Archive for the ‘Topic – Motivation’ Category

Go on, be Digitally Disruptive!

Sunday, November 29th, 2015

I was struck by this photograph when I saw it on LinkedIn a few weeks ago. It made me think, “Have the opportunities for creativity, innovation and business ideas ever been as accessible to people with ideas”

The opportunity to bring an idea to fruition exists for us all if we have access to the internet, belief in our idea, self-motivation … and a great idea. If you have the great idea, others will provide your content.

On the same day as seeing this photo, a friend sent me a link to a website that his 14 year old son, Josh, has created. We were with Josh about 18 months ago and he had allowed us to see a poem he had written. My wife, Peta, was really impressed with the poem – he was proud of it and Peta hoped he would find a way to share it with others … he has obviously done some thinking in the meantime, considered how others might be in the same position to him, and put together a website where he and others can share their creative writings – abookinu. He has also created a short YouTube video explaining the concept.

Perhaps he could be creating the next line to this list on the photograph? Or perhaps it could be you? Or perhaps you have a book in you?

Go on, be disruptive!


Toxicity of Trying

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

Are these really Andy Murray’s motivational notes? I really do hope they are not – but there has been no denial and they appear to have been written on the back of a letter to him.

Why do I hope they are not? Well, to me they appear toxic. Toxic to a top sports person seeking to be the best they can be (in other words winning every match).

As with all top sports people, I’m sure that Andy and his team pore over huge amounts of performance data to analyse what he is doing, how he is doing it, when he is doing it, etc.  So let’s undertake a little analyse of these motivational notes:

  • There are 61 words on the page
  • These are divided into 10 points
  • There are 4 words – which are either verbs or words with 3 or more letters – that appear three or more times – ‘be’ (4), ‘your’ (4), ‘the’ (3) and ‘try’ (3).

Of that analysis, the last point is the most striking and concerning for me.

Murray is going to ‘try’ to do something.

And almost of a third of the 10 points he is going to ‘try’ to achieve.

The word ‘try’ is one of the most unhelpful – perhaps even toxic – words that can be used in relation to performance management and improvement.

How many organisations publish goals that say they are going to ‘try’ to do something?

In your personal or professional life, what do you mean when you say you are going to ‘try’ to do something? Just say it to yourself now …

It usually means one of two things. Firstly, it could mean that you might have a go, but you’re not convinced that you will be able to achieve it – because of your personal abilities, your belief or your other time constraints. Secondly, it could mean that you have no intention of doing or will to do it, but you add the word ‘try’ in to avoid the discussion around the fact you will not be doing it.

It isn’t even a word that needs replacing – it just needs taking out.

“Try to be the one dictating”, becomes “Be the one dictating”.

“Try to keep him at the baseline make him move”, becomes “Keep him at the baseline make him move”.

How different do those sentences sound and feel without the word ‘try’?

I have worked with a number of people who have struggled to pass exams – I work with them on their personal approach and exam techniques. I am proud of my success in that every person who I have worked with – all who have previously failed the nominated exam – have all passed (or even gained Distinctions) with the work we have undertaken together.

One of the foundations of this approach is that I will not permit the use of the word ‘try’. As I have mentioned previously in one of my blogs, Yoda understand this.

In the Star Wars film, “The Empire Strikes Back”. Yoda, the small and strange looking Jedi Master is training Luke Skywalker. Yoda sets him numerous challenges and tests to help mould the youth into a Jedi. When Luke is given one particularly challenging task, he responds to Yoda that he will ‘try’.  “No,” Yoda retorts, “Do, or do not. There is no try.”

As Murray’s team continues to mould him into the best tennis player he can be, they need to address the ‘try’ – “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Incidentally, Murray lost the match.

You might not be a tennis player, or taking an exam – but the principle is the same – so when do you use the word ‘try’ and what impact can it have for you if you were to drop it?


Re-United – the 1992 Committee

Saturday, April 26th, 2014

Music bands reform on a reasonably regular basis – usually with the aim of making as much money over as short a period of time as possible. As I write this, Fleetwood Mac are soon to tour with Christine McVie back in the line-up, re-creating the band as it was for the Rumours album, and there is talk that Oasis are about to reform after five years apart. Similarly, Monty Python are taking the same approach in July this year – quite openly with the exactly same financial objective – with their “One down, five to go” shows.

