Tuesday, July 27, 2010

On (Mis-) Communication and Games

The recent HBR blog entry by Peter Bregman caught my attention today. A little different from the typical entries I come across; Peter’s way of narration is interesting.

The blog post has a nicely narrated, simple message. I remember a similar situation I was in a few days ago with a close friend of mine who lives and works in South America. It was the World Cup season, and like all true South Americans she was also quite excited about the matches. I should admit that I'm not a very big fan of football or cricket (the most popular sport here in India), though I don't mind watching the World Cups. I cheered for Brazil (I really wished they'd win. I simply like the way they play the game, just that) while my friend cheered for Argentina. No matter who won or lost, we always ended up saying "may soccer win." Such was the spirit.

So when one day suddenly Brazil was kicked out of the tournament by aggressive rivals, I felt wounded though I am not such a passionate footballer. In a way for me, this was the end of FIFA World Cup 2010. While talking after the game, I said "This season is over for me. I see no reason why I should continue watching the World Cup." I wasn't sure that my response would make her feel bad. Though she doesn't like Brazil very much, she cheered with me (May great soccer always win!) and can't stand that I feel down because my favourite team lost the tournament. Little did I realise that a simple comment from me could hurt so much. After apologizing and setting the path straight, I decided to sit back and cheer for Argentina in the following days to support my friend and keep her spirits high. Argentina too couldn't make it, so we happily ended up in the same boat. May great soccer always win.

As Peter puts it vividly, it is significant to be clear of and to communicate well on what's in one's mind. The severity of the situation is inversely proportional to the distance between the people in conversation. So I make it a point to mention clearly in cases where I differ in opinion, and also suggest alternative options. This concept is equally significant in managing teams especially so, when the leader and the teams are in different locations. When I was reading Peter's recent post, I missed the key words "at least" in the first run. Later when Peter went on explaining about it, I felt the gravity of the situation. These are words that most of us miss. In Peter’s case these two words contained the entire message. If the team requests or demands attention, hold back your temptation to react and reflect on the root cause. Also ask the team what's going on. Clarify the picture before you jump into a conclusion.

Luckily for me, this year's Wimbledon was quite in between the World Cup matches. I admit I am passionate about tennis, and head-over heels when it comes to Wimbledon. I feel so happy that this year I taught my friend a little about tennis, and she seems quite interested.

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