Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Integrity Lessons From John McEnroe

I had the privilege of meeting John McEnroe at the US Open a few years back - funny, charming, passionate about life and one of the most enthusiastic, energetic people I've ever met.

One thing that puzzled me was that while John gives commentary for the BBC during the Wimbledon fortnight, when it comes to the finals day he goes missing. When I got talking with Gary Swain (his agent) I took the opportunity to ask why this was so.

"He told NBC years ago that he would do the commentary during the final, so he works with the BBC for the rest of the tournament and covers the final for them" Gary said.

I suggested that a contract change was in order, so we in the UK got the full benefit - and learned something surprising. He doesn't sign contracts - he just says he will do it, and then does it.

I asked Gary if he had a contract with him, the answer was the same - and at that time they'd been together for over 25 years. Wow.

Imagine using that model in a typical company, agreeing a deal with a customer based on your word and a handshake? Leaving the idea of no contract between company and client aside let's focus on internal issues.
  • How many emails are sent detailing what's been agreed in a meeting?
  • How often do you call somebody and check to see if they are on track?
  • How many times have you felt let down because someone didn't do as they said?
  • How much paperwork exists purely for the purpose of holding people accountable?
Those C.Y.A. emails "Just confirming what was agreed...." really annoy me. When I receive one of those it makes me feel that I'm not trusted, not engaged and not to be believed. When you feel like that - are you likely to deliver your best? Go the extra mile? Of course not.

These failures of trust are self perpetuating and cause untold damage. People stop keeping track of responsibilities and stop holding themselves accountable as they learn to expect emails and calls to remind them of what they need to do. 

The next time somebody says they'll do something, try trusting them to deliver. Experience has taught me that a team with this kind of ethos will ALWAYS exceed your expectations - they are focused on getting the job done.

People who don't deliver shouldn't be part of your company - they are a drain on resources and part of an ever growing bureaucracy problem, but it's very possible that you are part of the problem by managing and not leading. 

If your integrity is important to you, then your word should be enough. Trust those around you to do as they say and see how much of a difference it makes.

Note: ESPN covered Wimbledon from 2012, rather than NBC - I have no idea what the current agreement is!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

If Your Attitude Sucks Then Do Something About It

I've been struck recently by how many of the people who make an impact in my life have a great attitude, and how frustrated I get when I see people just 'coasting' through, clearly unhappy, clearly not engaged.

I read a great book a few years ago called "Fish!"  The principles of which I truly believe can make a difference.

Be There: When people need you, they need all of you. Setting aside distractions and judgments to be mentally and emotionally present is a sign of respect. It improves communication and strengthens relationships.

This is SO easy to do, with colleagues, family, friends or strangers. Some of the best conversations I've had are with people who 'notice' the needs of those around them - how nice is it when you talk to someone and they actually, visibly listen to you? 

Listening is a forgotten skill in the modern, busy world. Focusing on someone absolutely, not thinking of yourself and visibly listening is one of the simplest and easiest gifts you can give.

Play: You can be serious about your work without taking yourself so seriously. Play is a mindset more than a specific activity. It allows you to throw yourself with enthusiasm and creativity into whatever you are doing, in a way that is natural, not forced. "Playing” with ideas helps you find solutions to everyday challenges.

Somebody asked me a few days ago why we let our three year old son dress as a superhero all the time. Laughing, I said "Hey, if you could get up in the morning and go to work dressed like that - wouldn't you do the same?" - they looked at me confused and said "No, not really". 

Honestly? You'd rather dress up in a suit and tie rather than pull on an Iron Man, Captain America or Superman suit? When did this happen? It reminded me of the joke about the guy sitting in HR wearing his Batman suit explaining to the director that he'd been told to dress for the job he wanted, not the one he had......

Life should be about having some fun, and you can do that at work too. In the fish market of the book, the guys throw fish around, make them talk, and make the crowd laugh. Creativity and innovation come from play - we're hard wired to enjoy it, it's good for us, and it's good for business. Fun companies are customer magnets.

Of course, in some cases someone has an amazing idea, and actually does something SO incredible it makes a lot of people stare in wonder - like these guys cleaning hospital windows.

I figure this was a better day for the added the full article here

Make Their Day: Simple gestures of thoughtfulness, thanks and recognition make people feel appreciated and valued. When you make someone else feel good, you feel good too.

Aptly illustrated in the movies "Pay It Forward" and "Evan Almighty" amongst others, the principle of performing an act of random kindness is one that we should all practice. This is the easiest thing of all to do. Try any one of the following today:
  • Buy the person behind you in line their coffee/tea/water/chocolate
  • Compliment somebody for absolutely anything
  • Call your significant other, just to tell them that you love them
  • Go and tell someones manager how good a job they just did
  • Walk over to a colleague, look them in the eye and tell them how much you appreciate them
Making a point of giving others credit and kudos makes you feel good too. Don't you enjoy praise? Why don't you give more?

Choose Your Attitude: To actually choose how you respond to life, not just react, you must be intentional. When you get up, decide who you want to "be" today. Moment-to-moment awareness is key. Ask yourself throughout the day, "What is my attitude right now? Is it helping the people who depend on me? Is it helping me to be most effective?"

This is the only thing you have control over. 

I mean it - you could get hit by a space rock on the way to work, your boss could be a complete ass, you could have THE most boring day imaginable ahead of you; but you can still choose your attitude. No one can take that away from you.

Now think about it - who are the people that inspire you to do amazing things? I'll bet every one of them has a great attitude. So start working on yours - because you can be inspirational to others and make a difference.