And in the same way that Monty Python are down to 5 out of its 6 members, through the sad death of Graham Chapman, Manchester United’s  Class of ‘92 are too, but in a different way. Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt have bought Salford City FC, keen to offer support to a local football venture, whilst David Beckham is creating a different vision in Miami.

More immediate than that, however, is their re-united presence at Old Trafford. The short reign of David Moyes is over and Ryan Giggs is in charge. Phil Neville – one of Moyes’ assistants – has been retained; he’s not to blame apparently, he can’t be – he’s a part of the Class of ’92 – what is now being referred to as the 1992 Committee. Paul Scholes has returned this week, too, and Nicky Butt is more involved. That only leaves Gary Neville, but he may well be there commentating for Sky whilst also being part way through his football coaching badges.

The scene is set – for a thunderous atmosphere at the game against Norwich later today. But the logic and theory for such an atmosphere doesn’t add up – it is completely irrational. Giggs has far less experience as a manager than Moyes, and is apparently not being considered for the permanent role. His lieutenants do not have much more experience. So what do they have? They have three things.

Being the 1992 Committee. They are that home grown crop of players who were central to United’s successes between roughly 1995 and 2010. They are the history that the supporters yearn for – they played completely differently to how Moyes’ teams played. They are seen as the saviours – both potentially on the pitch and because the rumours are that they are leading a bid to buy Manchester United back from the Glazers. In the week we have celebrated St George’s Day, they are returning to slay some dragons.

Symbolism. Giggs moved his pre-match press conference back to the time and place that Sir Alex held them. The news channels were running a picture of the four of them together – Giggs, Scholes, Phil Neville and Butt – there could have been more as there are more coaches (for example, the goalkeeping coach who has been retained as he has helped De Gea considerably). But just the four in the photograph.

Use of Emotional intelligence. When exploring EI in speeches, I often use Henry V’s St Crispin’s Day monologue, or some of Barak Obama’s, but what about Ryan Giggs’ press conference?

“I am proud, I am happy and a little nervous” (Self-awareness).

“My mind-set is on Norwich first and then the remaining three games”, and “It’s been a frustrating season and I want to end it on a high” (Self-management).

“I can’t wait for Saturday – I know the place will be rocking and know the fans will be behind us” and “My philosophy is the Manchester United philosophy,” (Social awareness).

“I’d like to thank David [Moyes] for giving me my first chance in coaching” and “I trust the players, I know what they are capable of and I want them to go out and show it against Norwich” (Relationship Management).

He was clear and passionate about what he wants to achieve: “I want players to play with passion, speed, tempo and be brave, with imagination, all the things that are expected of a Manchester United player. I want to see goals, tackles, players taking players on and getting the crowd up. I want the passion that should come with being a Manchester United player”.

Whatever happens during the game, the atmosphere and build up will be electric. Not for any rational reasons – purely for emotional ones. It will demonstrate the power of emotion attachments and symbols. Who knows what the result will be – I don’t (and I have published this before the game) – but it has huge potential based on emotional motivation.

Will it be another example of how dreams, potential and belief can be brought to fruition in completely irrational ways?

My son was in a class of 18 two weekends ago at St George’s, the FA HQ. He was on a coaching course. When the un-named guest speaker arrived, it was Ryan Giggs – to be assessed for his UEFA ‘A’ Coaching qualifications. (As an aside, I wonder whether he will have been more nervous for that or his first game in charge?).

I asked Alex whether he said anything to Giggs at the end of the session; “I just shook his hand and said that I hoped he got his goal for the season … (Giggs is the only person to have scored in every season since the Premier League was introduced in 1991) … and he said that it would be good but he was running out of games”.

Perhaps, just perhaps …


Take Part, Win or Win at all Costs?

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

I have loved watching the London Olympics – both at the Olympic Stadium itself and in front of my TV. There have been numerous remarkable human achievements which will inspire and motivate others both in sport and other endeavours. I have found the joy of watching people achieve lifelong ambitions very emotional, as have been the reactions of some of those who have not achieved what they wanted to.

There is a lot of pressure to win – the amount of time the athletes have invested in preparation, justification for the funding received and to be seen as ‘the best’ being just three. But how far should an athlete go to win?

