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Be Adaptable like a Wimbledon Tennis Player

Be Adaptable like a Wimbledon Tennis Player

I will start this blog post with an example of how I am adaptable: the Comcast/ESPN2 video/audio quality in the Denver market is absolutely “unwatchable”. I have tweets out to both the #Comcast and #ESPN hashtags, and I’ve received no responses yet. Perhaps they should invest in Mantis Pulse Analytics for better social media monitoring, sentiment analysis and engagement! :) Meanwhile, I have adapted by watching ESPN online – thanks for offering that alternative, folks!

So, how does a Wimbledon tennis player adapt – and how can we apply this knowledge in both leadership and social media?

From Clay to Grass

Within a 2-week timeframe, professional tennis players have to go from the slowest court surface (clay) to the fastest court surface (grass). American players get the least exposure to both of these surfaces, since they play on hard courts most of the time, so they have the steepest curve to adapt and be competitive.


Leaders constantly have to adapt to market conditions, budget constraints, and resource availability. Consultants have to adapt to company cultures between engagements. They may go from a very large and methodical organization to a small, agile organization where lines of responsibility are blurred because everyone chips in to achieve a common goal.

Social Media

Social media business users may blog, contribute to LinkedIn discussions, curate content on Facebook/Google+/Pinterest, and then participate in Twitter chats. Each platform moves at its own pace – from a possible weekly editorial calendar on the blog to rapid-fire interaction on a Twitter Chat. Adapt to the pace of the social platform!

Bad Bounces

Wimbledon is played on grass, and grass is a natural surface. As the tournament progresses, the grass gets more dry and worn in areas. The resultant “bad bounces” are almost comical in some cases, and frustrations can escalate as players swear the court itself is conspiring against their success!


What if your budget gets cut? What if a key resource decides to go work for your competitor at a crucial time in the project? What if key resources experience life-changing events that derail their productivity? These are the bad bounces that leaders encounter every day. Great leaders overcome these bad bounces with ingenuity, innovation and integrity. They compose themselves and their team, and then they adapt to the new conditions. They do not point fingers or question their own capabilities to succeed.

Social Media

Perhaps someone goes after your brand on a review site or even your own Facebook fan page. Maybe someone enters a comment on your blog post with a strong contrarian viewpoint. Bad bounces happen. It is what happens next that determines your success or failure. Compose yourself. Walk away from the computer if you need to settle your emotions. Just like great tennis players do not take their frustrations out on the next shot, do not take out your immediate frustrations on the keyboard with a quick retort! When you are ready to “resume play”, adapt and respond to all bad bounces with courtesy and competence.

Rain Delays

Wimbledon is subject to more rain delays than any of the other tennis grand slams. The delay can be an absolute momentum-breaker, and it can test the nerves of even the most seasoned veterans.


If you’ve been a professional for long, you are accustomed to the “hurry up and wait” conditions in most organizations. You are assigned a project that is behind schedule from the first day, and then you are told you cannot start until the budget is approved. And that key subject matter expert still hasn’t provided the business requirements!!

Do NOT lose your nerve! Go through all of your pre-project preparations, and look for non-dependent tasks you can complete before budget/requirements approval. You may have to give up resource time to other projects while still keeping them engaged and excited about your project. Adapt to the changing timelines and project constraints!

Social Media

Perhaps your company assigned you to create a Facebook Fan Page right before Facebook implemented the Timeline feature. Maybe you were told to create a corporate blog, and you discovered there were multiple blogging platforms. You get the blog all setup with a great theme supporting your corporate brand — and your content creators have yet to step up to the plate with compelling content.

Again, do not lose your nerve! You do not want to rush back out on the court after the rain, and risk injury, before the courts properly dry. You do not want to go barreling forward with a social strategy without all the proper pieces in place. You run the risk of injuring your name brand and your online credibility. Adapt to the new information! Take your time and research blogging platforms. Get a significant backlog of quality blog posts queued up before announcing the blog to the public. Be efficient with resources and do a job once (thus you would have developed to the Timeline features rather than develop for two substantially different user experiences). Keep your momentum going in a positive direction!

What has been your greatest challenge when adapting your social media strategy or leadership style to ever-changing conditions?

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Brian Vickery

I love my Vickery Girls - and grandsons! My career has blessed me to the point I was able to start a new consultancy in 2018: Analytic Integrity. I look to provide analytic experience, and business integrity, to an Analytics world while helping data-driven organizations mature. I enjoy teaching and coaching, watching football and basketball, and playing tennis. I graduated UT-Austin.

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  1. Very nice analogy of Wimbledon and adaptability. I especially enjoyed the Bad Bounce and social media. I like to compose myself before answering a negative comment online. I have found it gives me a better perspective by walking away for a little bit and I can give a more thoughtful answer.

    • Walking away is definitely a wise option vs firing that quick salvo based upon emotion!

  2. Once again you got me! LOVE the bad bounces analogy.

    • Thanks, Janice. I’ve definitely seen the need to adapt to all three in the business world. Since I’ve been a consultant for many years, the change in pace between client cultures can be outright shocking.

      We’ve all dealt with the bad bounces and delays, also. Our level of adaptability determines both our success and our continued sanity!