3 November 2014
A bit of a mixed bag of threads this morning, but often in life you will find that many roads will lead you to the same place, blogs John Bowen.
I'll start in the USA, where on my recent trip I spent a couple of hours in the company of a lady who had been a cheerleader with one of the big professional American football teams. Some of you in the UK may have seen the fly on the wall series about how the girls make it on to the pinnacle of cheerleading, the team of the Dallas Cowboys, and it is an intensely competitive process getting and retaining a place.
You have to 'live the life' as my companion told me and stay focussed on your fitness, looks and your routines. You must practice and practice again so that you are on top of the job and fit enough to keep it up for around four hours in all weathers at a game.
Competition is important. Being the best that you can be, being able to win at whatever level that you are doing it at and being able to accept defeat, but come back stronger to try and win the next one is a basic rule of nature. Most living things in nature have to compete to survive, but we humans have, in what we like to call the civilised world, largely put that behind us, and I argue that that is not good for us. We have lowered the bar in so many areas with the "we don't have winners and losers" mentality.
In business the competitive urge is still the driver and there are different roads to success, but you have to compete well enough to survive as a business and you need your people to understand the game that you are in and how you are playing it. You need them to be pulling their weight every day in the same way that the cheerleaders are fighting for their place.
You need to push the boundaries and as you do so there will always be those who warn you that you are doomed to fail. You hear these voices and consider the merit of their argument making your decision as to whether you act on what they say or not and your people have the choice of staying on board or leaving. Leadership is a lonely place sometimes, and rarely more so when something goes wrong.
My final thread here is the loss of Virgin's spacecraft the other day where there are already screaming headlines about warnings having been ignored.
I would be very surprised if there had not been warnings on a project like this, but shouting about that now is just making headlines. Something went wrong and to compound that a safety system appears also to have failed on one of the ejection systems resulting in the death of one of the crew. Yes, that loss of life is tragic, but people are always going to lose their lives in attempts to move us forward and it is not screaming headlines that will help understand the true cause(s).
For most of us being killed in the line of work is not something that we face, but the basic urge to compete, to be the first, to be the best, to find out what is around the next corner is a flame to be nurtured not extinguished.
If we forget that we need to compete to survive we will not survive too long.
John Bowen is an FM consultant