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Ignorance, Knowing Yourself and FOPO

Last week, we checked in on Ego. That loaded word that talks to a bloated sense of self-importance. Or, if you take Freud’s interpretation, the tool that you can wield to navigate external factors (the superego) and your own programming (the Id).

This week, though, and staying with the rugby theme of the last few weeks, I’d like to explore the second letter of EISH. The I. As in I for Ignorance.

You see, there are two forms of ignorance. First up, there is wilful ignorance, like an ostrich. The refusal to look up and take proper stock of your environment. The tunnel vision that makes your view both narrow and super clear. And everything that isn’t in your view gets tossed aside.

That’s also how bad things hit you from the side, and you aren’t expecting them.

Jim Collins, leadership guru and author of Good to Great, shows evidence that great leaders don’t have the luxury of wilful ignorance. Leaders who build organisations of sustained excellence are laser-focused on what they are there to do, but it doesn’t mean they ignore the peripherals. They take stock of their environment, of the changes that could affect them, and they adjust their line of sight accordingly.

They are also Level 5 Leaders, where they put the team first. They cultivate EQ and understanding of their team members and make them feel part of the process. Great leaders accept and work with diversity, not expecting everyone in their team to be just like them.

Rene Naylor, longstanding Springbok physio and part of two victorious teams in the World Cup, gave us some great nuggets yesterday morning. Here are four that I thought were of great use in the business world:

NUGGET #1: FOPO is real. As in Fear of People’s Opinions. I would love to say I only listen to opinions that matter, but it’s hard right? We do care. We should care. Because some people’s opinions are worth listening to. The trick is to not fear the feedback and also to filter it for validity and applicability. But if you listen to everyone’s opinion, man. You are going to be so rudderless it’s crazy.

NUGGET #2: Inclusion is key. Diversity is critical, but more importantly, inclusion is a must. In a country like South Africa, it’s not enough to give a nod to a team diverse in gender, race, age, and culture. It’s even more important to make sure everyone FEELS included, and that the culture reflects that diversity. The Springboks achieved this in the Erasmus era, and that differentiates them from other winning teams of the past… because with true INCLUSIVITY, the team culture didn’t break down post-first World Cup victory. And they could do it again.

NUGGET #3: Check your performance clock. If 12 is apex performance, and 6 is when people get fired and companies go bankrupt… you want to make sure that you avoid the slide. Keep your revs between 10 and 12, and when you start to feel the slide… the entitlement, the slipping of culture, the lack of focus on the common goal… that’s when you slip to 1 and 2 and 3 pm, and it’s all downhill from there. Don’t do it. Success breeds complacency, and keeping your clock at 10 o’clock is critical. Pure gold.

NUGGET #4: Mindset vs talent. This is a lot of what we teach in the Scaling Up world. The winning team is not made up of individual superstars. The winning team is about higher purpose, about always giving your 100% and about the goal, not the role. Great talent is useful, but a team that is committed to each other and the outcome is way better. And when the Springboks, double world champions, are almost completely ignored in the post-cup awards ceremony in favour of the club of first-world countries (and New Zealand)… well, you know what? It just makes us mad. And like the Hulk, the madder we get, the stronger we get. It feeds into our mindset, it feeds into our greater psyche. And the motivation for a repeat has just been laid.

There is wilful ignorance, and that’s inexcusable. And then, I suppose, there is just ignorance. And you can weaponize ignorance. If you know that you don’t know what you don’t know, that immediately gives you the edge. And maybe that’s why we’ll keep on winning.

Because they don’t know what we know. And they don’t know that they don’t know it.

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