Leadership Lessons from Sports with Tanvir Bhangoo

Reading Time: 15 Minutes

In today’s podcast, we’re joined by Tanvir Bhangoo where we discuss his leadership framework, which he developed from lessons he learned on the football field.

After the Interview:

About Tanvir Bhangoo

Tanvir is a bestselling author, speaker, and team coach. Tanvir helps leaders worldwide build championship teams in disruptive and uncertain environments. His latest book teaches his leadership framework, which he developed from lessons he learned on the football field.

In Tanvir’s new book, you’ll learn the three stages of his game-changing framework starting with the end in mind: P: The Playoffs (optimize and gain momentum) R: The Regular Season (execute and implement) O: The Off-Season (assess and build)

Read the Transcript

Welcome back to the Deliberate Leaders podcast. I am your host and Executive Business Coach Allison Dunn. I am excited to introduce our guest today we have with us Tanvir Bhangoo. He is a best selling author, speaker and team coach was helped leaders worldwide to build championship teams. His latest book, The Pro Business Mindset, how to lead amid disruption and chaos, breaks down his unique leadership framework that has helped Tanvir win championships in the boardroom, based on what he has learned on the football field. Tanvir, thank you so much for joining us here today.

Pleasure being here. Thank you so much for having me. Allison.

Absolutely. Love to kick these off with a quick deliberate conversation. Tanvir, what would be your number one leadership tip for our listeners?

Be authentic? Yeah, thank you.

How do people be authentic?

I think we overcomplicate leadership. You know, something I’ve learned, again, on the football field that I’ve learned about from a coaches is, you know, they don’t hide things. They don’t they don’t sugarcoat things, they tell you how it is. But at the end of the day, they have your best interests in mind. Because he they’re trying to get the team to win. Great leaders in business that I’ve seen that I’ve reported to and something that I’ve been trying with my teams, is be authentic, in terms of be yourself. Be transparent, doesn’t mean you have all the answers. It’s okay to say, Listen, guys, I don’t know what’s going to happen. But as a leader, I’m going to do whatever I can to do the best that I can to get us out of this situation. Especially in the pandemic, for example. It’s not being afraid it’s not being it’s not telling people that you’re not afraid. So it’s okay to show fear. But instill confidence in your team at the same time. So it’s Be yourself. Be yourself. Don’t try to overcomplicate things.

I love that. Thank you attend here. These are not my questions, but I’m super curious. What position did you play on field? And who did you play for?

Great question. So I was 80 pounds bigger than what you see me today. So I was 295. I played nose tackle on the defensive line, and then played for university in Canada. McMaster University out of Hamilton, Ontario. And that was when he won the national championship back in 2011.

Congratulations, that’s thank you for sharing that. I know a lot of what you have written about kind of ties back to your experience from your football days. So it’s my first question is, so that your book the poor mindsets, and methodology? Can you explain exactly what that is?

Yeah. So in a football season, or any other sports you more or less, there are three seasons. There’s the offseason, when there’s no games, you are working out, you’re recruiting players, you’re getting bigger, you’re evaluating your team. And then the regular season, which is, as we all know, you know, the first day of the game start all the way to the playoffs is when you’re actually playing the games, you’re winning, you’re getting points, you’re losing games you’re learning. And then the third stage is the playoffs where right now NHL, for example, is in the playoffs and B is in the playoffs. the select few teams that do well get to know compete for the championship. That’s the p r o playoffs, regular season, the offseason, the methodology. So that’s something that I’ve that my coach would always say, you know, championships are one of the offseason is how well we prepared in our in our offseason that allowed us to wait in our fourth year. And the same thing I saw applied in business for me. So that is the methodology that is carried into the business world.

Okay, cool. I saw, I think I was doing some research. And you had this really great analogy about like, basically, during the game and then during the season and the correlation of the small mistakes versus big mistakes. So can you can you walk us through that? So

yes, yes, it’s actually called missed season failure versus a missed play failure. So I’m a big, you know, big, big supporter of trying and failing and learning quickly, especially in business. That’s how you get results. And it’s something in practice in football that you you realize is a lot of the great players a lot of a great teams, they make mistakes almost every single day. In practice in the games, you know, Tom Brady throws an interception, great players drop a catch, or they have a bad game. Those are called missed play failures. It’s okay to fail in those small plays. Because you learn from those using the you know what not to do you know whether or not what you’re trying, is it working or not. And this season failure is when you actually miss out on the entire season, a big failure and what argue is that the more that you try to do missed play failure. So the more you’re encouraging Miss play failures, the less likelihood of you to miss it missed or having a season failure. Because especially in business, for example, if you’re you got a big strategy of, let’s say, increasing sales by timberland and others, you’re going to have small goals that you’re going to implement every single day. It’s okay to fail on those quickly and learn from those. Those are misplay failures. And that’s going to allow you to then hopefully get a $10 million goal because now you know, what’s working, what’s not working, if you wait to execute, you’re never gonna get to 10 million and you never know what’s working or not. So that’s the differentiation there.

