From Malcolm Faulkner
As I recently became an American citizen and will celebrate the 4th of July as such for the first time ever this year, I thought it apt to draw a sports analogy in this blog – as the European soccer has just finished, the Tour de France is just starting and the end of this month sees the start of the London Olympics.
British rider Mark Cavendish winning stage 3 of the Tour de France – and one win away from Lance Armsrtrong’s record of 22 stage wins
Why is it we are willing to pay top athletes (and entertainers for that matter) such exorbitant incomes? Two reasons: emotion and exposure.
Emotion because we all innately seek to be inspired and sports is an important source of inspiration for many of us, likewise with movie stars and other performers. Exposure because the stakes are so high: success and failure is there right before millions of eyes to clearly see. There is no hiding.
What can we learn from this and apply in our less celebrated daily work?
Firstly that we strive to create and do things that our customers, our employees and colleagues and ourselves can be passionate about. For a software company we exist to make people’s lives better – but we might not be expressing ourselves passionately.
Clearly, there are great examples we can draw upon. Apple is one that springs to mind or any other leading brand that people strongly identify with. It seems easier to make this connection when we are selling directly to consumers rather than to businesses. I challenge you to think about what it is that makes what you do and offer your customers (regardless of who they are) valuable, and to find a way to express it so passionately that they are emotionally moved. This isn’t intended as some New Age mumbo jumbo. Building a strong emotional connection is front and center in brand loyalty. If what you have is so fundamentally powerful in how it helps your customers do better and greater things then find away to be so passionate about it that they become inspired.
While the favorites often win on the world’s stage the outcome isn’t always predictable and while we don’t necessarily enjoy seeing our hero’s fall short it is what makes it entertaining. With top sports events like soccer garnering 50,000+ stadium fans and millions of TV viewers every action and decision is there for all those critics to weigh in – nothing is hidden.
Good organizations work hard at visibility and recognition. But outside our immediate stakeholder group how visible is what we do? In many respects we are like a high school soccer team playing on a local field on a Saturday morning. What we do is important to those that care but to the larger constituency mostly unknown (unless something newsworthy happens).
How differently would we behave if more people were looking? The more visible something is, the higher the stakes, and correspondingly the more effort and commitment we put in. We rely on scorecards and reports to discuss progress within our management teams but mostly what we report is hidden from the larger constituency. But imagine if this wasn’t the case and they were posted somewhere for all to see. We most typically think about visibility being for those directly involved in the decision making and outcome. But if the exposure was greater, the stakes would be higher and so would be the resulting commitment.