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The "Fight" Fallacy

I got COVID over the holidays. This increased my normal cricket watching behaviour dramatically from high to missing almost nothing. I find the game of cricket interesting, for many reasons. Firstly I feel it is an individual game dressed up in team clothing (it is not quite squash, but it also isn’t soccer or rugby in terms of interdependence). It is also long – therefore it is not as obviously ‘intense’ or helter-skelter as other sports. But if I had a dollar for every time I heard the word Intensity or Passion, well at today’s exchange rate, I’d be a rich man.

It seems the go-to conversation when a team is doing poorly is to deride the lack of intensity or passion. Oh I forgot to mention, fight, they need to show more fight. It led me to think, what does fight, intensity or passion ACTUALLY look like? Is it universally understood? More importantly, if a team is battling, or a bowler is battling, is it really fight that is missing?

So I realise I am no cricket expert and I called a few people who are (commentators and former international coaches/players) to test my views on this. My view is that to bemoan lack of passion, intensity or fight is often fairly lazy thinking. It is easy to bemoan that, but rarely is that the difference between success and failure (as much as some people might lead you to believe).

I use a simple 4 C model when assessing poor performance.

Clarity – There may be a lack of clarity in what the person has to do and how he/she has to do it

Confidence – The person is not feeling in flow and has a cluttered mind due to low confidence

Competence – The person has a skillset that is not up to where it needs to be for that competition

Commitment – The person lacks enthusiasm based on feelings of disconnect with the task at hand

If I took the English Ashes team I heard so much about their lack of fight, but was it just commitment that was missing, or were they appallingly low on confidence by the end of the tour? Or perhaps even lacking the skill of their competitors?

As I write this I have just witnessed South African captain Temba Bavuma score a hundred. He was praised on commentary for his clarity of plan and calmness. Not a word about ‘fight’.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am a massive fan of intensity, and at the top level of any team or organisation I believe you require it to succeed. I do though believe that said intensity doesn’t always come from desire or commitment, but often from a clear plan within a skilled, confident player.

I also understand emotion and people wanting their teams to do well. This is often the reason for people citing passion as the issue when people don’t perform. But if you want to lead, and lead well I would urge you to be more curious in your thinking, more specific in your diagnosis, because then I believe you may find you are able to unlock people more frequently.


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