Friday, August 24, 2012

Lance Armstrong - villain or victimised victor?

The breaking news is that Lance Armstrong has elected not to appeal a decision by the US Anti-Doping Agency that found him guilty of allegations of improper use of performance enhancing drugs. Late yesterday, he  was effectively stripped of his 7 Tour de France titles. 

It's sad but true that the higher the stakes we play for (and/or the more competitive we are), the more likely some are to resort to unethical or corrupt behaviour. To their minds, quite frankly, the end justifies the means. Call it a witch hunt by USADA (sadly, you can expect them to get some death threats), but if former team members’ testimony was credible and served to substantiate the allegations, Armstrong doesn’t deserve the acclamation he may have earned via unfair advantage. Does it tarnish the sport? Most definitely. Do I think we should be trying to get sport clean - absolutely. Does deciding to let it go now make him look guilty? Probably to many. He would know how his decision not to appeal would look to (most) others.  Is it also possible he's just decided as a cancer survivor that for the sake of his health and his family, he needs to let it go?
I have followed this story from the get go and I still don’t know that he cheated. And for the Lance fans out there, whether he did or didn’t, doesn't take away from his extraordinary giftedness and his discipline and courage over so many years. But if he did, it does take away from the majesty of his victories. We get the behaviour we are prepared to put up with. We get the culture at work or in a sporting code we deserve.
So it might be a “silly cycling race”, but living in the long tail of the GFC, how do we feel when we learn someone cooked the books, misappropriated money, manipulated and drove others to bankruptcy out of greed, used political leverage for personal gain or otherwise won by cheating? They are variations on the same theme. I’d rather we rewarded true worthiness, not slick wily-ness.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Getting our Priorities Right

The post mortems have begun. One paper calculated the investment cost per gold medal. Another ranked us on gold medals per capita. Another ranked on medals of any colour relative to previous Olympics decrying our torrid decline since Sydney 2000.
I love my sport. My Twitter handle includes the phrase "sport fanatic". I am the best athlete never to play the game, any game, at international level or otherwise (unless recreational jogging and moaning followed by intensive bouts of physio are added to the Rio Olympic program).
As an organisational psychologist and change consultant I woud like to think I was up with the latest on mindset and positive psychology. And I do agree that sporting success on the world stage is good for our national mood and can bring people together. So does a good sporting meet and building nice stadia. One year ago London was rioting, now London is rightfully proud and bonded in its success. Then again they have royalty so they are quite good at putting on a show.
However could I beg the Aussie powers that be, those who hold sway over our future spending on elite sport in this country not to be seduced too readily by the cries to ramp up spending on sport (unless it's grass roots and contributes positively to our fight against obesity and racial intolerance).
If we want to get collectively proud, how about spending on a more humane way of dealing with refugees and a more effective way dealing with people smugglers? Can we determine empirically the most efficacious ways to combat drug and alcohol abuse as they are so heavily implicated in crime and domestic violence respectively. Can we operate on public hospital patients quicker? Can we pay our good teachers more? Can we have the best equity outcomes on race, religion, gender of any country on earth and can we improve the human condition for our aboriginal population whose infant mortality rates and average life expectancy are still staggeringly inequitable and unconscionable.
There will never be enough money to do all those things superbly. But could I implore all of us to define success and national pride more broadly than the opportunity to stand in front of our television sets singing the national anthem at a medal ceremony even if we are celebrating excellence at the same time. This is not the only phenomenon with the capacity to give us goosebumps. This is not the only way for us to feel like proud Australians. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Positioning for Success

I was asked to present last night to a professional body on establishing and building a practice or workplace profile (presumably a good one!). It was great to have the opportunity to reflect and distil those things that I think contribute to success in our respective fields.

It occurred to me, especially in the wake of a few presentations lately for Women in Leadership and Career Coaching networks (for both genders) that all of those points have broad applicability. In brief the critical elements as I see them whether you run your practice or are an employee in someone else's organisation are the following:

1) BE GREAT. Do your 10,000 hours (a la Malcolm Gladwell) so that each time you make a contribution you make a difference. Be a restless learner. Invest heavily in your own professional development and don't make excuses because you are "too busy" (or fearful or complacent).

2) BE MEMORABLE. What is your signature look/style/beliefs/driving passions? Are you prepared to have an opinion or do you sit on the fence so as not to offend anyone? The risk is being bland or worse, irrelevant. What makes you special? Do you have a signature story or slogan that goes some way towards defining you or what you do?

3) BE ACCESSIBLE. People have to know how to find you for you to make a difference. An obscure business name that seemed like a good idea at the time may not serve you. Be responsive when people need you without promising what you can't deliver. Make it easy for people to do business with you but always exercise your right to be treated with respect.

4) BE GENEROUS. Work on an abundance mentality. Do things without expecting anything in return. Show clients you care more about their needs and outcomes than your own (without putting up with disrespectful behaviour, see above). Know when you want to do special things for free but don't devalue your contribution, particularly if it leads to resentment. Not fair to the other party and not commercially astute.

5) BE VISIBLE. Do you have an elevator pitch? Can you tell people in a sentence or two what you do that makes a difference to others?  Are you stuck on the tasks and functions you perform without understanding or communicating the answers to "Why?" or "So what?". I don't believe in networking by scattering business cards like confetti. I love the chance to meet interesting people and have deep, genuine and stimulating mutual exchange. These tend to be the business relationships that endure. Do you nominate for high profile committees or working parties or worry you'll be given too much to do? Are you prepared to hang with bright, positive or successful people at the risk of feeling intimidated? Can you demonstrate self-belief without arrogance? Can you talk articulately when asked about your signature strengths?

6) BE BOLD. If people love your work, you may want to politely ask for referrals. Ask for the chance to do the work you'd like to do. Clients and bosses may think the world of you but not know how versatile you are. Remember Ken James found it very hard to get other TV roles after many years starring in "Skippy the Bush Kangaroo". Stereotyping and pigeonholing is human nature and business shorthand and we all do it. Many employees (and women more than men) will hide their light under a bushel and hope that someone spots them and opens doors. Expressing confidence in your ability and enthusiasm to take something on is almost always respected. Just know that the other party always has the right to decline your kind offer of assistance.

Let me know if there are some new things you're prepared to try. Enjoy the journey!