Tilting Toward Europe

Greetings.  In the past few weeks Europe has been the focus of lots of attention. First, there is the economic situation–also known as a "crisis"–that underscores the continent's vital role in the stability of the fragile global economy…making the Euro and the Eurozone hot topics of conversation on Wall Street, Capitol Hill and even among shoppers at Autozone.  

Second, there's the European Football Championships–also known simply as "Euro 2012."  It's the pinnacle of Europe's adoration for football–also known as "soccer" to the unwashed masses here in the U.S. where our type of football is less about feet and more about a unique set of skills that were quite possibly developed by famous Europeans like the Vikings and William the Conqueror.  But given that European-style football is the world's most popular sport, and the fact that Europe is home to several of the world's best teams, a large percentage of the eyes on the planet will be glued to their TV sets during the next few weeks as Europe crowns a champion at venues across Poland and the Ukraine.  Then their eyes will likely be focused on London when the 2012 Olympic games begin.

Third, and probably less well known to people outside of Europe, was the recently completed Eurovision song contest–also known as the Eurovision song contest. An annual music event that is kind of like American Idol on steroids.  Not that the use of steroids is involved.  But a chance for all the nations of Europe, very broadly defined, to compete in the selection of the continent's best performer and song.  I say "broadly" defined because 42 nations entered the competition that was held in Baku, Azerbaijan.  And before that, each held their own national competitions to determine who would represent them.

Being married to a Swede who grew up in the days of ABBA (winners of the 1974 competition with the song Waterloo), the Eurovision contest is definitely on my radar screen and is a fascinating way to see how Europe and its music is evolving. This year's winner was also a Swede named Loreen or more formally Lorine Zineb Nora Talhaoui, though unlike ABBA her parents are Berbers who came to Sweden from southern Morocco.  Loreen's winning song titled "Euphoria" and her unique performance (sung in English) captivated the judges and tens of millions of voters all across Europe and stood as a sign of where music and popular culture might be heading.  In a bow to tradition the second place winners were an adorable group of six Russian grandmothers in traditional folk dresses singing a delicious song about partying and baking.  And while they sang in Russian it was hard to miss the shear joy of their performance even if one had no idea what the words meant. Other performers included a Norwegian singer of Iranian heritage, a Romania group singing in Spanish and English infused with a Cuban beat and the almost ageless Engelbert Humperdink representing England with a song that was not very popular.  You can watch all of the performance on the Eurovision website or YouTube though I've include Loreen's performance below.

But a key theme was the growing diversity of Europe and the growing innovation of its music scene–made more interesting by the continent's current position on center stage.  In fact, we all need Europe–along with its economy, football and music–more than ever before if we are going to solve the current economic crisis and create greater opportunity for everyone.

 

We win in business and in life when we come to realize that we are all connected.  And when we always seek to discover the unique talents of everyone.

Cheers!

Having a Bad Day?

Greetings.  A few moments after the New England Patriots barely defeated the Baltimore Ravens to win the American Football Conference championship, star quarterback Tom Brady said during his first post-game interview:  

"I sucked pretty bad today but our defense saved us."  

It was a simple and very honest admission by one of the best players in the history of professional football.  An admission that no matter how talented we might be, or how well we prepare, sometimes we just have bad days.  But if we are lucky, our teammates cover for us.  It's essential insight for our companies and organizations as we try to innovate, accomplish more with fewer resources and work to deliver greater value to those we have the privilege to serve.  

We'd all like to be perfect every day.  But sometimes things don't work out as we've planned.  And that's just one of the reasons we need each other more than many of us are willing to admit.  Because our collective genius is a lot more powerful than our individual abilities–even on our best days.

Tom_Brady_I_Sucked_Today_Patriots_Ravens_AFC_Championship_Game

We win in business and in life when we always look out for each other. And when we are able to admit that we've had better days.

Cheers and have a great and collaborative week ahead!

Leadership and Caring

Greetings.  Thanksgiving is a day when many newspapers offer upbeat stories about people in their communities who are making a real difference.  Neighbors helping other neighbors in a time of need.  People coming together to provide food for the hungry among us.  Soldiers coming home to the welcoming arms of family, friends and even strangers who stop to thank them for their service in protecting the freedoms we hold dear.  People overcoming great odds to achieve a dream that some thought was beyond reach.  It's a day to pause and be thankful in the face of challenges.  To count our blessings.  To appreciate the simple things.  To honor the people and things that really matter.