Picture a continuum – a straight line with ‘fair play’ at one end and ‘unfair play’ at the opposite end.

At one end of the continuum, we have Timo Boll the German table tennis player who was awarded a point because his opponent’s return supposedly missed the table – but Timo saw that it had shaved the side. He calmly explained this to the umpire and asked for the point to be awarded to his opponent. Apparently, he received the loudest applause of the day for this gesture – but he lost the match and his Olympics were over.

At the other end of the spectrum we have people taking performance enhancing drugs which are outlawed, which is clearly wrong.

Moving along my continuum and slightly further towards the middle we have the badminton pairs who were playing each other and both teams attempted to lose the match – and this happened in two matches.   They were disqualified by their Federation for “not using one’s best efforts to win a match” and “conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport.” And so their Olympics were over.  Not as clear cut as drugs cheats, perhaps, but clearly against the rules within their sport.

But now to the grey area – and let’s look at ‘Team GB’. I was watching the rowing final for the Lightweight Double Skulls when one of the rower’s seats broke soon after the start. He waved the seat in the air to alert the umpire because there is a rule which states that if there is a breakage within the first 100 metres, the race can be restarted with the breakage having been rectified.  The rule is a bit of an anachronism as it was apparently introduced to deal with wooden rows that sometimes broke early in the race due to the force of the early strokes – they don’t use wooden rows any longer, but the rule is still in place.

Sir Steve Redgrave was commentating and as soon as it happened, he said that the rower needed to show the broken seat to the Umpire and, “… if it wasn’t broken then make sure it is broken …” by the time the Umpire got to their boat.  John Inverdale, the co-commentator, tried to retrieve the situation by subtly suggesting to him that he might have been trying to say something slightly different, but Sir Steve’s statement had been very clear. The pair went on to claim the Silver Medal.

Moving to the Velodrome, the British team got themselves in a bit of hot water – or lukewarm water at the very least – with one of their tactics.  In the a Men’s Team Sprint heat Philip Hindes wobbled as he set off against France, so didn’t get a very good start. His response was to deliberately crash his bike to get a restart.

Hindes told reporters that team tactic was, “… if we have a bad start we need to crash to get a restart.” He added, “I just crashed, I did it on purpose to get a restart, just to have the fastest ride. I did it. So it was all planned, really,” By the time of the Press Conference, the official line was that he had lost control of his bike.  The team won the restarted heat and went on to win the Gold Medal.

The points made by the individuals in both cases are interesting as they were said in the ‘heat of the moment’ – at points when both were emotionally involved in what was happening, and so likely to be less guarded, but perhaps giving a more honest insight into how these teams operate.

The ethos in these examples appears to be to use the rules, but not in ways in which they were intended. Where does this sit on the Continuum of Fair Play?

Cycling and Rowing were our most successful sports in terms of medal returns. Is it partly because these participants and coaches adopt this ‘aggressive’ use of the rules? And if they are awarded additional funding because of these successes, is it ‘right’, and will it encourage other athletes and sportspersons to adopt a similar approach? Is this an example of winning at all costs – apart from doping – and in doing so creating a less than level playing field?

As the Olympics came to a conclusion, Sir Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England talked about what the banking sector could learn from Team GB.  During his lesson on morality, he said, “As recent scandals have shown, banks could learn a thing or two about fair play from the Olympic movement. Again the financial sector has done us all a disservice in promoting the belief that massive financial compensation is necessary to motivate individuals.” Perhaps he’s right. But, on our continuum, how far are the previously mentioned examples of the uses of the rules in the rowing and cycling events from how some of our bankers have interpreted rules?

Or is all this inherent in any system where reward – financial, medals or otherwise – is present? And should it be accepted as night follows day?  Is there an opportunity for learning and development providers to offer an event on Profitable Rule Interpretation?

Perhaps we like to think of society as being made up of lots of Timo’s, but in reality the ethos is more about being less open and more manipulative than we want to admit to being?  Or perhaps the manipulative ones become winners, and that shapes society?

Or it could be that the comments I have quoted were, in fact, meant in a different way and have been misinterpreted.

In short, do we ‘play fair’ as much as we like to think and make out we do?

I’m reasonably clear on where I stand, but I would be interested in your views. I may change my mind having heard from others.