Strategy in Chess and Business

By Jill Valdez, Founder and COO of Link Consulting

‘There sits on my shelf a beautiful wooden chess set. The box has some nicks on it, a couple of pieces are missing the felt bottom. But there it is for all who visit to see.  “Why would it be out on display?” you may ask.  It sits there because of the sentimental value.  It once belonged to my husband’s father, and it holds memories of a precious relationship solidified by many years of playing chess together.  My husband remembers with great fondness the patience his father showed when teaching him the game.  And he remembers with great pride the first time he legitimately beat his father.  There were conversations that took place over a game of chess that might have been missed otherwise.  Words of wisdom and encouragement, gratitude and love, were exchanged over that board.  So of course, this old chess set sits on display!

Sadly, this old chess set does not get used as much as it used to.  My husband has tried to teach me the game, and I simply flounder.  I know what all the pieces are, I know the rules of the game, but he beats me every time!  And it’s not because I’m not interested – chess is fascinating to me and I could watch people play for hours!  When “The Queen’s Gambit” came out on Netflix, I was jealous of her skill and ability to master this game.  I’m an intelligent person, but there seems to be a block in my brain when I start to play chess.

This is the same type of block that happens for many of my clients when they are trying to solve the puzzle of how to meet business goals.  In chess, a player – as my husband has told me- has moves already created in their mind.  If their opponent moves a piece in a certain spot, the player already knows what move they will make to counteract it.  The flaw of this thinking for business owners and managers is that they continue to make the same move, regardless of the outcome.  They don’t always assess the situation for new opportunities and adapt their next steps accordingly.  It’s like a player who only uses one chess piece and then plunges to a rapid loss because they don’t know what to do when they lose that piece.

Despite my failings at chess, I am very good at business strategy, with a twist.  Just as a master chess player can assess a board and think 6 steps ahead to a victory, I can look at a business and assess what the obstacles are and provide a strategy to overcome those obstacles resulting in new opportunities. But I’m not looking at marketing or processes or any of those classic fundamentals.  My focus is on what is actually happening when the people are working.

As a chess player does, I’m looking at the pieces that make up the organization.  I’m looking at roles, and the people who occupy those roles.  I’m looking at how they interplay with each other.  I look at management that is moving those pieces around.  The question that is asked, “Is the right person in the right role?”.  In other words, is the Knight where it needs to be to guard the Queen?  Is the Pawn out of the way so that the Bishop can attack?

My clients get the opportunity to reset the board.  I remind them of what pieces they need, what the characteristics of those pieces are, and how to best activate them for a victory.  People who work with me are taught how to best interact with each other, and to lead a team with minimal politics, minimal confusion, high morale, and low turnover.  They are given the strategy to motivate their employees to be their best in order for the company to win.

As exhilarating as it is for a chess player to implement their best strategy for a victory, I get the same rush when working with business owners and managers to improve company culture, teaching staff how to best communicate with each other and their clients, directing managers to effective hires, and so much more.  Just as a chess player loves setting up the board for a new game against a worthy opponent, I love teach strategies that will develop employees from average to amazing, bringing more certainty to the future, without service disruption.

All this talk of chess has inspired me to give it another go.  Perhaps this time I might be able to break the mental block and actually present a challenge to my husband?  And I hope you are inspired to learn more how to get your amazing team members in place!  Email me at jvaldez@linkconsulting.info to learn tips you can start today.

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