And on the front page of today's Washington Post is a wonderful story that strikes a powerful cord.  It's a story about a remarkable young teacher and football coach at Coolidge High School in the District of Columbia.  A high school whose students often face great obstacles and distractions on their journeys to academic and life success.  A school that will today play in the City's championship football game (also known as the "Turkey Bowl") against Dunbar High.  And while the Coolidge High Colts are rarely in this game, Dunbar is a perennial power. 

But what's more amazing than this year's success on the field is the fact that the real focus of the Coolidge team is on becoming the most successful students and people–a commitment driven home by Natalie Randolph–their coach, mentor and biggest fan.  And, quite possibly, the only woman currently coaching a high school football team anywhere in America.  A woman whose own life, in addition to teaching environmental science, is driven by a passion for helping every one of her students and team members to learn, build character and reach their full potential.  To resist the strong temptations of teenage life and the surrounding streets in exchange for discipline, focus, teamwork and success in the classroom first and on the football field second.

Whether you are a football fan or even a sports fan, the story of Coolidge High and Natalie Randolph will challenge your thinking about leadership, caring and the things that matter most.  And about one person's ability, in a relatively short time, to making a compelling difference in the lives of others.

Coolidge

We win in business and in life when we give our undivided attention to bringing out the genius in others.  It might be the single greatest act of genius in a world filled with possibilities.

Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving!

The Long Wait Begins

Greetings.  The World Cup ended Sunday with Spain defeating the Netherlands in a game that didn't quite live up to the expectations set by these two remarkably talented teams.  But it was an interesting game still–marked by very physical play, some great chances for both sides, and a record number of yellow cards–that took almost 120 minutes to produce its only goal.  I guess the beauty of football (a.k.a., "soccer") takes many forms.  

For loyal football fans and others just getting into the sport, the game also marked the end of an amazing month filled with genius, teamwork, stirring performances, national pride, and the unique passion of this grand event.  And it brought us the opportunity to see a new and more hopeful picture of South Africa–a country with great challenges and great promise.  During almost daily broadcasts throughout the tournament our eyes and hearts were opened to a country filled with beautiful faces, inspiring music and culture, great diversity, spectacular landscapes, and the dreams of people of all ages.

Now the long wait until the next World Cup begins.  And with it, another chance to see the simple magic of a ball, a beautiful game, and a world filled with endless possibilities for all of us.

World Cup Goal

We win in business, soccer, and life when we bring passion and genius to the things that matter most.  And when we put teamwork above our own glory.  Four years until the next World Cup in Brazil.  Four years to fill with practice, inspiration, and learning more about ourselves, each other, and even geography.

Cheers and have a great week ahead!

The Brilliance of the World Cup

Greetings.  In a few days the world's most remarkable sporting event will begin with the simple kick of a ball and the hopes and dreams of 32 nations that were skillful and fortunate enough to qualify for this year's World Cup.  And for a month, a large percentage of the planet's eyes, ears, and hearts will be glued to TV screens and computer monitors in homes, offices, restaurants, bars, community centers, social halls, public plazas, and anyplace else that people gather to cheer for their favorite teams and players.  They'll also watch at all hours of the day and night, depending on where they live, in the hopes of seeing great games, great plays, and especially great goals.  Goals announced with the unique passion that only soccer or football can bring–especially when screamed in delight by some of Latin America's finest announcers.  This is truly the world's sport, played and revered by more than 90 percent of it's inhabitants on dirt lots, city streets, rural pastures, perfectly manicured fields, and everywhere in between.

And amid all of the press, the hype, the predictions, and the building of stadiums and other preparations made for this historic event, it will essentially be a month of magic that is based on the simplest of games–made complicated only by trying to figure out exactly what it means to be "off sides."  Otherwise, the rules and the pitch (i.e., "field") are pretty basic and pretty clear.  So whether you call it football, futbol, futebol, fotboll, futbal, fodbold, le football or simply le foot, futboll, sakka, jalkapallo, soccer, or any other name, now is your chance to experience something special.  After four years of waiting the World Cup is back, making its first ever appearance on the African continent.

Even if you're not a soccer fan, it is well worth your while to spend some time watching the World Cup.  You might even find it to be a valuable activity at the office.  And while you're watching, try to figure out what makes this event so special and what insights you might gain to help make your company or organization more special too.  Besides the obvious lessons in teamwork and strategy, there's a lot to be learned about innovation, improvisation, and seizing opportunities.  And, you're also likely to discover new perspectives on leadership, loyalty, engagement, and poise under pressure.  So enjoy the experience…it's bound to be brilliant!

Fifa 2010

We win in business by captivating the hearts and minds of those we choose to serve.  By kindling their passion and dreams of greatness. Thirty days of magic are set to unfold.  Will you and the geniuses you work with be watching, cheering, and learning?

Cheers!