As a whole, tennis and consulting really don’t appear to have all that much in common. Tennis is a game played in singles or pairs and is about outsmarting and outmanoeuvring your opponents. As a consultant I’ve usually worked in teams of more than two people and I’ve looked to collaborate with and enable others as opposed to defeat them. My recent experience at Wimbledon got me thinking about tennis, consulting and the organisation of the tournament in general. So I’ve set myself a challenge of finding as many tennis-consulting analogies as I can and stringing them together in this blog, get your bingo cards out!
It’s not every day that you get to wake up at 4:30am to join a five hour queue alongside thousands of people all with the same goal, to get Wimbledon tickets; it’s always good to take a day off work for the things you enjoy! Wimbledon’s queue is world renowned being one of very few Championships offering spectators on the day ticket sales.
Last Thursday was my first Wimbledon queue experience and despite the British skies flirting with the idea of a down pour, the weather held out and the five hours were really rather pleasant! There was plenty of time for pensive thinking and one of my thoughts went to how the queue was ran with military precision, it’s every movement was choreographed by an army of staff to ensure it was as smooth as possible. This got me thinking about Wimbledon and consulting, there seemed to be so many similarities. Bear with me, let me explain…
If the Wimbledon staff are the consultants and spectators the client, Wimbledon would be one of the best consultancies out there. It was evident that the organisers had identified their stakeholders and fully understood each of their needs and requirements. They knew the problems the spectators might face and consequently supplied plenty of amenities to keep us queuers happy. However, most importantly of all was that there were plenty of staff who were happy to collaborate with you and offer their advice for the day ahead.
As the clock approached 11am we began our walk into the Wimbledon grounds, guided by the Wimbledon choreographers. We adapted to this change well as it was managed excellently with things to keep us engaged along the journey, these included a free shot of coffee, some Robinson’s squash and even our own chance at being a tennis player (with a giant tennis ball, that enabled those of us that are less dextrous to show off our potential for hand-eye coordination)!
We were finally in and the atmosphere was amazing, well worth the journey. So far I’ve spoken about how the Wimbledon organisers have made their client clearly very happy given that they continue to come back after an astounding 139 years. So, what about the tennis game itself, are there similarities between the game and consulting? We were watching Dustin ‘Dreddy’ Brown and partner Struff in their men’s doubles match. Like tennis, you are never going to win over a client with your first ace serve. You have to invest time and work hard in order to achieve the successes that both you and the client want. In tennis you will be analysing the other side to spot any opportunities you could build on, just like consulting, however, the big difference being that you want to work with them to help make the necessary changes to allow for greater success. This is inevitably achieved through openness, trust and a lot of back and forth (I’ve squeezed in my rally analogy for those of you playing bingo).
By Abbie Dorling – LinkedIn