Channeling the delinquent

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Naughty kids don’t belong in the naughty corner

When I say Nick Kyrios, you probably want to stop reading. I know I have been judgemental of his behaviour at times myself. I have written previously on why he gets too much ‘column space’ in the newspapers for his poor behaviour. Sometimes, he has simply acted like a jerk!

However, I understand that the people who consistently come out on top tend to have a little ‘naughty’ in them. This Audacity serves to push boundaries for heightened creativity, can create a form of authority, and is a sign of independence and strength. Naughty kids have the natural tendency to become the best leaders amongst us. (Devi Clark, Lifehack)

I mention Kyrios, as he is the highest profile bad boy in today’s world of professional tennis. Petulant, seemingly self-centred, and generally acts like a juvenile. In Australia, some would label his antics as ‘un-Australian’. But he is also super talented. And many have commented that ‘if only he would clean up his act, he could become one of the best.

I take a different stance. I think his ‘naughtiness’ is a critical element to why he could be the best. Being naughty brings with it a huge upside as stated above. And this week, I noticed something a little different in Nick… 

Nick thanks a spectator for telling him where to serve on Match Point

Nick thanks a spectator for telling him where to serve on Match Point

This week he won the Citi Open Championship in Washington. He has made a lot of comments of note on his way to claiming this title including, “this has been one of the best weeks in my life”. He has remarked on his mindset, his connection with the locals, and his want to compete for the patrons. At times he spoke like a traditional custodian of the game. A stark departure from his usual soundbites.

Most media commentators are casually remarking that he is straightening up. But that is not what I am seeing. He is still breaking rules. Such as asking spectators where he should serve and playing ping-pong with kids before his matches. He is proving to be non-conformist but not destructive or disrespectful. He is boosting his connection with the community and developing his creativity on court. In his highlights he looks comfortable in his own skin and enjoying the experience as much as paying public. And, his tennis game has elevated because of it. He is channelling his audacity into ways that make him a better player (and in his words “a better person”) rather than a delinquent.

It is wonderful to see, and if he keeps up these behavioural habits he could be the one that breaks the Federa, Nadal, Djokovic era of dominance.

I’m pulling for you Nick, as well as all of the wonderful delinquents out there worldwide.

Learn More about the Behaviours That Matter for Leaders and Sales Professionals here.

What about our players?

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The most important often get forgotten

This week the English Premier League (EPL) will begin its new season. This is a twenty-team competition where each team will play 38 matches. One of the title contenders, Liverpool, will not only battle it out to win the EPL – they will be competing for seven different trophies. This includes all sorts of world and inter-national cups as well as local ones. The schedule for most teams will be hectic.

In isolation, asking overpaid professionals to run around after a ball for 40-odd weeks does not seem a big deal. It is when we understand that these guys also play World Cups and Continental International Competitions during their summer break that we start to understand that a lot of the players only get a week or two break every year. 

With such an intense schedule injury, mental fatigue, and performance-drop-off are all more probable. A recent FIFPro report said the health of top players is at risk without “mandatory four week off-season breaks”.

I feel that this is seen in a lot of workplaces. The people that are central to making a business tick are often overloaded with extra responsibility, tasks, and deadlines. It breeds a terrible mentality of ‘don’t do things too well, otherwise they’ll get you to do more of it!’

Or, in the thirst to please clients, we can find ourselves promising extra value with little consideration for the people that will need to push to deliver on such promises.

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In football (or soccer), it is clear that the players are the product. They are the equity that all other stakeholders rely on. Too often, the players are forgotten in key decisions, and it will hurt the whole product and commercial partnerships in the end.

This inspired me to ask; do we forget about our players? Are we listening to them? Is anyone overloaded and about to break? And what will the consequence be if they disengage, or worse – get hurt?

Richard Branson famously said, “if you look after your staff, they’ll look after your customers. It’s that simple”.

The elite staff, the hardest working team players, the quiet achieving middle managers, and the reliable workhorses. Let’s be sure not to forget them. Check in with them. Review their workflows. Find support for them where we can. Because they are our stars.

They are most important.

