Is Silver Good Enough?


The 2012 London Olympic Games have drawn to a close. We have witnessed many highs and lows for the competitors who have been training hard and competing in world events to reach their peak at just the right moment. What an enormous mountain to climb. While the competitors have been thrilled to stand on a podium whether they have won a gold, silver or bronze medal, there have been journalists asking questions such as: "How does it feel to have lost the gold medal?" "How does it feel to be so close, but yet so far?" And the most gut-wrenching question of all: "You must be disappointed?"

"I think people need to start understanding that it is not easy to win an Olympic gold medal and there is absolutely nothing wrong with a silver medal," said Australian long jumper Mitchell Watt.

He sees that the media views silver and bronze as disappointing results. So what has this to do with you and your business?


Motivated or Deflated?

Perhaps you have a team of sales people in your company who have travelled the country, worked hard all month and done everything they can to achieve budget and they just didn’t quite make it.  What do you say to them?  Are you pressured by other leaders who are criticising the performance of your teams?  Sales people are often under attack as the reason the business is not winning gold all the time.

There is nothing more disheartening for sales people than to fail to achieve their targets.  I know this, because I’ve been one for many years.  The good sales manager acknowledges what has been achieved and what else needs to be done and that usually requires some creative and innovative thinking. The moment a leader puts someone down that person feel deflated and de-motivated.

Whilst working in Japan I was a commission-only sales person for nearly five years. I didn’t always hit the target and when that happened occasionally the CEO, who was based in Hong Kong, was on the phone almost immediately.  No.  Not to criticise me, but to encourage and to help me to succeed.  He was also always available whenever I had a question.  Through his leadership and coaching I excelled to become a top sales person for the company.  It wasn’t always easy especially as the cost of living in Tokyo was very expensive. When I changed company my first few months were completely different from the previous 5 years.  The two key leaders were breaking new ground in transformational leadership development so sales were imperative.  The pressure was on me big time to bring in the business. The way they demanded results, I felt as if I had been thrown into a pit of piranhas and was fighting for my life.  I wish I’d known then what I know now.


The Illusion of Mixed Paradigms

Anybody who has their own business or who has started one knows that they have to be everything, at least in the early days.  Whether or not you are in a sales role, you can make a difference as to how you achieve your targets and budgets. It’s as simple as being aware of your state of mind.  How much do you worry about the future?  If you are doing that, your thinking is consumed by those thoughts and this prevents your ability to be creative and innovative.  Rather than thinking about things which may be out of your control, give yourself permission to say; ‘right now I don’t have an answer’.  This immediately frees the mind to allow new insights and more productive thinking.

How often do you hear people blame how they feel because of the weather, the traffic, their boss, their children and a myriad of other things?  Maybe you do this too, sometimes?  Some people live permanently in the outside-in paradigm.  It’s all about every event, situation, or someone else that makes them feel the way they do.  There are others who sometimes see life that way but more often live in the inside-out paradigm of “it’s because of the way I’m thinking right now that I feel like I do”. This shifts the ownership and responsibility of the person’s thinking at any moment.

The truth is that there is only one paradigm and that is everyone is always living in the feeling of their thinking no matter what! Once we become more conscious of our thinking, we needn’t take it so seriously.  Leave it alone and you will be surprised how new thoughts and insights are available at any moment.

I believe all athletes go to the Olympic Games to achieve their very best.  For example, like Mahe Drysdale, the New Zealander gold medallist of the single sculls in rowing who said; “I’ve been working for 12 years to achieve this medal”.  At Beijing he suffered from food poisoning and lost his chance of gold. He didn’t give up, he left the past behind and re-focused for the 2012 Olympics.  If you want to get the very best out of your people are you going about it the right way?  If someone outside of your organisation interviewed them what would they say about you as their leader and coach?  Not everyone is going to achieve gold every day and probably neither are you, so listening to them and asking them questions that help them see things differently, will be the biggest motivator.  Show them the bigger picture.  My client John* told  me that when his senior manager said to him, ‘go fishing where the fish are rather than covering the whole ocean’ his focus changed on how he could get the best results and John said “that has worked for me”.


A Different Definition of Success

We don’t always have to achieve gold to ‘win’.  Last week I was privileged to hear Richard De Crespigny speak at the annual Aviation Industry Awards dinner in New Zealand and to launch his book QF32.  The book is his account of how one of the world’s air disasters was averted on November 4 2010 when Richard, as Captain of the Qantas A380 Airbus, had a mammoth task on the flight deck to keep the aircraft in the air and then get it back on the ground. For two hours he and his fellow crew (technical and cabin) remained calm as they planned to stabilise the damage, configure the overweight aircraft, then manoeuvre it towards Changi Airport in Singapore to safely land the plane with all 469 people on board unharmed. It is an extraordinary story of leadership, teamwork and courage and is an inspiration for all leaders who may find themselves in an extreme situation. 

The next day over a long lunch together with his wife, and my husband, we discussed achieving gold.  Richard said: “Whenever we complete a flight we rate our landing asking ourselves three questions”.  Shortly after take-off from Changi Airport an explosion shattered Engine 2, caused hundreds of pieces of shrapnel to rip through the wing and fuselage, creating chaos as vital flight systems and back-ups were destroyed or degraded. After two hours we finally landed back in Singapore and we asked ourselves the three questions:

Question 1: Could we taxi the aircraft off the runway?

Answer: No we couldn’t. It was six hours on the runway before it was towed off.

Question 2: Could we use the aircraft again?

Answer: No we couldn’t. It was the longest and most expensive repair in aviation history.  It took 16 months at a cost of Australian$135 million to fix it!

Question 3: Could we walk off the aircraft?

Answer: Yes we could, and did.

“So we gave ourselves a 33% pass on the landing”.

So is silver or even bronze good enough?  Sometimes yes it is, and you could say that even with this result Richard De Crespigny and his crew really did win gold!


©2012 Gilly Chater – Insight Powered Breakthroughs


Gilly helps people achieve insight powered breakthroughs for themselves and their businesses. She is an inspirational speaker who presents keynotes and breakouts at conferences and writes about the key ingredients for success in today’s world.

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