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THE BACK OFFICE
the
manager
AUTUMN 2011
MIND
GAMES
MIKE CARSON, A LEADING CONSULTANT IN THE FIELD OF
TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP, LOOKS AT THE OFTEN DAMAGING
INTERNAL DIALOGUE THAT PREVENTS LEADERS FROM REACHING THEIR FULL
POTENTIAL... AND SUGGESTS WAYS TO STOP THIS HAPPENING
TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR INNER VOICE
WHEN SALLY GUNNELL
(below)
overcame illness to break the world
record for the 400m hurdles in
Stuttgart in 1993, her main emotion
was sheer disbelief. She had just added
a World Championship victory to
her Olympic gold, but the personal
hurdles she’d cleared along the way
had been greater than the simple
wooden barriers on the track.
Two years before,
her biggest
opponent was her inner voice or, as
her coach called it, the duck on her
shoulder. She was a superb athlete
with amazing potential and yet she
says: “Te voice constantly sowed
doubts and negativity”.
Many business leaders I work with
sufer from a similar underlying sense
of inadequacy. Te
acknowledged
number one fear of
CEOs is the fear of
being found out...
do they really have
what it takes? And if
we’re honest, most
of us struggle with
this in some form or
another.
Timothy
Gallwey, a former
tennis professional
and coach and
author of the
Inner Game
series of books,
describes this
inner voice as
“interference”. As
a young player, Gallwey
missed a simple smash at a critical
moment in the US Open junior fnal.
Tat miss plagued him for years; he
knew he should have put it away; but
in the moment he didn’t. Where was
the root cause? Inside himself.
Tis is a serious challenge for
leaders. Most frame it initially as:
“How do I get the most from my
people?” Most managers believe that
if they can put together a consistently
high-performing team, then everyone
will be happy and successful. But the
reality is that the leadership challenge
starts inside; great leaders know
themselves well and are comfortable
with who they are.
When Mike Brearley took over as
captain of the England cricket team
part way through the unforgettable
1981 Ashes series, he was facing
the usual multiplicity of challenges
that faces leaders in a ‘turnaround’
situation. Not only was the ship
sinking, he also had a very pressing
human crisis on his hands.
Te outgoing and unsuccessful
captain was the young and
prodigiously talented Ian Botham.
Brearley was not the world’s best
batsman (he wasn’t even the best in
the side) but he was secure enough in
his own strengths to ofer something
powerful to Botham and the team.
He didn’t drop Botham, instead his
message was: “you do your thing
and I’ll do mine”. Te efect was
transformational; Botham turned
around the match and the series, and
the team won an impossible victory.
Brearley led from his own strengths,
but most leaders do not. We try
too hard to be something we’re not,
something we believe that other
people want us to be. We listen to our
inner voice and, not trusting our true
self, we put on a mask. Tis can work,
but only for a while. Most will begin