A colleague recently did a really good job in helping me with some difficulties around a particular project we were both involved in. His efforts meant that things eventually worked out well for both of us. It left me with a feeling of gratitude and connectedness. With these warm feelings informing my words, I sent him a sincere message of thanks. His reply was a brief, ‘no worries bud’.
All of us have given up on a project, bailed on a relationship, quit something that was not working. I’m all for not flogging a dead horse, but something happened last evening that got me thinking about this a bit more. After a few very cold and rainy Cape Town winter days, the clouds parted and the sun popped it’s head out, offering me a small gap to run a Hout Bay mountain trail.
During three previous professional assignments, I found myself being highly frustrated as I tried, woefully unsuccessfully, to manage a uniquely destructive individual. Each was highly successful, well respected in their field and admired by many (except the few who worked closely with them). They were also uniquely manipulative and destructive. Eventually the environment around them became untenable, soul destroying and often impossible for others to survive in.
Rajasthan Royals beat Chennai Super Kings two days ago to progress to their first ever Champions League T20 cricket final, scheduled for tonight. On that same semi-final night the Royals demonstrated something quite extraordinary, something that had me unexpectedly choked up with emotion when I spoke about it at the following day’s team meeting.
When I addressed the Indian cricket team for the first time (in 2008), I started by explaining that I did not see them as ‘cricketers’, but as human beings, each with many facets. Being a talented cricketer is only a part of who they are. They may also be someone’s brother, son, friend, parent or partner, and each is a unique emotional, intellectual and spiritual being. I reminded them that they were born with their talent, call it God-given, which is not an achievement but a blessing. The achievement comes when they tirelessly study, train and practice to develop that talent.
Eighty percent of people who voluntarily resign from their jobs cite their manager as one of the main reasons for doing so. They move on in search of a more attractive opportunity or better working environment. Professional cricketers are selected into their position and thus are not so lucky if they have a lousy ‘boss’, they can’t leave and go to another team. Conversely, most people who are happy in their team or workplace are likely to have a coach, captain or boss they respect and who is a likeable person. After all, the leader sets the tone for most performance environments.
The past week or so has found me pondering the disappointment of the Proteas’ early exit from the recent World T20 Tournament. I hazard a guess that most other players and coaches (and fans) may have been doing similarly. Losing three out of three super eight games and bowing out before the semi-final stage was a far cry from what the team had planned for. As I sat in my lounge in Cape Town watching the winning West Indian team dancing that captivating Caribbean jig, it occurred to me that there were 14 other teams who also went home losers – or at least, not as tournament winners. That’s a whole lot of losing.
As cricket advances into the entertainment industry, so the limelight shines more brightly on the entertainers. Cricketers today enjoy more money, more glitz, more glamour and more exposure than ever before. It’s fun, but are they sufficiently prepared for what may lurk in the shadows of this limelight?
In pre-game team talks, Australians in our team explained how to bowl to or bat against fellow Australian team mates playing in opposing IPL teams. South Africans would compare some of their countries strategies and tactics with Indians, New Zealanders, Poms and Bangladeshis. Players freely shared their secrets, sometimes teaching an IPL team mate how to add a switch hit or slower ball leg-break to their game. Compatriots today, they will be fierce competitors on the international stage tomorrow.
My current work in professional sport was kick-started when the results of my 2004 Masters Thesis* showed that the coaching methods employed by South African provincial and national cricket coaches between 1991-2004 did not measure up to players ideal, and that they remained behind more up-to-date leadership and performance approaches being employed in business. Evidence suggested the same applied throughout the cricket world. It presented a wonderful opportunity!
Mike Horn is one of the most remarkable, inspiring, mentally (and physically) tough men on the planet. Called ‘explorer of the century’, ‘greatest ever adventurer’ and ‘the toughest man alive’, Mikes dreams dreams so big they scare him, then he sets off to accomplish them. Amongst his plenty solo adventures, he took 6months to swim 7000km from source to mouth of the Amazon, he circumnavigated the 40000km of equator without motorised transport in 17months, took 27 months to circumnavigate 20000km of the Arctic Circle without motorised transport, walked to the North Pole in 61 days of total darkness of mid-winter, skied to the South Pole and has climbed several 8000+ mountains without oxygen. Equally significantly, he is an authentic all-round good guy.
Defending the old school, it does have a place in sport (and business), but significantly less place than it currently occupies. Using telling as the dominant approach works best, a) at the beginning stages of a new team, b) when a new task or skill is being introduced, c) when there is lasting confusion, and d) in other specific situations that I can’t think of as I sit on this flight from Pune to Delhi.