Perfect 10

Olympic Gold

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.

Olympics of Oppression


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.”

Championing Adversity


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.

Embracing Mess


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.”

Gapingvoid - herding cats

(thanks Mom)

Faulting the Fault


One of the classic forms of embracing failure in sport is not only accepting defeat graciously, but even instigating defeat. When the honesty of the moment calls for it. One of the crowd favourite examples is Jack Sock’s alerting Lleyton Hewitt to a miscall in an ITF match. He might have lost the point, but he won the unmatched adoration of the crowd and thousands of YouTube viewers. (thanks Isley)

Rise to the Occasion Each Time Someone Falls

New Zealand Nikki Hamblin and USA Abbey DAgostino


It’s one thing to “rise each time you fall”, but to rise to the occasion when someone else falls is a whole ‘nother level of embracing failure. Especially if that failure is your own dream that you have worked your whole life for. New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin may have lost the Olympic race, but definitely won a gold medal for Olympic spirit.

Fall Down and Win the Race


The 2016 Rio Games have provided plenty of dazzling examples of embracing failure, but few more dramatic than Shaunae Miller’s finish to win gold in the 400m. Literally, throwing everything she had into the race.