Learn more at paulfarina.com.au

Behaviour Doesn’t Lie

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Recognising the common denominator we can all tap into

Overnight, The Ashes (the biggest series in world cricket) will begin between England and Australia. As this series is being played in England, there will be a barrage of hostility thrown at the Australian team. This is standard, but this time it will have extra sharpness as Steve Smith, David Warner, and Cameron Bancroft take the field after coming back from suspension due to their involvement in Sandpapergate Scandal that took place in South Africa in 2018.

On the eve of the first test both captains faced the media for their respective press conferences. Tim Paine, the Australian captain was asked a lot of the usual questions like how they would handle the crowd’s antics, the ground conditions, and what the selection of the side will be. Expectedly, he was also asked about his own side’s behaviour. This is expected as Australia had built up a reputation over the past 20-30 years of being an overly aggressive team with a ‘win-at-all-costs’ mentality. The sort of mentality that got them into trouble in South Africa.

Click on the image above of Tim Paine with 'The Ashes' for the full press conference details of both captains

Click on the image above of Tim Paine with 'The Ashes' for the full press conference details of both captains

Paine answered by quoting Winston Churchill. One of the coaches in the Australian team, Brad Haddin, introduced this quote to Paine and it has become a mantra for the team on this tour. The quote is “behaviour doesn’t lie”.

There are a few things to unpack here:

1.       In the circumstances, an Aussie team taking inspiration from a British Icon seems both respectful and a little cheeky all at the same time. There humility and audacity being utilised all at the same time.

2.       Responding to the question by basically telling the media and public to judge them on what they do and not what we say is a strong and powerful message that oozes clarity and confidence.

3.       It turns out with a little bit more investigation, that Churchill may not have said this quote at all! We are not sure who said it, but a part of me feels that it doesn’t matter. It will be interesting to see how Paine reacts when asked about this, but the quote itself is a cracker.

In the small moments as well as the big ones, it is our daily behaviours that we can all work on, control, and strengthen. They are the common denominator of our performance, and they speak louder than words ever can.

Taking an audit of our behaviours in specific situations, or preparing ourselves to display certain behaviours when we are about to take on a project or go into a meeting is an awareness process we can all do to ensure we are sending out positive and constructive signals to those around us.

Behaviours never lie. They tell a truth. A truth all can see, respond to, and hopefully be inspired by.

 

Learn more about the Behaviours That Matter at paulfarina.com.au

Bring the light in the dark of winter

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Energising ourselves and our customers in the darkest time of the year

This week in the golfing world, we saw Shane Lowry win The Open in Northern Ireland. This is one of the most prestigious and important golf tournaments in the calendar year. Lowry, from the Republic of Ireland was cheered and celebrated by the locals as he maintained his lead during shocking weather while his rivals capitulated in the high winds, rain, and generally miserable conditions.

Lowry managed to regulate his own emotions under the pressure, keep things simple, and execute during the terrible weather. It was a great achievement. And, in an era of ultra-professionalism, it was this beer drinking, happy-go-lucky, family man that was able to become the Champion Golfer of the Year.

The twittersphere has gone mad on this story in golf circles. This little clip said it all (warning: explicit language!)

 The imagery of Rory Mclroy (the Northern Irishman, who was playing on his home course during The Open, but failed miserably) is seen waking up early, hitting the gym, and practicing like mad. This is contrasted to Lowry celebrating with a pint in a pub. It’s good for a giggle, but in my world,  there is a noticeable lesson here.

Lowry celebrating his win in the pub with his mates and a bunch of locals. Fun isn't dead in professional sport, but is it dead in our professional setting?

Lowry celebrating his win in the pub with his mates and a bunch of locals. Fun isn't dead in professional sport, but is it dead in our professional setting?

In the winter months it is tough to keep energy levels up. It is even tougher to keep our customers and teams engaged.

A recent study suggested that six out of 10 of us suffer from lowered moods and motivation in the winter months. Being able to keep our energy up, and that of our customers is critical as this effects business results. I have personally found that appointment cancellations almost double during the winter months.

