Do sport and business have anything in common? Cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle and wife Anita seem to think so. In their new book, The Winning Way, the duo draw business lessons from sport, making it a “gripping book”, says industrialist Mukesh Ambani, who has written the foreword.
With chapters on how to create a winning cycle, develop a team and sustain success, the book offers insights into management techniques, using sporting activities, situations and teams to illustrate the point. The book marks the completion of 300 successful corporate workshops run by the couple. Edited excerpts from the chapter “Learning while Losing”:
Turning things around
The key to turning things around is positivity—conviction that things will get better soon enough. In any team, there are always those who have faith in the team’s ability and remain optimistic that the dark clouds will pass. At the same time, there are also cynics who are quite happy to run down their own team. On Masterstrokes (CNBC), Rahul Dravid talked about the team being like a pot, from which some take out and some put in. A team in which more people contribute is a more positive team. Sadly in a bad patch there are more demands to take out of the pot. The team needs to rally around the optimists (who are also generally the people who are doing better than the others) and the cynics need to be sidelined. It’s true of individuals as well. Ricky Ponting speaks of the time when he was a little low on confidence after having failed to get runs in a few innings. He said he spent as much time as possible with Mark Waugh, who was in good form and was very positive about everything.
The Winning Way: By Anita Bhogle & Harsha Bhogle, Westland, 196 pages, Rs 200.
India’s badminton star Pullela Gopi Chand, on his march towards the All England title in 2001, ran into numerous cynics who told him that the Chinese hit too hard and jumped too high, that they could not be beaten and that even if he scored seven points against them instead of four, it would still qualify as a big achievement. Gopi didn’t believe there was much difference between losing after scoring seven points or losing after scoring four. He said he believed he could win and always surrounded himself with positive people who told him he could make it. He said he didn’t have specific plans on how to beat the Chinese, just the faith that if he played his game well enough consistently he could win. As it turned out he beat a Chinese player in the semi-final and one in the final. It was a historic moment in Indian sport.
In the first year of the IPL (Indian Premier League), the Deccan Chargers were at the bottom of the table. An already disillusioned team got engulfed in rumours that the owners wanted to sell off their stake. The second season of IPL saw a new captain in Adam Gilchrist. He led by example and infused positivity into the team. In a single year he managed to create a turnaround and Deccan Chargers won the tournament in 2009. It is always a challenge to lead a motley, heterogeneous team as in the IPL. The younger members of Rajasthan Royals, who won the first season of the IPL, credited their captain Shane Warne, who always advised them to look ahead and forget about what happened before or think of what might have been. Those who allow themselves to get caught in the burden of past failure find it difficult to pick themselves up again.
Actually, a small loss often does good to the team. It is a wake-up call to teams who tend to take winning for granted. It can also act as a gentle purgative—to remove flab, to reassess the team’s assets and liabilities and to renew their commitment to the common goal. Chronic winners may not always be battle-ready and could be taken by surprise when sudden changes occur; thus small losses or challenges actually keep teams on their toes and prepare them for whatever the situation demands. We often talk about how good teams can emerge stronger after defeat because they now know where they are vulnerable. After the West Indies lost to India in the final of the 1983 World Cup, they returned to blank India out in the series that followed and then dominated world cricket like never before. Australia surprisingly lost the Ashes to England in 2005 in an era when they didn’t know what defeat meant. In the next eighteen months, they had won the Champions Trophy, demolished England 5-0 at home and retained the World Cup without being challenged.
In fact leaders respect people who have managed turnarounds, who have clawed their way out of difficult situations. Adversity toughens up people, makes them dig deep into their resources and helps them understand their strengths and their limits. Sandy Gordon, an Australian sports psychologist, told us that in the Australian armed forces you often don’t make it to an elite squadron unless you have failed and come back at some time, for it shows resilience and strength. (Marico’s) Saugata Gupta says, “I would rate a person higher if he has either created something or turned something around. That shows character.” During their great run in the first edition of the IPL, the Rajasthan Royals suddenly lost to a struggling Mumbai Indians team. That night their captain Shane Warne said he wasn’t disappointed at all. He thought it was a good time to lose a game so that the team knew that if they dropped their standards they could lose. He thought it would be a great learning experience and could make the team stronger!
So, mistakes are invaluable in that they teach you lessons. They are like potholes on the road that you learn to avoid. Mistakes warn you about where you shouldn’t be going and what not to do the next time round. Winning is not about not making mistakes but about how to learn from them and become wiser and stronger. It’s not about not getting knocked down but about how fast you can get up and fight again.
SYMPTOMS OF LOSING TEAMS
• Bureaucratic; delaying decisions
• Egos, internal competition, groupism
• Getting credit more important than getting the job done
• Lack of focus, energies spread thin
• Not enough back-up plans
• The same few people perform, no new people or ideas
• Too many or too few processes
• Crab mentality
• Blaming others or the environment for failure
• Weighed down by past failure
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