Sunday, March 21, 2010

Trainwrecks and Bingles - but Resilient Clarke Bats On

There is nothing I need or wish to do to contribute to the media circus surrounding the (former) relationship of Michael Clarke and Lara Bingle except to say that Michael Clarke is a fascinating case study in resilience or if you prefer the more colloquial, "mental toughness". From what we can gather, he came to a conclusion that he needed to be somewhere other than where he was (New Zealand to play for Australia), came home to Oz, executed his decision to end his relationship, surrounded himself with family and friends, had some dark moments at a pub (pictures happily snapped by other pub patrons), went back to New Zealand, spent some time in the nets retraining with the red cricket ball - he had played for some weeks with a white ball in the Twenty20 games after all - and then hit a record breaking knock of 168!

If you study his press conference, and allowing for the rehearsed pieces of script which re-occurred over and over again to fill the space and block the obvious questions he did not really want to answer at any length ("It's just great to be back here in NZ and I am really looking forward to Friday”), he cited the support from his captain Ricky Ponting and his head coach Tim Nielsen as integral to his ability to leave for a time and then be able to return and cope. He allowed himself to feel weakness and sadness at some point while he was home and then appeared to pick himself up, dust himself off, refocus on his “job", anticipate some further challenges (e.g. sledging from his NZ competitors), but laugh on occasion and demonstrate he had some insight into how the whole saga may have looked to everyone else.

He accepted philosophically the inevitable fascination others can have for the lives of professional athletes on and off the field and noted that everyone has their jobs to do including the media. Thus he was able to be creative in the frame he put around the hammering he received publically and I certainly got the sense he would cope with any sledging that came his way as he reminded us all he had copped it many times before; thus importantly affirming for himself his ability to survive that. His innings and the partnership with Marcus North which put Australia in a strong position, are blatant evidence of an outstanding ability to push through adversity by being more than mentally tough. He demonstrated he was being self aware and strategic.

1. Resilient people, first and foremost, are self aware. They know what they feel and why.
2. They handle crucial and difficult conversations (e.g. relationships bust ups)
3. They have tools and strategies to get them back on track.
4. They are big enough to admit they need help and support and know what kind of help they require and where to get it.
5. They are also able to maintain their sense of humour, as evidenced with Clarke
6. They have self belief that is not easily shaken
7. They are creative in the way they construe events that could bring other people down i.e. they maintain an internal voice that is constructive and serves to enhance their performance.

However much Michael and Lara may have become the butt of other people’s ridicule in past weeks, I believe Michael Clarke has emerged as an impressive ambassador for resilience and a most worthy future captain of Australia given the inevitable pressure that accompanies such a high profile role in our sports-obsessed nation.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Look in the mirror - what do we see?

I attended a professional development function last week and found myself surrounded by fellow management consultants, training professionals, coaches and psychologists. There was an almost audible groan in the room as we were informed that each of us would have up to one minute to introduce ourselves to the others in the room. My quick mental calculation confirmed I would not make it home to my family for dinner.

Such was the concern about the possibility of tedium, even by the organisers, that they divided the introductions into two rounds (punctuated by other introductions from members of their staff). I must admit I did find it fascinating to watch and listen to the choices made by each of us on how to introduce ourselves; for even up to one minute revealed (even betrayed) something of our self perception; the salient self disclosures we wanted to share intermixed with what we thought our audience may want or need to hear.

If each of us had to give an elevator pitch, how would we define ourselves? Would people hear self belief, warmth, brinksmanship, empathy, hubris, self-deprecation, insecurity (perhaps reflected in trying ever so hard) or humility? Would we talk about our passions or our achievements; the people in our lives or the things we have accumulated. And most interestingly, would our self perception match the perception others have of us assuming they have had enough time to really see us in action.

Marcum and Smith in their book "egonomics" (Simon and Shuster 2008) identify some early warning signs of misplaced ego that include being comparative, being defensive, showcasing brilliance and seeking acceptance. In contrast they said the healthy embodiment of ego is evidenced in humility, curiosity and veracity, that is, the habitual pursuit of and adherence to, truth. The openness of humility, the curiosity that drives exploration of ideas and veraciously chasing truth helps us have courageous conversations and be able to close the gap between what we think is going on and what really is!