You know, I’ve always said, I won’t do sporting metaphors and I won’t…
However… may I throw myself at your mercy? Allow me some latitude, to use a sporting incident, as an example…
No prior knowledge, no understanding of the rules nor machinations of technique nor subtlety, required.
May I make a passing reference to cricket? Thank you.
Test-match cricket has to be inhaled, imbibed, marinated. There's no passing acquaintanceship with cricket. It's too complicated to explain. It has to be absorbed. It’s an osmosis thing.
You either like it or you don’t. Cricket… the Marmite of sport.
It’s also the ultimate team game, the manifestation of living chess and requires skill, craft and cunning.
It requires the physical endurance of Atlas and the brain box of Einstein.
It is also the most irritating game.
Everyone who watches it is a better batter than the batter at the crease. A better bowler than the bowler running-in. A safer pair of hands than the catcher-in-the-slips and a better judge of out, or not, than the umpire.
The five-day test, we have just lost, against a rampaging India team of wizards, is the point I want to get to.
On the last day a number of decisions had to be made about tactics and techniques. Relax, I won’t bother you with the details.
Here’s the point. The English captain made some wrong decisions and in consequence, the game was lost. It was a painful and undignified humbling.
After the game the press started the inquisition. The pundits proclaimed the wrong decisions as obvious and a howler.
After the game, when Joe Root, the England Captain was interviewed, no interrogation was needed. There was no dissembling. No hiding.
I’ll leave you to ponder this moment. Think about it. Someone admitting they were wrong…
That’s why Root is a leader, a captain and why test-cricket is the greatest game in the world. It involves integrity.
Root didn’t talk about the pitch, the weather, injuries, pressure and all the other excuses we hear from other sports, industry, businesses, managers and politicians.
‘I was wrong…’
Wow, frame the moment.
In the best of well run organisations and the best of ordered careers, the best of us get things wrong and it is a measure of us, the organisations we lead and our character… how fast we admit it, learn from it, move on and move up.
Root has earned our respect in three key ways;
He has created a vulnerability, declared himself accountable, owned the problem and that creates
… an example, so when a team member makes a howler, they can admit it, feel safe and fix it…
… and that creates trust, teams with no trust are just groups of people.
In the continuing emails I’ve been getting about the conduct of NHSE, comm’s people, during the pandemic, this one stood out;
‘I’ve been in the NHS for long enough to know it is horribly top-down. From the start, it was obvious they’d got the whole approach wrong. There was a huge amount we could have done, to help, locally, reassuring people, showcasing the work colleagues were doing. In fact, they were asking why we didn't. We were treated like idiots and as if we were part of the problem. Of course, they will never admit it…’
The ‘never admit it’ bit interested me.
There is research that shows refusing to admit or apologise…
‘… resulted in greater self-esteem than not refusing to apologise. Moreover, apology refusal also resulted in increased feelings of power/control and value integrity, both of which mediated the effect of refusal on self-esteem.’
These findings explain why reconciliation after a row can be difficult, getting people to recognise they are wrong, even more so and how people become defensive and entrenched.
There’s no sign the press people, or our new chief executive are likely to turn up and say;
‘Really sorry we handled a lot of this badly. Can we start again?’
They’re digging in… entrenched.
Joe Root is a unique leader, able to develop and grow.
Leaders who are ‘always right’, never are and if they are afraid to fail, they’ll be too scared to succeed.
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