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How far does your arrow carry ?

“Your arrows do not carry,” observed the Master, “because they do not reach far enough spiritually.

Eugene Herrigel. Zen and the Art of Archery

The arrow is headed on its course, toward the goal, whether individual, team or corporate.

What type of intent do leaders bring to the direction that our teams go?

In the sporting world the second largest game is cricket after football, it has an incredible reach and power.

One of its biggest players is Pakistan and it is of major significance to South East Asia that the selection of the Pakistan Cricket Captain at this juncture is a sound one.

One that will bring stability and long term success to this politically turbulent country.

Shahid Afridi appointed as Test Captain sends completely the wrong message to the cricket world about Pakistan’s perception of themselves.

What is wrong with Afridi’s appointment?

Shahid has perpetrated some of the stupidest indiscretions of blatant cheating ever to be witnessed on a cricket field.

Here is a man who has pirouetted with his spikes in the middle of the wicket like a russian ballerina in an attempt to damage the playing surface. On another occasson he mistook the ball for an apple and bit it.(Sarcasm intended)

For the uninitiated in cricket and with the art of reverse swing, if you manage to get a small hole in the ball it will swing prodigiously in the air. Hence Mr Afridi’s desire to bite it, however absurd it was.

This is the man chosen to lead one of world cricket’s biggest players !

What does this say ?

Firstly the message that it is okay to cheat and we ( Pakistan Cricket) will overlook it because of our current position … which is that we are desperate for a leader after we shot ourselves in the foot and banned half our own team in a purge of Stalinesque proportions.

Secondly he doesn’t warrant a place in the Test side, as a 20 20 cricketer and ODI player he is fine, a destructive striker of the ball and a fine leg spinner. Not as Captain, though.

The Captain carries a moral compass that he needs to guide the team with, it needs to be based on playing hard, but fair, on leading his players with sound strategy, game plans and compassion.

The national set up needs to take itself seriously and this appointment sends completely the wrong message.

Unfortunately Pakistan cricket reels from one public relations disaster to another. Most recently, after sacking half the team after the performance in the Australia series 2009-10. Allegations of match fixing again … in Australia and previous indiscretions with drug taking.

Never short of headlines or intrigue.

The challenge is to get past the inherent nepotism in the Pakistan system, you need transparency of decision making and it needs to be explicit so that the cricket community can see that things are done fairly and in a logical manner.

Compromised decision making reflects horrendously on Pakistan cricket, it is critical to get ‘first things first’, select a Captain who can play the format, Test Cricket on merit.

It is going to be tough enough as it is in the Asia Cup in England playing with 11 men. Never mind carrying a player who isn’t making it in a specialist position.

One thing I have learnt on my cricketing travels in Asia and Africa is not to look at those countries with a western lens, to project western values onto asian and african cultures is both arrogant and misguided.

To talk of what is right and wrong in behaviour amongst different cultures is thin ice indeed. What is true though and crosses cultural boundaries is fairness, compassion and adhering to the truth, the truth of your culture.

It is no accident that Pakistan’s best cricket was played under Imran Khan and that he captained the side with authority and dignity.

I witnessed first hand the attitude he had towards the players after a Test loss to England in 2001. He came into the dressing at Lords and spoke calmly, authoritatively and with great compassion.

He created a vision for the rest of the tour and reminded the players how great they were, not to get sucked into the miserable feeling of a bad loss to England in cold, wet spring.

We bounced back to level the Test series and lost the Tri-nations final to Australia, after eliminating England.

The respect the players had for Imran was earnt, not demanded.

Now that is leadership.

People often ask me why I haven’t written a book on my time with the Pakistan Cricket team, and the answer quite frankly is that no one would believe it !

Shakespeare would have battled to get the plot structure right such was the intrigue that went on, it became apparent over time that the key issues were factionalism and politics.

I suppose that has been the challenge of all Pakistan Captains, to unite the disparate groups and personalitites within the team.

Afridi like all the others will need to be very careful.

Any Captain who is compromised in their actions and words will be consumed eventually by the lack of fit between what they say and what they do.

The other aspect of leadership is that it needs courage, both moral and physical, regardless of your level of skill, you are going to have to front up at some stage and then the players will watch very closely to see how you handle it.

