[caption id="attachment_886" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Sehwag in conversation...[/caption]
It was my first face to face exposure to a sportsman of International calibre. The event was titled Leadership in Sports. I must say I was enthusiastic but a bit sceptical about the event for Sehwag was neither an established leader, not a known orator and had nothing much to do with management. The beauty of walking into an event with very low expectations is you leave reasonable scope to be pleasantly surprised. That evening panned out somewhat like that.
For starters, Sehwag turned out to be a great communicator. Great orators impress people but good communicators touch their heart. That is precisely what Sehwag did. He was spontaneous, forthright, witty and had an original, down-to-earth viewpoint. The interview turned out to be not just an entertainer but also very thought provoking. Especially, with the comparison of what happens in sports field, which is easy to understand and analyze and have opinions on, to what happens at workplace, which is hazy, unclear, confusing and therefore frustrating, there were some amazing conclusions and learnings that brought clarity. To me clarity is what Sehwag is all about. Tendulkar is genius, Dhoni is strategist, Dravid is technique, Laxman is elegance, Kumble is determination and Sehwag is clarity. From this hour long interaction I saw infectiously uncluttered mind which accepts rough with the smooth.
I learnt five important lessons.
"Coach can't do anything"
Sehwag played under various coaches, in his point of view no coach could change is batting style or temperament or batting stance. He had to figure out his own way of scoring runs, coach could only be a facilitator. To him, coach's job is to create relaxing, healthy atmosphere in the dressing room, overcome challenges to enable the team to bond and to perform to the best of their abilities.
At work, leaders often gets bogged down by challenges of individual team members. Learning from Sehwag was, the leaders should help the team help themselves. They should create an atmosphere in which team members recognize and overcome their challenges. Leader's job is to encourage them, create bonding and positive atmosphere to achieve this. The key is to treat them like Sehwag and let them solve their problems and not be under an illusion that you can solve it for them.
"Talented people are lazy"
The audience busted into laughter when he said this, but he was damn serious and added a rejoinder ,"I can prove it. Indian team has many talented players like Sachin, Yuvraj.....Sehwag who are very lazy". Every team has Dravids and Sehwags. Dravids are disciplined, meticulous and go about doing their work bit by bit, till they grind it down. Talented Sehwags burst on to the scene, convert impossible situations into cake walks. Both have their own strengths and weaknesses and perform and bring success in different situations. One should never make a mistake of straight jacketing them. Talented players need to be left on their own. You can't make Dravid out of Sehwag.
"Talent and Performance are different. Talent gets you there performance make you stay"
To me this was the quote of the evening. While managing careers of exceptionally talented, bright teams sometimes you are blind sighted. We often hear ,"This guy is great. He has a lot of potential, great asset to the team. He may not have performed this year but lets recognize him". In sports context if I say "Sehwag is a talented player, he has great records, so what he has failed in this match, I think we should give him man-of-match award", one can easily spot the contradiction. The team should be selected based on talent and rewarded based on performance.
"You may not like someone off-the field but on field you have to be best buddies"
This another challenge we face at workplace. Team members bring their personal preferences to work and refuse to cooperate. Sehwag's solution was simple and matter of factly. Off-the-work preferences should be left outside workplace and at workplace team members should focus on common goals and bond together to achieve it. This segregation may be clearer on the cricket field than in board rooms but one should strive to do it.
Celebrities are people too.
This was my learning after the interview was over. Celebrities like to interact with people who are interested in them. Sehwag was mobbed by the fans for autographs and photographs, I struck conversation with him as we walk by. I asked him about his best performance, some famous sledging incidences, his advertisement performance etc etc. Our discussions were continuously interrupted by photographs but he continued the conversation. I got my moments of exclusive attention from a celebrity because I wanted to communicate, not just get photographed.
Learning is at its best when none is teaching and when its least expected. Thats what happened to me when I went to listen to what Sehwag had to say.
(I thanks Mr. Bala Shetty and MintAsia for inviting me for this event. Leadership in Sports is an excellent concept and all my best wishes are with them)