Shane Lowry certainly does the work. There is no way he could compete in the ultra-competitive world of Professional Golf if he didn’t. But he also has fun. He brings sunshine into the room. He has a positive energy and a humility about him. And, most of all, he doesn’t take the job or himself too seriously. Often, this attitude can be mistaken for not caring. But, if we can keep things light, while doing the work, we will boost the mood, motivation, and engagement of those around us.

The 3 questions to be answered

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Clarity and acceleration are on the other side

Competing priorities are a part of our lives. Time pressure from “other’s emergencies” seems to be a constant. Complexity of our working lives is increasing and does not look like stopping.

These are all statements that came from my last group discussion with a brand’s business leaders. All are sobering statements by themselves, and down right confronting as a trio.

So how can we tackle this? What are the practical ways to bring calm and control back into our workflows?

Matt Church, the Australian Motivational Speaker, speaks of “activity before clarity”. The message being to just go and do a lot of work and through lots of discussions, marketing, selling, and delivering, we will gain more and more clarity about our product, the market’s needs, and our value proposition. This makes sense to me. When I first started in field sales for Aveda in the UK as an Account Manager, I was told to make at least 10 client approaches a week to gain new business. This was not always easy, and at the time it was just as much about hitting the weekly KPI in my report as it was about winning business (we’ve all been there, right!?!)

But what happened was I became a lot clearer about my brand’s value, what problems we solved, where we had competitive advantage, and what I was looking for (ie. The type of client, the size of client, the state of a client, and the attitude of a client). Before I knew it, I was hitting the right prospects at the right time and exceeding targets without needing to do anywhere near 10 approaches a week. My weekly report didn’t have the required 10 filled in, but the boss didn’t seem to mind.

What I didn’t realise was that I was going through a long and painful process to answer three questions I didn’t even realise needed answering:

1.       What am I trying to achieve?

If there is one question that smashes professionals in the face and sits them on their back side, it is this. A succinct answer that feels right is hard to nail. It’s like your own mini Mission or Vision Statement. So many organisations have meaningless Mission Statements and vague Vision Statements, so it’s not hard to see why most of us as individuals can’t answer what seems to be such a simple answer. By the way, if your answer this question is “earn $X”, or “sell X units”, you are not even trying…

2.       Why am I doing what I am doing?

 As an Account Manager I used to drive for hours to client’s I knew would waste my time. Yet, I would waste several hours driving and meeting with them. Why? Because I was following the rules I had set up in my mind that didn’t exist. Because I didn’t realise how precious my time was. Because, I wasn’t engaged in my role. Sometimes there is politics involved, or circumstance, or we are being nice. By asking why I am doing the cycles of work I am doing, a lot of unproductive nonsense can be cut out.

3.       What do I need to do next?

The only thing we can do is the next thing. It may be to stop doing something that is not serving us. In my case, I needed to stop driving to client’s hours away that were not going to grow my business. Gary Vanderchuk talks about not wasting time as one of his key sales tactics. “When I know they don’t want to buy from me, I’ll cut the meeting short”, he says. That is one of his key actions that works for him. Consciously asking, ‘what needs to be done next?’ cuts through the aimlessness that causes ineffectual and wasteful workflows.

By asking these questions often, daily if needed, there is a powerful habit that forms to create clarity, purpose, and ongoing rhythm in our workflows.

Find out more about Rhythm here

Making the Impossible Do’able

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The practical approach to steep objectives

Growing up in the 90’s in the Adelaide Hills the rest of the world felt a long way away. New discoveries, geniuses, and game changing break throughs seemed to always happen in exotic places a long way away. Nothing of gravity seemed to come from anywhere near me. Layer with this the apathy that came with being a teenager during the Grunge movement and the result was an attitude of impossible. When I grew up and travelled around the world, I quickly realised that people everywhere were normal people like us. They were not extra special, more talented, or cleverer.

It was an eye opener – I have the right to do brilliant things as much as anyone from Geneva, New York, or Oslo.