I don’t see Shahid fitting the bill on either front.

There hasn’t been anything in his past to suggest that he has had a personality overhaul and that he will now grab the torch of leadership and show the way in any of the key aspects of leaderships.

Amidst all the turmoil within Pakistan cricket and the country generally, they produce the most sublime performances.

The victory of Younis Khan’s Team in the ICC 20 20 World Cup, the performance at the previous 20 20 cricket world cup where they lost the final to India.

It’s mind boggling that the players manage to get into their zone and find the depths of performance to play such good cricket, particularly in the big competitions.

So what is the way ahead?

Take a deep breath and appoint Salman Butt as Captain, a Captain for a long term view, who is growing series by series and mandate him with full authority to take the side forward.

Give Waqar Younis a three year contract to take the side through the next World Cup and back him up with excellent support staff … and let him get on with the job.

Fasten your seat belt Waqar, its going to be a bumpy ride.

Mind The Gap

Mind the Gap ….. for those who have travelled the London Underground, they will know that ‘mind the gap’ booms out from tannoy systems in the tube tunnels deep beneath London.

Warning passengers when they are embarking or disembarking, of the space between the edge of the platform and the door of the train when it has pulled to a stop.

Now that that is all said and done, this is about the space between where you are and where you want to be.

Whether it be in business, cricket or life.

It’s been awhile since I blogged on Execellence , I have been building a website on cricket, mental training and all things coaching.

As with all my cricket posts, think of cricket being a billion pound business ( it is) and for the teams and players, think of your business and your staff, your Vision and your ability to live your values in bringing your Vision to life.

For those out of the cricket loop, the ICC Twenty20 World Cup is under way in the West Indies.

The England cricket fans will be waiting tentatively to see how England perform, likewise South Africa.

Two of world cricket’s serial underperformers when it comes to ICC tournaments.

I could place New Zealand in there, that would be unfair though, they tend to punch way above their weight when it comes to these short form tournaments, regularly finding their way to the semis from a limited pool of talent.

Australia will be waiting to roll out their juggernaut into this format of the game, their domination of One Day Cricket complete.

The subcontinent in the form of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are all successful in short form cricket.

As far as ‘minding the gap’, England and SA have a considerable gap to cross … mental as much as anything else.

England under Andy Flower’s dispensation have chosen a vibrant young squad based on specific skills for the Twenty20 format of the game.

They have made brave selections in Lumb and Kieswetter and are willing to risk it, at last !

England have historically been glorious in defeat, throwing off their conservative shackles once all is lost. These selections are based on some scintillating performances by both young men, now they have the opportunity to take it up to the next level. With Eoin Morgan, Paul Collingwood and Kevin Pietersen in the line up, the batting looks dangerous.
Whether they have the bowling resources to go deep into the tournament remains to be seen, wicket taking bowlers are a premium and I am not sure whether they have the quality here.

South Africa have enough baggage in the short formats of the game to keep them in clean clothes for several circumnavigations of the globe.

Never lacking in quality players, they have specialists throughout the side, match winning bowlers in Dale Steyn and the Morkels, batting that would be the envy of many other sides, anchored by Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith.

They have a new coach so they will have to settle as a squad and get their game plans right. In their first game of this competition they were found out with their strategy and will need to adjust quickly, many of their players have come out of IPL cricket but having warmed the bench, which is never ideal.

Their gap is between their ears though, the fear of getting it wrong, again.

From the ODI World Cup nightmares of 1999, 2003 and 2007, the harder they try the worse it gets.

For them to move forward they need to design a new map to get them to their goal. Without moving out of the old one they will fall into the trap of ‘trying harder’, bringing the reverse intention with it.
They could do worse than to investigate how the biblical saying, ‘what I fear most has come upon me’ operates.

Trying to drive through life whilst navigating with the rear view mirror can be quite challenging.

Check out www.mycricketgame.com for more on mental training and brain based coaching.

Happy employees, happy customers, engage and grow

I haven’t been by in a while, sorry, lots of blog gardens to tend.

Thinking about connecting engagement to chance and good service, I met Kate Davies recently. Kate is the CEO of Notting Hill Housing Trust and she is in the middle of leading a lot of change. Change designed to improve customer service through employee engagement.

