Thursday, January 31, 2019

Learning from The Premier League (Part II)

Ben Lyttleton has written a couple of books on Leadership Secrets from Football’s top thinkers and the psychology of converting the Perfect Penalty Kick.

A couple of weeks ago he wrote an article providing five tips from his analysis of the penalty kick that can help in business when performing under pressure.

(Remember, pressure is a privilege – it means you are challenging yourself to improve – the trick is to deal with it positively and not to let it turn into stress.)

Five tips from Football penalty taking:

1)   Practice with Purpose.
England Soccer Coach Gareth Southgate practices penalties by replicating shoot-out match conditions.  He makes his players take the dreaded walk from the centre circle to the penalty spot; he practices after 120 minutes of training to recreate fatigued legs and minds that come from longer games with extra time.
Southgate wants the pressure to be routine, so the fear/mist is replaced by routine/ritualistic execution.
The All Blacks run set moves; but they don’t stop and restart when they fail in training, they replicate match conditions and continue playing from the failed moment.  No plan ever survives first contact with the enemy!!!
For business, this means practice must come as close as possible to replicating actual conditions.  If you are giving a presentation standing up, don’t practice sitting down.  Don’t practice an uninterrupted pitch; it will never happen.  Practice fielding random interruptions/questions.  Anticipate and practice the inevitable technology glitches.  You can never fully replicate pressure conditions but you can prepare for them if you Practice with Purpose.

2)   Take Your Time.
Successful penalty takers never rush it.  The ref blows his whistle – the great players pause, breathe, compose themselves, eliminate doubt, pursue the ritual and bang (watch Owen Farrell kick penalties for the England Rugby team).
In business, the same rules apply.  Be right, not first.  Listen, listen, listen, observe, think then speak.

3)   Your Reaction Matters.
Studies show if a player converts a shoot-out penalty when the scores are level and celebrates himself, that player’s team is more likely to win.  Body language spreads to both teams – your own and the opposition.  It’s also helpful to hug a player who misses as it sends a message of unity and family to the rest of the team.
In business, I’m a huge believer in learning the art of demonstrating positive body language.
Positive body language is core to Inspirational Leadership and Peak Performance.  Upright posture, eye contact and smiles go a long way!!!

4)   Don’t Obsess.
Overthinking a task usually results in disappointment.  A Cambridge University neurosurgeon ran an experiment with a room of golfers, divided into two groups, by asking them all to putt from the same distance.  The golfers then had a five minute break, during which half wrote down every aspect of their putts, and the other half looked at pictures of beaches and cars.  Then they all putted again.
The golfers who had remained focused on golf in the break all hit far worse putts the second time around.  The second group all did better.
In business, I see so many managers worrying about an important meeting/presentation, or stressing over missing a deadline – worry and stress never lead to Peak Performance.  The time is better spent on the process, the routine – not the outcome.
If the practice process has been conducted with purpose, and the challenge is a ‘just right’ challenge, worrying and stressing about the result is likely to have only a negative impact on the performance.

5)   Confidence Doesn’t Guarantee Success.
Research from penalty takers in Football by a German sports psychologist revealed that the greatest marker of success had nothing to do with levels of self-confidence or even innate ability, but rather the reaction to the pressure of competition and the reliance on ritual – in other words the Timeless Six P’s “Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance”.
In business, the most confident, the loudest person in the room is not always right, or even the best qualified.  They just happen to be the loudest.  Many managers lean towards the more extrovert personalities.  They should look more deeply for those who can perform under pressure – the introverts could even be better.

Patience, Practice and Preparation – and remember the Six P’s.


Sunday, January 27, 2019

Learning from The Premier League (Part I)

Watching soccer develop into the huge business it has become today has been fascinating.

Off the field, everything has changed – in terms of ownership, investment, fan experience, marketing, agent and player power; the whole ball game bears no resemblance to the parochial, local industry of only 10 years ago.

On the field though, little has changed.  It’s still all about possession, pace and position – and the great coaches still obsess over three things:
-       man management,
-       tactical details,
-       extraordinary physical output.

These principles were practised in prior generations by the great managers – Sir Alex Ferguson, Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Brian Clough and Joe Mercer / Malcolm Allison.

