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The 2020 Olympics and Corporate Twisties

This Sunday is the conclusion of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.  The name is confusing as it reflects the original date of the games which were postponed for a year due to the pandemic.  The media coverage for the event is filled with great human interest stories about sibling medal winners, country’s first medal, political asylum and the twisties. 

This year, Simone Biles, the captain of the USA Women’s’ Gymnastic team, withdrew unexpectedly from the all-around competition after experiencing a severe case of the twisties.  Twisties was a new word for many outside the field of gymnastics.  Simone described twisties as a strange, weird feeling where she could not tell up from down and was unable to safely complete her gymnastic routine.  The disorientation is frequently caused by stress and severely impairs the ability to perform.  Simone said at one point she couldn’t even explain how she landed on her feet.   Awful.  And very dangerous if one is twisting, spinning and flipping ten feet up in the air.

With great reluctance, Simone withdrew from the all-around competition where she was a favorite for a gold medal.  Another member of the US team, Suni Lee, stepped in and even won a gold medal in the all-around, with Simone cheering from the stands. Simone later returned to perform in the balance beam competition and won a bronze medal.   Go team USA!  

It’s a heartfelt story of the pressures of competition, the unforeseen strains that can impact leaders and the benefits of having a strong enough team and deep enough bench that others can step up in unfortunate circumstances.

What about in business?  What if your CEO gets a case of the corporate twisties and cannot perform?  It’s not just a hypothetical question after the stressful time many executives have experienced in the past year.  Does your management team have a broad enough bench to compete?  Who has a handle on the skills needed by the next generation of leaders at your company?

Planning and Key Competencies

Succession planning is the practice of grooming executives for new roles and managing a leadership change for a smooth transition.  But in some cases, replacement planning becomes necessary due to the sudden, unexpected loss of a valuable team member (maybe due to corporate twisties).  In that case, one question is whether the role should be filled by a current team member or outsider. 

For replacement planning, having a keen understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of team members can help identify suitable candidates.  Understanding the skill sets today of your company’s next generation of leaders (before the corporate twisties strike) is also helpful in making good human capital decisions for what will be needed by your company going forward.  For example, many companies successfully navigated the pandemic which required skills like cash flow forecasting, liquidity management, employee empathy, experience with customers to understand and react to the evolving environment, and alternative financing strategies.

The needs of companies going forward may be different than what got them through the pandemic.  Here are some corporate key competencies to consider when one leader gets the corporate twisties: 

  • Digital transformation strategy and implementation
  • ESG reporting and strategy
  • Accessing capital 
  • Opportunistic M&A
  • Innovation and Sustainability
  • Supply chain refinement
  • Emotional intelligence and empathy
  • Recruiting and retaining human capital

The ARC Report is HERE

The ARC List is here LIST.

This is just the tip of the iceberg!

Steven Strom

Steven Strom

Managing Director, Odinbrook Global Advisors

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