Okay, thanks for like making the connection to the topic. Because I think that that’s really important that it really is not a failure if you’re like working on improving, right, so that you don’t miss the game. Exactly. Could you so like, you know, obviously, one of the topics, you know, players change in the game of football. And so, you know, players change in the, you know, the game of business as well. So the topic or the concept of turnover is is clearly inevitable. Yeah. How how do you prepare, navigate and turn it into an opportunity to rethink about success.

So our coach would always say, it’s never a rebuild, it’s always a reload. So when, when you’re, let’s say, your team leaves, I’ll give you an example. My fourth year, we won the national championship, a lot of great players left. In our fifth year, despite the turnover, we went back to the national championship game, and we broke a record for the most consecutive wins. How do we do that, because our coaches never had to rebuild the team. We had great players that had been practicing, as youngsters who are ready to step up in the business exact same thing. Always be number one, building your pipeline, have great candidates ready to go. And number two, hire people who are adaptable, who can play multiple positions, because when somebody does leave, the biggest problem is that now you have a gap. If your team can step up, and close the gap, while you hire for the replacement, you’re gonna have a much easier time to handle the turnover, versus trying to find somebody with a two month window while there’s a gap in your in your company. So it’s about reloading, which is always starting with being adaptable and constantly recruiting 24/7.

What guidance would you give to organizations or when executives owners say that they don’t have anyone in the pipeline for the positions? Should something happen? Like, and they have the resistance of, you know, we’re not ready to bring that on? Like, how do you help them deal with that?

Yeah, it’s, I kind of fell into this because I have a lot of students that will reach out to me this for interviews and coffees and I always say yes, and I kid you not ever hired, I think three or four individuals, that from those coffee chats. You too, right? And he’s just saying yes to those, yes, those interviews, now, the students are going above and beyond they want, they want to get involved, which means kudos to them. As an executive, that’s the easiest way to recruit. Somebody’s coming to you introducing themselves. It’s not formal, you get to actually learn about the person, build your pipeline. And when you have a gap, you say, You know what I remember talking to this person, had guy can probably fill in the needs a bit of work, I’m happy to help train this person, or this, this girl that I talked, she’s really strong in analytics, maybe just need a little bit of coaching. Let’s bring them in. And let’s give them all the coaching we can. That’s how you recruit constantly. It say yes to the small interviews and small coffee chats. It’s by far the most positive ROI that I’ve seen on my time.

A 100% agree with you. And I feel like it’s a it’s a technique and a strategy that’s not used very often. So I’m with you on that.

Yeah. And from this, ya know, honestly, like, I’ve built a team of eight during my corporate years, in two months, and not a single time. Did we post a job online, it was all through people who reached out to us people that I knew people that some my professor knew someone. That’s how you hire, that’s how you get great people. So don’t just put out a job posting and expect to find the great people. It starts with leadership.

Fantastic. Thank you such a good tip. You say that those who focus on leadership and adaptability will not only not only let success turn into complacency, but it will win the post pandemic. So why do you say that?

So the nature of business today is is changing very fast. And this is the analogy from sports sports is changing constantly. There’s, you can go into with a great strategy but next thinking, you know, there’s a intersection of fumble and football, or your own goal, you saw your own goal in soccer and you’re down to nothing at halftime. Similar in, in business, right after the pandemic, there’s, you got the Amazons of the world now opening up pharmacies and subscription models and disrupting, you know, businesses. All you, all you’re going to be competing on now is not technology, it’s not going to be strategy is going to be adaptability. So if you have a team that is able to adapt and enter different markets, you will win. If not, you will least find a way to make something out of nothing, versus having a team that is set on a five year strategy that does not want to change. And I want to reimagine how they think those are the companies that are in trouble. So that’s what I mean, by being adaptable and reimagining where you’re headed.