Today they’re epitomised by Pep Guardiola, Jürgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino.

These three principles are at the core of leading businesses in all industries today.

1)   Great business leaders invest in man management; inspiring peak performance in everyone they touch, making things happen, creating leaders throughout the team and instilling self-belief in pursuit of the Company’s Purpose throughout the organisation.

2)   They are tactically astute and are across every detail of their business.  They understand that to win you must start with the answer and work back.  And you must focus on Failing Fast, Learning Fast and Fixing Fast.

3)   Finally they demonstrate and demand extraordinary physical output.  They inspire their teams to work smarter and harder than competitors, and to love life in a culture founded on the Four Pillars – Responsibility, Learning, Recognition and Joy.

Watch Manchester City and Liverpool to see how their leaders (coaches) inspire Peak Performance every week – it’ll work in your industry too.


Thursday, January 24, 2019

2019 TV Bingeing

Starting the New Year with:

·       Series 4 of The Bureau on iTunes – love the complex relationships, love Malotru.
·       Series 2 of Goliath on Amazon Prime – Billy Bob Thornton irresistible.
·       Series 3 of True Detective – series 1 was epic, series 2 a bust, reviews of series 3 are up there.
·       The Informer – Amazon Prime – a British/Pakistani coerced into becoming a counter-terrorism informer.
·       When Heroes Fly – the latest from Fauda and Mossad 101’s Israel – on Netflix.
·       Wild District – the latest drama from Colombia (the country, not the network) – Netflix.
·       My Brilliant Friend – on Amazon – just fabulous.
·       For Soccer lovers – Sunderland ‘Til I Die on Netflix.
·       For sports / nostalgia / Americana lovers – Netflix The Battered Bastards of Baseball.
·        And The Blacklist is back – Go Red!!
It really is the Golden Age of screen drama.


Sunday, January 20, 2019

BUCKiT with Phil Keoghan

Television host, Emmy award winning Producer and Guest Speaker, Phil Keoghan has spent 30 years in television (currently hosting National Geographic Explorer in addition to The Amazing Race), travelling to over 130 countries to create a BUCKiT list full of crazy, irreverent and life changing adventures.  He retraced the 1928 Tour de France on a 1928 bike, skied down an erupting volcano, dived the longest underwater caves, got his reindeer racing license and broke an unofficial world record for a bungy jump.  His personal motto is “Tick it Before you Kick it” which is Phil’s way of saying just say “BUCKiT, you only have this life so get out there and go for it”.  In his Podcast series, Phil asks his guests to share theirs. He endeavours to find out what motivated them to say BUCKiT and swerve off the predictable road, shed their inhibitions, break new ground, test the limits and pursue a life rich in experience.

I’ve recently recorded an interview with Phil for his BUCKiT podcast and this is now live on all major podcast platforms (I-Tunes, Stitcher, Spotify) as well as online, where you get to see it:


Friday, January 18, 2019

Unleash the Flâneur Within (Part II)

Here is my three-point starter kit for the 21st century flâneur:

1.   Plunge Into Chaos.
Go where your heart takes you, but too much structure and order sterilises the art.  It sucks out the life.  Here are my 5 cities for unadulterated, joyous flânerie:
1.    New York (Street beat)
2.    Rio (the exuberance of the body)
3.    Beirut (a whiff of danger)
4.    Barcelona (Viva Guardiola)
5.    Manchester (See Silva, de Brujne and Aguero).

2.   Feel the Pulse.
For me there are five ways to get the rhythm of a city, to feel its meaning:
1.    Read fiction set in that city – from any period.
2.    Listen to the music on the street.
3.    Eat local food in local bars and street vendors.
4.    Visit local art galleries.
5.    Watch the local soccer team.

3.   Take the Right Equipment.
Woody Hayes said luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.  Here’s my equipment:
1.    An open mind.
2.    A ‘Flow’ personality (positive tending on radical optimism).
3.    A waterproof chest and a bullet proof back (so if people throw bad stuff at you, it bounces off your front or runs off your back).


Sunday, January 13, 2019

Unleash the Flâneur Within (Part I).

