Thursday, August 14, 2008

In pursuit of excellence in sports and in business

Learning & Innovation – August 16, 2008

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM


In pursuit of excellence in sports


Have you been watching the Olympics Games?  Awesome!  Records of all standards--world, Commonwealth, Asian, country, personal and others—are being broken wholesale.  Athletes are more prepared, intense, focused and motivated than ever.  Champions overrun their competition by 8/100th of second, for example, in the 4 x 100m men freestyle.  As the sports annotator reports, "out-touched in the end by a fingertip."  Awesome!


What makes them do that?  What lessons could entrepreneurs take home from watching these games, aside from being awed?


In The Daily Drucker, Peter F. Drucker astutely wrote:  The great majority of executives tend to focus downward.  They are preoccupied with efforts rather than with results.  They worry over what the organization and their superiors "owe" them and should do for them.  And they are conscious above all of the authority they "should have."  As a result, they render themselves ineffectual.  The effective executive focuses on contribution.  He looks up from his work and outward toward goals.  His stress is on responsibility.  The focus on contribution is the key to effectiveness in a person's own work—its content, its level, its standards, and its impacts; in his relations with others—his superiors, his associates, his subordinates; in his use of the tools of the executive such as meetings or reports.  The focus on contribution turns the executive's attention away from his own specialty, his own narrow skills, his own department, and toward the performance of the whole.  It turns his attention to the outside, the only place where there are results.


After winning the gold for the 400-m relay, his teammates described Michael Phelps exactly as Mr. Drucker described an effective executive.  He said that Phelps was concerned only with the gold and the performance of the team as a whole and he wasn't even articulating his personal need to amass all those gold to be the winningest athlete of all time.


How do you achieve perfection?  What do you do with perfection?  Where will Phelps go from here?


The revered Peter Drucker shares his own insights on pursuing excellence:  The greatest sculptor of Ancient Greece, Phidias, around 440 BC made the statues that to this day, 2,400 years later, still stand on the roof of the Parthenon in Athens.  When Phidias submitted his bill, the city accountant of Athens refused to pay it.  "These statues stand on the roof of the temple and on the highest hills in Athens.  Nobody can see anything but their fronts.  Yet, you have charged us for sculpturing them in the round, that is, for doing their backsides, which nobody can see."  Phidias retorted, "You are wrong.  The Gods can see them."  Whenever people ask me which of my books I consider the best, I smile and say, "The next."  I do not, however, meant it as a joke.  I mean it the way Verdi meant it when he talked of writing an opera at eighty in the pursuit of a perfection that had always eluded him.  Though I am older now than Verdi was when he wrote Falstaff, I am still thinking and working on two additional books, each of which, I hope will be better than any of my earlier ones, will be more important, and will come a little closer to excellence.


Expect Phelps and all Beijing Olympics medalists and also runs to be there in the next Olympics and exceed themselves and the world's standards.  These nuggets of wisdom from Mr. Drucker also give hope that Filipino athletes will achieve excellence and eventually win gold medals.  Not a farfetched idea.  We can do it.


One sour note though.  1.3 billion Chinese and they have to fake it.  At the impressive opening ceremonies, there was this cute little girl who sang the first song and we were all mesmerized.  It turns out that she was just lip-synching what another girl was actually singing while hidden in the background.  She was not aloud to sing in front of the world-wide audience because, as Matt Lauer of Today Show reports, "she was not cute enough."  Only in China.,

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