Cricket used to be associated with what the British considered their traditional virtues – extreme politeness, unflappability, fair play, sportsmanship, and the like.
Alas, there is less and less sign of those virtues in contemporary Britain – or in contemporary cricket. Some silly English people blame the Australians for “vulgarising” the game. However, anyone who knows their cricket history will tell you that Australian players were often far more sportsmanlike than their English opponents. If it cannot be denied that Australian fans, when their team won, introduced an element of triumphalism into a game in which boasting was previously considered bad form, then neither can it be denied that most English fans are now far from the old stereotype of courteous, calm and reserved gentlemen of a certain age. The “Barmy Army” are openly passionate about their cricket: this means they can be bad losers and even worse winners.
The authors of this blog must, of course, confess to being part of that tendency. This post is being written in the afterglow of England’s stunning 3-1 victory in the Ashes Test series in Australia. We hope this does not offend any Australian readers, but it is hard for us to focus our minds on anything else at the moment.
Yet – and this is where some relevance to business comes in – triumphalism and boasting are bad, and politeness, unflappability, and fair play are good.
Some businesses have a corporate culture that celebrates success with a testosterone-powered display of self-congratulation.
Such displays give completely the wrong impression, both externally and internally. Externally, it puts potential customers off if they think you see sales as a victory over them. Internally, staff need to be encouraged to see their work as service, not competition. There is a time and a place to celebrate success, but modestly – because boasting is always a sure sign of someone who does not understand the reason for his success and is unlikely to enjoy it for long.
What business requires is a calm head that can analyse success and failure dispassionately, and learn from both.
Cricket and business should teach us to aspire to the ideal of the Poet of the Empire that spread both throughout the world: “meet with Triumph and Disaster – and treat those two imposters just the same.”