deeper meaning in your work, and to have the courage to experience the adventure that comes with bigger goals, you have to look deep inside yourself to find something you feel called to — a quest. Stay with this question until you unearth a compelling, deeply personal hunger.
Ordinary – After a mediocre prior year, I want to hit my quota and make Presidents Club.
Extraordinary – I want to become a trusted advisor to existing and potential customers in my territory; the key resource that decision makers count on to surface ideas which can improve their business outcomes.
Purpose | Why do you want this? Why does it inspire and drive you?
While your hunger is about being honest about what you really want, purpose is why you want it. Unearthing a deeper purpose — what is the world hungry for that you can provide — and reconnecting with it regularly is required to fuel new daily choices.
Ordinary – I want to be recognized for my hard work and abilities by management and my peers.
Extraordinary – There are too many choices for decision makers to keep up with. I want to help them separate the signal from the noise, so they can make wiser decisions to improve their business outcomes.
Gulp | What don’t you know how to do, that you need to learn? What bold moves will your Bigger Game require that scares you?
If you already know how to achieve your hunger, it’s not a Bigger Game. Whether leading yourself or your organization, a leader’s job is to focus on things you don’t know how to do. Acting when we you are excited, but simultaneously fearful, is how you grow.
Ordinary – I need to become more knowledgeable about our product so I can be more successful selling it.
Extraordinary – I need to invest time every week learning and building my capabilities to more meaningfully contribute to my client’s success.
Comfort Zones | What habits will not serve your Bigger Game?
We all fall back into behaviors that feel familiar and comfortable. Playing your Bigger Game means recognizing and breaking out of habitual patterns that are holding you back.
Ordinary – I need to get more organized so I can improve my follow up and my internal communication and working relationship with the implementation team.
Extraordinary – I’ve been playing it safe. I recognize how little time is actually spent every day in direct conversation with decisionmakers. How can I know their most pressing problems if I’m not spending hours every week in discussions? I need to get improve my ability to secure meetings.
Investments | How do you need to invest in yourself (the player) and the game to make it real?
As alluded to earlier, playing a Bigger Game means recognizing that you, as a player, must build new capabilities outside your comfort zone. This section is about defining what you will need to learn in order to grow. It might also inform new expertise you need to hire.
Ordinary – I need to get more comfortable using Hubspot and LinkedIn.
Extraordinary – I need to interview customers to find out their most pressing challenges, so I can focus my learning effort. I also need to study the approaches of other trusted advisors who are more successful than I am in securing conversations with new potential customers.
Allies (Co-Players) | Who do you need to help you, and what kind of help do you need?
Becoming the player who changes the world from what it is today to what it could be, invariably means striving for something you can’t do yourself. Who are the advisors and co-players you must recruit to challenge and support you and your game?
Ordinary – My manager, teammates, and former teammates.
Extraordinary – I have selected two thought-leading customers to guide my learning plan for earning trusted advisor state. I’m also going to ask a former competitor with superior skills to be my accountability buddy. Finally, I’m going to invest in a course to improve my strategic influence, so I can craft messages that get attention.
Assess | How are you doing? What adjustments do you need to make?
It’s not a game if you aren’t keeping score. A scorecard helps you assess if you are keeping your attention in the right place: Are you staying hungry? Are you doing enough? What adjustments are needed? Make time every week to review your effectiveness in pivoting to a Bigger Game versus falling back into the comfort of your smaller one.
Ordinary – I’m going to track my activities and funnel in HubSpot.
Extraordinary – I’m going to read five new articles that forward-thinking customers would be reading each week. I’m going to spend two hours every week attempting to design new, more compelling offers that grab people’s attention and help me get more meetings. Every Friday, I’ll see if I met these goals, and block time to make up for any shortfalls in the coming week.
Sustainability | What do you need to do to take care of yourself so you don’t burn out?
Your Bigger Game will require more energy, time, and commitment than your old routine. In nurturing the energy required to reach higher ground, you must establish boundaries to take care of yourself and the people important to you. What do you need to start doing, continue doing, or stop doing?
Ordinary – I’m going to start working out and attending network events.
Extraordinary – I’m going to start my days with workouts to get me energized. I’m going to read something inspirational every morning for 20 minutes before looking at email to keep me connected to my hunger. I’m going to stop distracting myself with busywork that keeps me from doing my most important work.
Bold Actions | What inspired actions, for the next week, will advance your Bigger Game?
Without making the leap to bold actions outside your comfort zone, your Bigger Game is just a conversation. Bigger Games call for bold actions. Where can you play bigger, bolder, more fiercely?
Ordinary – I’m going to do some follow up on LinkedIn and learn to use HubSpot.
Extraordinary – I’m going to reach out and secure commitments from the allies I’ve identified, register for a course to improve my strategic influence, and block time in my calendar for new behaviors I’ll measure weekly.
Choosing to play the Bigger Game shifts a team’s perspective from relying on ordinary goals, to stepping outside their comfort zones and daring to aspire to greater possibilities. It puts everyone’s collective attention on who they want to become while acknowledging their fears and limitations.
Instead of ducking what they are called to do, playing the Bigger Game as a team invites everyone to identify and openly push the edge of their capabilities. In growing through the inevitable obstacles and setbacks, the Bigger Game enables teams to go beyond settling for the ordinary. Perhaps the greatest gift, is the improved players they become as a result of producing something extraordinary, together.