Business and life - "things are not always as they seem!"

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Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Everyman’s Open Champion

All of us here, “Northern Ireland everyman”, are so proud of Northern Ireland’s finest; Gmac, Rory and now Darren – our Champions.
Darren is a hero for Northern Ireland everyman. His triumphs, low times and emotionally charged highs are what we all experience in our lives, though perhaps to a much lesser degree. Due to his humility, we can identify with him as an easygoing affable personality despite the fact that he is a world-class sportsman. We care about him.
Just a really nice, friendly, unaffected guy. Smoking a cigar, having a drink, sharing a joke. In enjoyment, smiling and laughing; in pain, vulnerable and crying; in defeat, gracious and phlegmatic; in triumph, generous and mindful of his family. A role model for Northern Ireland everyman. We care about him.
The unique frankness with which he personally relates his ups and downs, while facing life’s challenges under a constant media spotlight, has also made him a positive cult figure within and well beyond the golfing world. Peter Alliss said he was the most popular Open champion in his 50-year memory of the competition.
As Darren sank the final putt with his own inimitable aplomb and humorous touch, I poured a celebratory brandy to toast the man from my hometown; “Come in Dungannon, I know your knock”. Let the celebrations begin.
Nobody should rain on Darren’s parade – enough rain fell at Royal St George’s over the weekend anyway.
And yet……… From the caring admiring Northern Ireland everyman, to our role model hero –“Darren, enjoy your celebratory few pints – but not too many. Let the party roll – but not for too long”.
Man, we were so happy – but reflective - to see you with the Claret jug as your private jet landed in George Best Belfast City airport. George Best – Northern Ireland everyman’s earlier hero. We cared about George. We care about Darren.

Monday, 18 July 2011

The Alternative Apprentice – Lordship or Leadership?

The Apprentice reality TV show is a classic of its genre, due in no small part to public fascination with the gratuitous humiliations doled out to hapless, servile, “because I’m worth it” participants by the bizarrely charmless Lord Sugar. However, to portray it in any way as a model of how to train young executives in business leadership is a real stretch. Far too much Lordship and not enough Leadership.

Lord Sugar struts, snaps, snarls and Lords it over everyone, with little challenge offered to his barbed comments and sometimes doubtful or dated opinions. Despite his Lordship’s undoubted financial success, he simply does not demonstrate the social skills, verbal ability, empathy or charisma required for genuine leadership of intelligent “independent minds” in today’s business world. Why would anyone want to be his learning apprentice?

Say The Apprentice format were reversed, so that losing finalist Jim Eastwood – a young man who, to his cost, was prepared to challenge the lordly genius - was in the Boardroom high-chair asking the hard questions and the surly Alan Sugar given the responsibility of leading a team on a task; how long would it be until his dictatorial inability to lead and get the best from a team was exposed with the words “You’re fired”?

We don’t need to wait for such an episode of the Alternative Apprentice to find out the answer. Rabbie Burns had Lord Sugar sussed out and metaphorically fired over 200 years ago!

Ye see yon birkie ca'd 'a Lord,' 
Wha struts, an' stares, an' a' that? 

Tho' hundreds worship at his word, 
He's but a cuif for a' that. 

For a' that, an' a' that, 
His ribband, star, an' a' that, 

The man o' independent mind, 
He looks an' laughs at a' that.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Business communication - The (future) King’s Speech

The William and Kate duo bring a youthful freshness to Britain’s ancient Royal institution, which again demonstrated its unrivalled ability to put on a show of public-pleasing wedding pomp and circumstance. But just one thing jars.
Following this triumph, Wills’ and Kate’s popularity on their current trip to the Canadian Dominions continues - for now - to keep the romantic dream alive for the easily pleased starstruck masses. So what is wrong?
Well, in each speech he has made, the future King has read every single word in a boring unnatural monotone worthy of his revered but rhetorically-challenged Grandmother or stammering Great-Grandfather. His speeches, while carefully crafted and elegantly constructed, are bland on delivery and of course as a direct result, even the “jokes” fall embarrassingly flat, despite the fact that the guy has a good smile and indeed appears to be engaging on a one-on-one basis.
Surely after all the publicity around “The King’s Speech” the Royal handlers are aware that so much more is demanded of people in such privileged positions. As they and we all know, honeymoons don’t last forever.
No, it is not 1939 and he doesn’t stammer, but now that Wills is back from Canada he should put himself on a crash course in natural public speaking and never again get in front of a microphone with a fully scripted speech.
This tightly scripted “royal-speak” is not the way Kings, commoners, republicans and in particular, business leaders should communicate in 2011. Our lazy self-serving fear of making a mistake in wording or grammar is no justification for the tedium that we inflict on our captive audiences of listening to a wooden, passionless delivery.
Listen up CEOs, executives, team leaders! Our speeches are not about us; they are about the listeners. Or as Marshall McLuhan originally and insightfully commented “The medium is the message”. Think about it before your next public speech!

Friday, 8 July 2011

News of the World

The closure of the News of the World seems like a good outcome in light of the appalling behaviour of its journalists in the phone hacking scandal. But fear not, the vacuum in provision of intrusive tittle tattle and invasion of individual privacies to find "scoops" for the titillation of the great British public will soon be filled.
What irritates me is the universal po-faced righteous response to all this. There is no fundamental moral difference between hacking of phones and the time-honoured "legitimate" intrusive practices such as those of the paparazzi, or the sly journalistic eavesdropping on private conversations that has been the stuff of media fodder for generations.
Indeed, even the revered BBC is happy to condone the regular cringe-making hurtful activities of their interviewers when they ask a distraught bereaved parent "how they feel" in order to make a dramatic piece for their own six o'clock News of the World.
Elements that respect the rights of individuals, such as privacy, restraint and dignity, used to count for something in the media. Now it appears that anything goes, so why all the surprise?

Sunday, 3 July 2011

You want more sales? Then fire the Andy Murrays and hire the Rory McIlroys!

In most sporting competition there is little to choose between the top competitors in terms of physical strength, athleticism and indeed inherent talent. The difference between winners and losers often lies in their personal ability to cope with the mental stresses generated by four rounds of golf in a Major tournament or four sets of tennis in a Wimbledon semi-final.
Rory McIlroy’s disastrous collapse in the final round of the Masters at Augusta was interpreted by many as an inability to handle the pressure. While desperately disappointed however, Rory didn’t see it that way and his upbeat never-say-die post-tournament responses won him the admiration of all.
Rory learned. Rory stayed calm and resolute. Rory’s attitude was mature and he went on to win the US Open by a mile.
By contrast, after a tremendous run in Wimbledon Andy Murray was comprehensively defeated – again – by Rafael Nadal. When, after winning the first set, the match started going against him he openly demonstrated a tantrum-led grimacing attitude that was only surpassed by the ungracious surliness of his post-match negative body language and downbeat comments.
Andy repeated the attitudinal mistakes of the past. Andy ranted. Andy’s attitude was juvenile and was a dead giveaway to Nadal – and indeed future opponents - that he was rattled and would crack.
In most business competition there is little to choose between competing companies in terms of product or pricing or service. The difference between winners and losers often lies in the upbeat never-say-die reactions of your sales people and their ability to bounce back from disappointment and go on to make the next big sale with a positive, calm and resolute attitude. Hire Rory; Fire Andy!

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