“Yea I went with nothing
Nothing but the thought of you
I went wandering …”
         The Wanderer – U2 with Johnny Cash

As wandering the world goes, I’m up there.  Work has stretched me into over 80 countries and in any year I touch down in 50+ cities.  And between (or during!) appointments, I vanish into them.

There’s nothing like exploring a new city.  The thrill of adventure, the excitement of discovery, your blood pumps and you feel alive.  Around every corner, a world awaits.  No doubt a flâneur feels some of this.  A what?  A flâneur!

Emerging from 19th century Paris, the flâneur is a strolling urban explorer with an eye for insight.  The French poet Charles Baudelaire (1821 – 1867) saw a flâneur as a person who walks the city to experience it.  I think of Bob Dylan, wandering off and getting picked up by the cops. 

Flâneurs are cultivated, super-sensory, and empathetic.  They are switched on because they are switched off, with time to kill.  These characters have been strolling down through time, popping up and down in different guises.  Voyeur, drifter, writer, artist, phantom, photographer, psycho-geographer, photo-blogger.

Flânerie is a bit like culture, difficult to pin down, as both subject and object are dynamic.  The object – the city – is undergoing accelerated change.  Over half of the world’s people are city dwellers and this is rising, even as some older cities crumble like Babylon.  At least 20 cities are now mega, with 10 million + people.

As cities get bigger and shinier, some have said the Flâneur will disappear.  Personally I can’t see it, despite the best efforts of American culture and rational urban planners.  Thanks to financial cycles, cities are innately regenerative.  Good times squeeze the essential creative resources out of the centre of cities.  Bad times open the cultural space, inviting flânerie into the back alleys of human endeavor.

I love meandering through cities, absorbing the mystery, sensuality and intimacy of each city.  I explore physically and virtually.  It’s the local that interests me most, from local artists right through to the local football team.  There are diamonds in this rough, priceless revelation in a mainstream that re-packages information and labels it as insight.  I’d argue the flâneur is now more valuable than any research project.

It’s true across art, music, food, design, psychology, architecture, sport – all of it.  When our whole life is on a schedule, we miss the hidden doors to better futures.  So let heart and mind wander, and dare to dream.

So, long may the journey of the flâneur continue and far may he travel.  Today he is bridging ideas as diverse as creativity, mythology, meditation, urban planning, technology, surrealism and sustainability.


Sunday, January 6, 2019

A Tale of Two Gunfights

1)         The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral - October 26, 1881.

Today we had planned to visit a re-enactment of the epic gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone.  The three Earp brothers and Doc Holliday vs the Cowboys Clanton, Claiborne, and the McLaurys.

Instead we spent most of the day with two eye doctors in Tucson.

2)        The Gunfight at Desert Dream - December 31, 2018.

Between two-year-old grandson Andrew (Sneaky Pete – a young New Jersey born whippersnapper) and the grizzled veteran KR.  KR was unarmed, sitting at the kitchen bar.  They were two feet apart.  Sneaky Pete inadvertently pulled the Nerf Gun trigger and boom.  The veteran hit the deck.  A bullet driven hard into his wide open left eye.  The lights went out, no vision in left eye, scrambling around for first aid kit.

Blurred vision cleared gradually over 12 hours, New Year’s Eve celebrations gathered pace and a great time was had by all.  But pain from eye continued and increased – medical treatment became inevitable.

And so to Tucson where a pre-planned, much anticipated trip to the O.K. Corral was about to take place.  Instead (after consulting Dr Google) an excursion to a Tucson eye doctor (sounds like a Jackson Browne song).

The initial diagnosis from Dr #1 was a damaged pupil, an enlarged and inflamed iris and a possible torn retina.

Medical reinforcements were summoned in the guise of an expert eye surgeon / ophthalmologist, Dr Brock Bakewell, who agreed to see us even though his surgery was closed on Saturdays.

One hour later the diagnosis was clear.
·            Retina in ok shape.
·            Iris - traumatic iritis – four weeks of steroids will cure.
·            Pupil permanently enlarged – will now always be marginally bigger than the right pupil and more light sensitive.  A permanent reminder of my last gunfight.

Off to the O.K. Corral tomorrow.


PS:  For future learnings around this, please see Guy Clarke’s The Last Gunfighter ballad.