Grunge - full of angst and apathy

Grunge - full of angst and apathy

She had no right 1

We have recently seen countless examples of people achieving the seemingly impossible. Since writing about Ash Barty’s amazing major win (Ash the quitter), she has gone to number one in the world! We all thought it was impossible that any Aussie would climb to the peak of the mountain. Our tennis system that was apparently devoid of talent, money, and unity – Ash made a mockery of this assumption.

Ash wins the Birmingham Classic to become the World’s Number 1 Female Tennis Player

Ash wins the Birmingham Classic to become the World’s Number 1 Female Tennis Player

She had no right 2

Hannah Green, ranked 114th in the world, rolled up to Hazeltine (Minnesota USA), for the PGA Championship Major Tournament. Green went wire-to-wire (led all the way through the tournament) to win one of the toughest tournaments in the year. Green had no right to win in the minds of the “experts”. But she did. Game changing.

Sitting outside the top 100 ranked players, Hannah Green had no right to win a major tournament

Sitting outside the top 100 ranked players, Hannah Green had no right to win a major tournament

They had no right

In 2016, Leicester City Football Club (soccer) did the un-do’able. They won the Premier League. In an era where only the richest clubs win, this little club won matches. And kept winning. And won until there were no games left. It will always go down as one of the biggest anomalies ever seen in world sport. They were 5000-1 odds (NBC, In a league of their own). I am not a betting man, but I know that these are some of the longest odds in a comparable situation.

Still hard to believe. They didn’t have the resources, the squad, or the pedigree. But they did it. They achieved the impossible.

Still hard to believe. They didn’t have the resources, the squad, or the pedigree. But they did it. They achieved the impossible.

I could write for pages about such stories. And I draw on sport, because it is such a transparent workplace. Everything the leaders, players, and communities do is on show. We get great coverage and insights into what people are doing and how they do it. I feel that sporting stories relate directly to our own lives and workplaces where clear learnings we can be practically used.

This week, I shared an article by Francesco Gino on LinkedIn, written for Harvard Business Review (why curiosity matters). I am a big fan of Gino’s work on Rule Breaking. One statistic from Gino’s HBR article smacked me in the face:

70% of people she surveyed were scared to ask more questions in their workplace.

This is an alarmingly high number, but one I can understand. I am seen as an extravert with a big mouth, but I can often find myself afraid of asking questions from fear of looking dumb, even within a trusted environment of people. So, if we are afraid of asking questions, then it is no wonder that when faced with steep objectives we immediately feel they are unobtainable. How dare we question our assumptions that it is too hard?

Business Battle Lines have been drawn. Higher Up’s have laid out their strategies and they are dealing out the numbers they want to see achieved. Clients and competitors have done the same. If you are saying to yourself “that’s impossible”, then you are not alone (see my previous article on this; Tell em their dreaming). It is a natural response. But, you are also wrong. It is incorrect that ‘unrealistic targets’ are not achievable. They are. It just takes asking a few extra questions.

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Starting with the mindset that your objectives are achievable is the first step.

Secondly, throw out the rule book. We discuss Audacity as one of the critical Behaviours That Matter in my programs. A part of this is separating ourselves from what we did. The controversial author, Jordan Peterson writes “the past is dead” in his book The 12 Rules of Life. Peterson is referring to the fact that what has happened cannot be changed as apposed to the future, which is still completely malleable.

The third step is implementation. What are the habitual behaviours you can set in motion now? The first one I would suggest is to set yourself to ask more questions. Inspired by Gino’s work, we can take that extra moment to discuss, question, and go deeper into what is happening, why it is happening, and how can it happen better?

Along with remembering the feats of Barty, Green, and Leicester City we can set ourselves up to not only achieve the impossible, but set ourselves up to establish a new benchmark that could not have been imagined.

 

Learn more about Audacity and the HAT Competencies here.

Blue Vests for Inappropriate or Inspirational?

AFL’s reaction to the increased poor behaviour in match day crowds (image: Reddit)

AFL’s reaction to the increased poor behaviour in match day crowds (image: Reddit)

The balance between safety and Orwellian dystopia

One of life’s joys in my world is going to watch live sport. I loved playing and intend to enjoy swinging a golf club for decades to come, but watching elite sport is special to me. In fact, I get a little angsty if I go too long without it. I love how I can be watching a sporting event anywhere in the world and turn a stranger next to me and discuss a topic on hand freely with complete openness and connection. Its great fun!