I definitely would say that that resonates probably with anyone who’s listening, that, you know, we recognize businesses that weren’t able to shift and be adaptable during the pandemic just went away. They just they threw up their hands and gave up like, that’s not our model. We don’t do that. Right. Don’t work from home, we don’t do delivery, we don’t you know, whatever that thing is, how what’s what would be your tips on having people who might be resistant to being adaptable, learn how to flex that muscle.

I think the one thing that I always tell a lot of our clients and executives is look at the history when you have to reframe your mind. So look at the history of the past 2030 years. I’ll give the example of the Sony Walkman. Right, one decade is there the other decade, you got iTunes, Blockbuster, you’ve got all these other like, Okay, another cool finding is a Swiss watch. Industry is best interested in the world from watches, but they’re exporting half as many watches now, when compared to Apple disruptions happening there as well. So just reframing your mind, as you know, that says that, hey, everybody has had to change. Everybody’s had to shift their their business. And now that you are in this spot, you don’t want to be looking back 10 years and saying, Oh, crap, I wish we had shifted our minds. So one is to understand that nobody special, everybody has to change along with the times. The second thing is to actually look at where do you want to be as an individual in the next 510 years. And where is the external environment going. So for example, if you are, let’s say, let’s talk, let’s pick on accountants, if you’re a great accountant, we’ve got some friends, right. You’re a great accountant. And you know that you want to be working at this company, for the next 510 years. But you also know that there’s a lot of tasks that you are doing right now that are being duplicated by AI. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to say in 10 years, most of the stuff that you are doing 80% of that will become automated, which means as as an accountant, whether you like it or not, some of the low level tasks, you’re going to have to find a way to shift your focus to some higher level tasks, which means you got to perhaps look at some leadership training, maybe you need to look at a different company that can value your accounting skills in a different environment. Because whether it’s accounting, picking an accountant, and any any role that’s repetitive, will get automated. When you start to look at in that perspective. Now you’re like, Okay, what did this mean for me? Where can I flex my best skills in the future? Where will I be inimitable? What can I do that nobody else will copy? And what do I need to do in the next five years to get there so that I can have some sort of a skill set that is going to be in demand? So is basically looking at called The Future back end and the current forward plan. So you want to work forward and look back as well the same time? So reframe your mind? And look at where is the industry going? And hopefully, it’ll it’ll nudge you a little bit to change.

So those who are too focused on maybe not being long term are going to miss the adaptability for sure.

Yeah, we have and this is tough. Yes to wait, right. That happened with companies and with people because we are we’d love to keep our heads down. It’s hard with me when I’m on business, right? I love to just work, work, work. The next thing you know, things have changed. I never took a breather. It’s very important just like you know, sports to take some rest days, take a step back and look at what’s going on around us. Is the strategy still working? And we have to shift some stuff around. So take some time and look at look at where everything is going.

I love that tip and it’s almost teeing up my next question. So assuming like, you know, the rest taking the step back, getting your head up, you know, getting out of the weeds is a an applicable sports to leadership boardroom principle. What other principles are from the world of sports that you apply in business and in leadership?

Well, I apply, we talked about failure on this, that’s a good one. The one thing that allowed me to really make, I would say, turn things around quickly in complex environments, has been execution, and adjustments. Things don’t always go your way. And things, were not going to go your way, especially when you’re dealing with loss of technology, lots of people, lots of disruption, which means as a leader, you have to be able to block out the noise, I call it Put your headphones on, our coaches always say put your headphones on. It doesn’t matter what the score says, It doesn’t matter what the stands, people are seeing this focus on the task. So it’s about consistent execution. If you have a plan in place, and you’ve aligned on the key criteria that you have to deliver on, you aligned on the mitigation steps for potential risks. Now you have to execute on those items. How do you get the team to consistently put in the work every single day versus go and bite at the shiny toys we call it? So there’s a lot of challenges. Did you bite on the shiny toys? Yeah, by the shiny toys, right? Like it’s so true, especially when you’re not getting results. So in today’s world, it takes time to get results and there’s all these things for example, when I was losing weight, I lost 80 pounds first time I tried there was I saw this ad that said you know weight loss for athletes in 10 days another ad was like hey this amazing get shredded, get six pack abs. I kept biting at these things and actually gained weight because I wasn’t consistent. The next time I got consistent I will calorie deficit started doing intermittent fasting and stayed true to just lifting weights and we McArdle the week started coming off. It’s not rocket science. Same thing in your business house. Same thing in my business. Same thing in corporate environments, have a strategy, stay consistent, do not buy that the new technology they came up this new vendor that promises you this magic bullet, that stuff never works.

