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Monday, April 19, 2010

Do you know the difference between being an Innovator and an Idiot?

Warren Buffett was asked this question about the sub-prime mortgage fiasco; "Should wise people have known better?"

Of course, they should have, Buffett replied, but there's a "natural progression" to how good ideas go wrong.

He called this progression the "three I's." First come the innovators, who see opportunities that others don't. Then come the imitators, who copy what the innovators have done. And then come the idiots, whose avarice undoes the very innovations they are trying to use to get rich.

Can you distinguish between genuine creativity and mindless imitation? Are you prepared to walk away from ideas that promise to make money, even if they make no sense? Do you have the discipline to keep your head when so many around you are losing theirs? Those questions are something to think about. The answers may be the difference between being an innovator and an idiot.


Why Integrity, Honesty and Character are foundation values of Positive Leadership

The scene was the 1925 U.S. Open at Worcester Country Club in Worcester, Massachusetts, and Bobby Jones was in the hunt for his second major championship.

As Jones prepared to hit a shot out of the rough late in the tournament, he noticed that his ball had moved ever so slightly during address. His playing competitor, Walter Hagen, never saw the incident. The same went for his caddy and the spectators watching his round. The pressure was placed squarely on Jones to make the right call.

Unlike other sports where a referee makes the final decision on a penalty or foul, golf lives by a different set of rules. These rules include putting the onus of calling a penalty on yourself. The ability to live or die with that decision is one that makes golf such an honourable sport.

Instead of living hiding the penalty and going on with his round, Jones decided to do the right thing and call a 1-stroke penalty on himself. That one shot ended up costing him the tournament in regulation, as well as the championship, as he went on to lose a 36-hole playoff to Willie Macfarlane.

Famed sportswriter, O.B. Keeler, lauded Jones for his decision, one that ultimately cost him one of the most prestigious trophies in golf. Instead of taking the honour and recognition for his decision, Jones pleaded with Keeler to not write about the incident.

“You might as well praise me for not robbing banks,” Jones said.

Brian Davis probably felt the same way after last Sunday's final round of the Verizon Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links.

Davis and Bobby Jones might not have a lot on the common on the surface (one is a golf legend; the other is a journeyman tour pro) but it became very clear on Sunday that both are cut from the same cloth that preaches honour before accolades.

After making a miraculous birdie on the 72nd hole of the championship to force a playoff with Jim Furyk, Davis found himself in a very interesting predicament on the first playoff hole.

After watching his approach shot draw left of the green on 18 and into a water hazard, Davis was left with the difficult shot of getting his ball up and down from beside a bunch of reeds and twigs. During his takeaway on the shot, Davis noticed a reed had moved during his backswing.

Davis immediately called over rules official Slugger White to tell him the news. The violation of rule 13.4 (which prohibits moving a loose impediment in a hazard during a takeaway) went unseen by everyone but Davis. After watching the incident on television replay it was confirmed that Davis did in fact brush the reed with his club. Davis called a two-stroke penalty on himself and went on to lose the playoff to Furyk. As much fun as it was to see Furyk finally put on the plaid jacket at Harbour Town, there was definitely a bitter-sweet taste to the victory.

Davis’ decision, one that cost him $400,000 and a trip to the SBS Championship next year in Hawaii, was probably the toughest decision of his life. 

But if ever there was a decision that made you proud to be a fan of the sport, this was certainly one of them.

In a sports world where steroids and cutting corners is an accepted practice, Davis’ decision to call a penalty on himself speaks volumes about not only Brian Davis as a person, but the integrity of the sport of golf.

“That [decision to call a penalty] will come back to him spades, tenfold,” White said afterwards.

After calling a penalty on himself during the 1925 U.S. Open, Jones went on to win the U.S. Open the following year. We can only hope Davis gets the same kind of karma in the near future for his honourable decision. 


Why Leaders need to talk about Honesty and Integrity in the Work Environment

Employees will go to great lengths to support a leader they believe in; one they see as having high standards of honesty and integrity. Conversely, they lack commitment for managers whose approach is "Do as I say, not as I do". 

It is a mistake to assume that everyone on your team would define honesty and integrity in the same way. That's why you need to talk about it with your team: an open discussion where team members can contribute ideas for, and share their opinions on, a collective set of values for your team. By doing this you can develop standards of honesty and integrity that everyone can abide by. 

This means, of course, that you need to set the example and operate by these standards at all times. Encourage all team members to hold each other mutually accountable for operating by these shared values. If they see anyone, including you, failing to meet the agreed standards of honesty and integrity it is up to them to reinforce the standards and remind the individual of her or his responsibility to the rest of the team and to the organisation.

To recap, here are the steps you can take to develop a set of shared values of honesty and integrity in your team:

  1. Take time out to reflect on what you believe is right and wrong; what are your own personal standards of honesty and integrity?
  2. Ask the team what they believe is right and wrong behaviour:
       a. What is an honest day's work?
       b. What is honest communication?
       c. What is an honest product or service?
  3. If the team does not come up with something that is important to you, share your beliefs with the team and ask for feedback.
  4. Agree on a set of behavioural guidelines for operating with honesty and integrity that you can all abide by.



Self-discipline is a value of Positive Leadership.

‘Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.’ Lao Tzu

Here are some reference materials which speak to this value: