A different sort of quadrennial competition for the top spot is into the final round now – the US Presidential Election – with the nominee Debates starting tonight. This particular election has culminated a decades long trend of increasing acrimony and divisiveness.
As the bitterness and mud-slinging was well-documented to have started on the Republican side (eg. Nixon’s Southern Strategy), it is inspiring to hear a Conservative make the appeal for more civility and collaboration with Arthur Brooks TED talk, “A conservative’s plea: Let’s work together”…
- “Action item number one: remember, it’s not good enough just to tolerate people who disagree. It’s not good enough. We have to remember that we need people who disagree with us, because there are people who need all of us who are still waiting for these tools…Number two: I’m asking you and I’m asking me to be the person specifically who blurs the lines, who is ambiguous, who is hard to classify. If you’re a conservative, be the conservative who is always going on about poverty and the moral obligation to be a warrior for the poor. And if you’re a liberal, be a liberal who is always talking about the beauty of free markets to solve our problems when we use them responsibly.”
It is tempting to want to block our Friends and Followers who sit on a different side of the political spectrum, but actually, I learn more from my contrarians than I do from memes which reflect how I already feel. Posts rom the other side of the issue make me re-examine the principles and evidence behind my personal stance. It forces me to understand where that person is coming from to identify common-ground and bridges to compromise.
Two of the heroes of the Olympics demonstrated what humility is all about at the conclusion of the Triathlon World Series in Mexico this week. With brother Jonny I the lead when he succumbed to near collapse, his brother Alistair, in second position, came to his aid. Jonny recounted in a great BBC Interview…
- “’Alistair had the chance to win but threw that away to help me out,’ said Jonny, who led the race until temperatures of 33C got the better of him around 1.5km from the end. ‘I’ll be thankful for the rest of my life. Obviously it takes a very strong and good person to do that. Sometimes in sport we talk about winning being the most important thing in the world. A lot of times it is, but maybe helping a brother out was more important.’"
Olympics season concludes for another year, but not without a packed legacy of inspiration and riveting moments. One that will make the highlight films for years was Marcia Malsar’s torch carrying. One of the most moving moments since Muhammad Ali’s entry in Atlanta. Adam Hill said it best on The Last Leg in his inimitably cheeky yet heartfelt way…
- “For me that sums up the Paralympic spirit because it is a reminder that every single elite athlete here is also fragile. It’s like a mix of heroism and humility. What I love the most is that the next runner didn’t go up and say ‘it’s okay, I’ve got this’. Though part of that is that the next runner was blind and so didn’t see what happened.”
Sort of the embodiment of this blog. Rise each time you fall. And balance heroism (leadership) with humility (management).
The Olympics season wraps up this weekend with another record haul of gold medals for Great Britain the stupendous Paralympics Games in Rio. Already the TV shows a packed with interviewed quizzing the athletes on the secrets to their success. And a recurring (albeit underlying) theme will be …Leadership and Management.
A fine illustration of the role Leadership and Management plays comes from Mike Pegg, himself a professional coach. Mike often starts his coaching engagements with exploring the “Picture of Perfection”, but I particularly appreciate his story of Peter Vidmar (“5 Tips for Enabling Peak Performance in the Workplace Using Proven Olympic Coaching Technique”), 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist, who articulated the path to perfection in his world…
- “Looking back at how his event was scored in those days, he describes the steps people took to score the Perfect 10, which was first achieved by Nadia Comaneci in Montreal. Firstly, they must achieve the Olympic standard of technical competence. This often took years of dedication and would give them the 9.4. They could then add 0.2 by taking a risk; 0.2 by demonstrating originality – something that had never been done before; and 0.2 by showing virtuosity – flair. Such a brilliant performance would produce the Perfect 10 and, hopefully, the Olympic Gold.”
I like this numerical model because of how much weight it puts on “Management”. I have often decried people who dismiss “Management” in favour of “Leadership” obsession. I think this model appropriate frames Malcolm Gladwell’s famous “10,000 Hours”. Yes (barring some prodigy-like outlier bestowal of assets), 10,000 hours might be required for world-class excellence, but it is not a guarantee of ultimate success to dreams of medals, championships, fame and fortune. Instead it is the table-stakes entry-fee for having a shot at the big prize.
But this model doesn’t trivialise “Leadership”. The difference between an Olympic athlete with and without “Leadership” (ie. the 0.6 points) is the difference between medalling and obscurity. The other element I appreciate about this piece is that the “0.2” for “Risk” could also be re-dubbed “Luck”.
Leaders find the 0.6 of original, risk-taking virtuosity, Managers secure the 9.4 standard of excellence.
The Paralympics is featuring lots of intriguing and enlightening back stories about these diverse and talent athletes competing there. But few profiles will be quite at entertaining to Maysoon Zayid’s own life with disability in the “Oppression Olympics”…
- “If there was an Oppression Olympics, I would win the gold medal. I’m Palestinian, Muslim, I’m female, I’m disabled, and I live in New Jersey.”
- “And I don’t want anyone in this room to feel bad for me, because at some point in your life, you have dreamt of being disabled. Come on a journey with me. It’s Christmas Eve, you’re at the mall, you’re driving around in circles looking for parking, and what do you see? Sixteen empty handicapped spaces.”
Tonight kicks off the world’s biggest celebration of transforming adversity into triumph – 2016 Paralympic Games. To set the tone, if you haven’t seen the promo video by the UK broadcaster, Channel 4, then sit tight and get ready for a great ride.
Happy Birthday Google. Seventeen years ago Google started transforming our personal and professional lives with not just their search technology, but a whole alphabet soup of innovations. Start-ups no longer want to be the “next Microsoft”, they now want to be the “next Google.” This TED talk by Astro Teller provides an intriguing peak into this post-millennial success story especially for the powerful role that failure plays in its culture.
- “I have a secret for you. The ‘moon shot factory’ is a messy place. But rather than avoid the mess – pretend it’s not there – we tried to make that our strength. We spend most of our time breaking things. Trying to prove that we are wrong…Get excited and cheer ‘Hey, how are we going to kill our project today?’”
- “Enthusiastic skepticism is not the enemy of boundless optimism. It’s optimism’s perfect partner it unlocks the potential in every idea.”
It’s a sentiment echoed in Hugh’s “Herding Cats” post…
- “’Herding cats’ is a nice colloquialism, it certainly describes most businesses I know. Life is messy. The thing is, it’s supposed to be messy. Can you imagine if it weren’t? How utterly dull that would be! The next time you’re having “one of those days” at the office, tell yourself, ‘This is how it’s supposed to be’. Knowing that this is normal, that this is what you chose, makes it manageable.”