You it is hard to not get distracted or feeling like the fear of missing out right? Like if I don’t get on this bandwagon, like you know, I do this with tick tock. And they’re like, why don’t you do tick tock? And I’m like, because that’s such a just for me. It’s just a big distraction. And I’m not sure where to take it. But I’m sure I will regret it at some point for not going there. But I’m doing something else. You know what I mean? So yeah, good, good correlating principles. I super appreciate that. You, you’ve sort of made like a proclamation, the concept of that former pro athletes are choosing business consulting after retirement. Tell me more.

Yeah. So I think I am trying to be a voice for a lot of other little younger athletes who are graduating today, right? There’s a lot of great lot of great student athletes out there that just or professional athletes that I speak to highly talented, have all the great skill sets that say, Hey, you know, I didn’t have the experience. I never worked for five, six years after school because I was too busy playing in the CFL or had this professional career. And I feel like I’ve missed the train. I don’t have this experience. So I’m not sure where to start. So a lot of former athletes get down on themselves after because it’s almost losing their identity, what they were doing for 3030 years, right. So what I’m trying to do is just just, you know, help tell the athletes and look, I had no experience when I started in a technology role. At the third largest restaurant company in the world, I had zero Tech experience. But I had skills that I learned on the football field, which is how do you deal with conflict? How do you push through failures? How do you make sure that you’re working together as a team? And that stuff allowed me to figure stuff out as well. So if I can do it, so can everybody else. So think I’m trying to just be a positive message out there for athletes, whether it’s consulting, whether it’s technology, whether it’s sales, there is life after sports, and it’s fun. So, yeah,

for sure. Okay. Thank you. Your book, the pro business mindset, what what is it about and who did you write it?

It is about reading and disruptive times. So I, at the end of 2020, I realized that a lot of a lot of the way that I was leading, I kind of took a breather after the pandemic and I said, Well, what was it what was consistent across all of my my roles that I did? And the consistent and the thread was principles from sports, started a podcast to interviewing former athletes who were executives. And I said, Well, I gotta write a book on this because I need to share this with other leaders whether or not they like sports, whether or not they played sports. These are principles that you can apply leadership today, especially as things get more disruptive. So the book is for leaders out there. I think I dedicated it to leaders who are playing for something more than a paycheck, who actually care and want to make a difference. It’s how do you stay motivated and consistent when there’s chaos all around us? And there’s analogies to sports. So just a playbook that you can apply to making some big plays in business.

Okay, fantastic. Do you have your favorite play in your playbook that you’re willing to share something that maybe we haven’t already touched on today?

My favorite play, you know, what is actually an introduction. It was actually an introduction. And I share a story where when I was six years old, and my parents took me and my two younger sisters to India. For five years, my dad wanted to go back. So I did my grades one to six or five there. I came back in grade seven to back to Toronto, was 11, or almost 12. And I had a hard time fitting in I was I had a growth spurt I wasn’t able to play sports. My grades went from like 90s to like 60s, it was just a big culture shock for me. And long story short, I started playing tackle football. A seasoned leader, that one of the coaches brought me aside on the sidelines and said, hey, 10 beer, and I was thought I was in trouble. He brought me to the sidelines. He said, Well, I just want you to take a walk with me. I said, Okay, sure. I’ll come walk with you. He said, Do you remember when you started playing football? You weren’t that good. I was like, yes. He’s like, look at you now. Never stopped improving. Good job, gave me a pat on my shoulder, and told me to go find my mom in the parking lot. That is a message that has grown with me every single year. And that’s what I say in the book is that it’s all about leadership. It starts with you as a leader. So the impact you have on your people to you, it doesn’t seem as much to that coach. I don’t even think he remembers doing that. But for me, it got my confidence back and that’s what allowed me to build you know, the trajectory I was on personally and professionally today.

Yeah, such a good tie back. You actually gave me goosebumps because I feel like I have a story similar to that of just someone who just said the right thing at the right time to make me realize I hadn’t you know, improved, right. Yeah. Awesome. Tim beer, what is the best way for listeners to connect and or follow via

LinkedIn is great. Please follow me there. Connect with me there. You can also visit my website, https://tanvirbhangoo.com

Okay, fantastic. It has been a pleasure speaking with you today. Thank you very much for joining us here.

Thank you for being such a great host Allison. Pleasure to be here.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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