The change was spearheaded by some consultation. Customers said:

1.    We (the trust) did not communicate effectively with them
2.    We often failed to complete the job properly
3.    Our repairs service was not good enough

Employees said they wanted:

1.    A personal relationship with the tenant, so trust can grow
2.    The power and the budget to deliver the service that the tenant wants
3.    Managers to manage around what matters to the customer

I did a short write up of the meeting which HR Zone has published. Here’s the link, I think some of you will find it an interesting and useful story.


Have a good day.

How do You Turn “No I Can’t” to “Yes I Can”?

I recently published a short article titled “What’s Missing?” which identified some strong links between high levels of engagement and improved financial and business performance. These connections looked rare, looked like a win-win and so I was prompted to ask why organisations don’t get these connections, and more importantly, do something meangingful about them? You can read the piece and check out the data here.

We got loads of feedback and ideas and will highlight some of these over the next few weeks. First up is a note from John Coleman, Head of Change Delivery at Co-Operative Financial Services. He said:

I have worked for a company that has seen its business genuinely transform in the last 5 years whilst simultaneously recording engagement scores from seriously disengaged through to “world class”. The key for me is simple – if people believe they can make a difference, however small, they will. If they don’t, they won’t!

What do you think, is John right? Have you any examples of this in action? Have you ever helped someone to make the fundamental shift from “no I can’t” to “yes I can”.

I think John is onto something here. Certainly when I was time trialling I knew even before the start of a race whether or not I could do well. Sure there would be things beyond my control, maybe strong winds or a punctured tyre, but if I had chosen the right training, prepared well, and most importantly, picked the right attitude, then I believed I could do well.

John used this story to illustrate belief:

A mighty storm battered the coastline relentlessly for several days. When it ended, there were a million starfish left stranded, high and dry up the coastline. A young boy wandered across the beach, picking up the starfish and returning them to the sea. A man watched for several minutes before saying to the boy “you haven’t a hope of making any difference to this, there’s a million of them”. The boy looked at him, picked up another one and threw it into the sea before replying “I made a difference to that one didn’t I”.

Looking forward to reading your feedback and ideas, have a good day.

The Spiral of Success

The Spiral of Success

Of all the great athletes I have been fortunate to meet or coach in Cricket, I have yet to meet one who isn’t consistently successful over a period of time who doesn’t have a ‘positive’ and ‘aggressive’ attitude toward life. Likewise for winning teams, they are made up of characters whose predominant mindset is shaped by this outlook on life. Not aggressive in the violent sense of the word, more an approach to life based upon seeking opportunity, taking the initiative and making their own circumstances, rather than waiting for them. The ‘positive’ side of this equation is that the individual and team actively engages and participates in making their own future, even to the point of recreating themselves where it is required. Now this is not only in sport, it is in every field of endeavour, all the great Captains of Industry have had these traits, likewise in Politics. In my field of endeavour, professional cricket, the Champions Trophy has just finished in South Africa, the England side after being thrashed in the One Day series on home soil by Australia, came to the southern hemisphere looking a decidedly broken side.

And yet, in the space of a flight down south and some dark nights of reflection, the side came out and surprised even the most optimistic of England’s supporters by playing with a refreshingly ‘positive’ and ‘aggressive’ attitude. It culminated in them making the semi finals, they then fell, but not before they looked as if they had thrown off some of the previous 17 years of inferior performance in this format of the game. (In professional cricket each format is called a ‘product’ as it is being sold to a particular TV and advertising market place. England have been woeful pretty much since the 1992 World Cup Final. )

Nothing has changed with the skill levels, the fitness or technique of the players, the only thing that has moved has been England’s attitude. From without it is not possible to pinpoint where the shift has come from, only those in the dressing room and inner sanctum of the team will really know, if I were to surmise though, I would look to Andrew Strauss and his leadership. He showed both generosity and steely focus when it was required in this competition, it will take more than one competition to shift England’s fortunes and a semi final doesn’t mark dramatic success. Yet this could be the seed of success from which England begin to build a team that will match the world’s best consistently. I flag this because I believe England may well have a Captain who has the necessary VISION and COURAGE to move the side into becoming a more successful outfit, playing a more successful ‘brand’ of cricket in this ‘product’.
Every success spiral has a beginning ……..

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