Viewing Bench Strength as a Competitive Advantage
Updated: Jul 27, 2022
I sat on the varsity girls’ basketball team when I was a freshman in high school. I mean, sat – on the bench. I never saw much playing time because I was young and inexperienced. We had much better players.
I’ll never forget the first time I was put into a game. Our team had an enormous lead. Coach thought she would go ahead and give me a chance to gain some experience. There I was, playing point guard. My nerves were through the roof. “But I can’t mess this up, it’ll be OK,” I kept repeating to myself.
That was until I missed not only one – but TWO – wide-open layups. Seriously, a simple layup was something I had been practicing since I was 7 years old. There was not a single defender in sight, except my own insecurities.
Coach knew I was embarrassed and feeling completely defeated. She took me out the game, patted my shoulder and smiled at me as I sat back down on the bench.
With tears in my eyes I looked at her and shook my head. I knew I could do better.
“Molly, that was the whole point. I don’t care that you missed. I care more that you tried.”
Fast forward three years later when I was a senior for that same team. I was no longer on the bench. I was on the starting five as a shooting guard and was also picked as captain of the team. That year, they wrote about me in the local newspaper when I had a stellar game against a long-standing rival, and I received honorable mention for the all-district awards – something I never ever dreamed could happen.
To this day, I still think about that freshman year game when I missed the two wide-open layups – how it prepared me, how it changed me, how it actually helped our future team.
I tell this story because it seems relevant from a business perspective to keep this kind of “bench strength” strategy in mind. During this incredibly difficult time, the risk of only focusing on the current dynamics and players must be tempting, especially if your team is struggling and you are missing shot after shot.
But only planning for short-term results is shortsighted, at best. At worst, it could create a vicious cycle that's difficult to break when the market improves and your people have moved on with it.
My hope is for organizations to somehow maintain a focus on developing their people for the long-term. In my opinion, progressive organizations see succession planning, learning & development and organizational effectiveness as a competitive advantage that drives business results.
Next time you consider your competitive advantages, consider this:
Is your next best player on your bench?