I also love getting parochial. I am big, loud, and can be as one-eyed as any other supporter (i.e.. my team is always getting a raw deal.) It is also a good opportunity to catch up with mates and discuss everything that is going on in our worlds.

With my crew at the Liverpool FC exhibition match at Adelaide Oval a few years ago

With my crew at the Liverpool FC exhibition match at Adelaide Oval a few years ago

It is for all these reasons that my first reaction to the AFL’s Behavioural Awareness Officers at football games this week has been met with scepticism. The supporter nation has expressed its distaste to this initiative as there is a feeling in Australia that yet another layer of policing and surveillance has been introduced.

You can hear the sporting population crying out “What! Now, I can’t even go to a game of footy without being treated like a school kid!” The parallel to George Orwell’s 1984 are being drawn often, and this does not fill my heart with joy.

On the other side, there are harsh realities to face. Do we know how to behave? Are we good at self-regulation? Is it the small minority that ruin it for the rest? In the context of AFL footy, there have been an increased incident of fist fights at games in recent years (the Age). 2019, has been full of anti-social behavioural incidents and trend is not going in the right direction.

So, if the answer to the above questions was ‘no’, then what is the appropriate action to nudge us in the right direction?   

A friend of mine from childhood, Brooke Taylor, works hospitality at Adelaide Oval during AFL games. She speaks of a heavy police presence that should be able to manage anti-social behaviour as there are already plenty of them at games. This on top of security guards dotted around the ground and in stands.

Yet, the AFL felt the need to add another layer of targeted security – the Blue Vested Behavioural Awareness Officers.  

A heavy Police presence - is more of this answer in our communities, teams, and organisations?

A heavy Police presence - is more of this answer in our communities, teams, and organisations?

In my view it is clear that no one wants to be in any environment where they feel unsafe. So Inappropriate behaviour is what we want to eradicate. On the other end of the spectrum is the behaviour we want to encourage; I would suggest this is Inspirational behaviour. Then there is a large gulf in the middle with the centre probably being Vanilla (a generic term for boring or non-descript).

The Behaviour Scale. In the pursuit of Vanilla we can increase the Inappropriate.

The Behaviour Scale. In the pursuit of Vanilla we can increase the Inappropriate.

In searching for lowering the Inappropriate it would seem the AFL have aimed to increase the Vanilla. By doing this, there has unfortunately been an increase in the Inappropriate. Not a decrease.

 It would seem that the Inspirational has been left out of the discussion. Some of the comments in the media have displayed this. A good example is that of Jeff Kennett (ex-Victorian Premier, and current Hawthorn president) saying,

"I’m not being racist when I say this, but when I saw some of the footage, the people who are making judgments while they wear these authoritative coats, are not people who appear to have a great knowledge of our game."

This is not helpful, and Kennett has apologised since. But there is one element in his comment that is near the mark. Stay with me on this.

In 2004, Portugal hosted the European Cup in soccer (like the World Cup, but for European Nations). The Portuguese were readying themselves for an invasion of English fans (called Hooligans) that would travel in mass and had a reputation as the most thuggish in the world. Riot gear and water cannon tanks were being marshalled ($21 million worth!). Aside to this they also enrolled other help. Clifford Stott, a crowd violence expert was drafted in to help. He implemented Blue Vests, coincidentally as the AFL have done. But in a very different way and with greatly different results.  

Riots in Portugal’s Euro 2004 tournament occurred where Riot Police were stationed. Coincidence?

Riots in Portugal’s Euro 2004 tournament occurred where Riot Police were stationed. Coincidence?

 Stott, implemented the following ideas:

1.       No riot gear – this signals war. It signals get ready to fight. The exact opposite message to send the crowds.

2.       Select the right people – he did not select officers for their riot control skills, but ones that had good social skills. They could have a friendly chat and strike up conversation.

3.       Study – all of these officers were encouraged to study the teams, the players, the coaches, and form guides. This is the bit Kennett was on nearer the target on – game knowledge is crucial to be able to interact in a way to signal positive behaviours.

4.       Intervention – policing at the level the crowd saw as appropriate, not a level the police saw as appropriate. This was the toughest initiative to get the team behind. It seemed illogical but proved essential. This would eradicate feelings of injustice and violent responses.

The result was that over a three-week period, Portugal welcomed over one million fans and there was only one arrest of an English supporter. There were 2000 police-crowd interactions reported, with only 0.4% qualifying as disorderly. The only violence experienced was in areas where Riot Policing was still being utilised. In fact, one incident occurred in Portugal where English fans asked the Blue Vests to sort out another policeman who was using force on a punter. The Hooligans were now policing the police’s behaviour!

In 2008, they literally wrote the handbook based on Stott’s and other’s work called Policing football in Europe. Not everything translates, but Gillion McLachlan (AFL CEO) could do with including this in his bedtime reading.

The big lesson I take from this is that when the police, security, and the crowd have a sense of shared purpose, the Inspirational behaviours are encouraged. Everyone is on the same side.

This provides us all with an opportunity to reflect on our teams and organisations where all too often there are heavy handed tactics to ‘Vanilla’ everyone’s behaviour instead of encouraging Inspirational behaviours.

What type of Blue Vests do you want to see? What type of Blue Vest are you?

Ash the quitter

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A story of quitting on the way to the top

Ipswich, Queensland – 1996. Ashleigh Barty is born to an indigenous dad and a mother with English descendancy. Humble beginnings served Ash well, and her attitude was old school right from the start. She opted for tennis instead of netball as a child because, in her words “netball is a girls sport”. Ash rapidly became a gun tennis player winning the Wimbledon Juniors title at age 15.

A young Ash Barty - so cute

A young Ash Barty - so cute

Next step – the Pro’s. Ash would spend the next two years earning every start to every tournament she played in. Eventually Ash would experience some success in the doubles game more than singles. Ranked outside the top 200 in the world, Ash then made a decision… she quit.

"it was too much too quickly for me as I've been travelling from quite a young age... I wanted to experience life as a normal teenaged girl and have some normal experiences."

Ash had a chat to some cricket administrators about trialling for a new WBBL (Womens Big Bash League) concept. Unlike others that tried to cross over from different sports, Ash had the goods and was signed up for the Brisbane Heat’s inaugural season.

Playing Twenty20 cricket fro Brisbane - taking a break

Playing Twenty20 cricket fro Brisbane - taking a break

After two years hiatus, Ash decided to return to tennis in 2016. Starting from the bottom again, she would compete well straight away. Ash was now ready to take on the challenge of the Pro Tour. In 2017, The Malaysian Open becomes her first Top Tier (WTA) Singles Title, followed by a string of successes in the doubles game.

In a world of big personalities and brands like Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, Ash is unnoticeable. Almost invisible on the world stage. In Australia, the antics of Nick Kyrios get 100 times more column space in the papers than Ash. But like a skilled ninja she operates in the shadows slowly but surely working her way up the world rankings.

As Ernest Hemmingway once said, “everything in life happens gradually, and then suddenly”.

Boom – Ash Barty is the 2019 French Open Singles Champion. Ash Barty is the world ranked number two player in the world. Aged 23 years old. But she is not just a Major Winner. She is a force to be reckoned with. Her game is tight. She is strong, skilful, and strategic.

What a story.

The girl has come a long way

The girl has come a long way

But, for me, this is a story of quitting. Ash taught us that we are all allowed to quit, but we can never give up on our ultimate goal. Ash never stopped being a professional tennis player, she just took some time out from playing tennis.

Angela Duckworth writes about the power of ‘never giving up’ in her book Grit.

One of the building blocks of grit, or Tenacity as I put it, is the practice of committing to something hard. Duckworth’s rules are:

1.       You need to have one hard thing to practice regularly.

2.       You can quit, but only at a natural stopping point that is designated at the start.

3.       You choose your own.

Thank you Ashleigh Barty for teaching us about the power of quitting while never giving up.