Stefan Kraemer is a happy and proud athlete. His throw of 24.21m was enough to see him win the gold in the World Cup in Bottrop, Germany. Right now you are desperately trawling your memory bank trying to locate ‘Stefan Kraemer’ aren’t you? Not wishing to be found wanting on something as important as a World Cup winner, you’re sure that you must have the relevant information stored somewhere – ‘just give me a minute or two and I will be able to add to your story’, is what you are thinking.
Don’t panic. Your sports knowledge and recall is fine. Stefan Kraemer won gold in the handbag throwing World Cup. Yep, you read that correctly…they have a World Cup for the art of handbag throwing. I have no doubt that it must take considerable skill and preparation to toss a handbag 24.21m. The origins of such a ‘sport’ are shrouded in mystery with various stories being submitted as to how it was that this noble pastime gained global prominence. In spite of the sports growing popularity my guess is that it is unlikely that it will form part of the Olympic agenda anytime soon. Of course knowledge of such an event raises several noteworthy questions: for instance, how does one qualify for the World Cup? Are the bags of a standard size and weight? To what extent are the bags tossed aerodynamically styled? What does Gucci make of all this? What kind of shoes do you wear for such a sport? Who is the women’s champion? Is there a women’s champion or is this the sport of men? It seems the more questions you pull out the bag, the more there are waiting to be asked!
Ridiculous? …Without a doubt; but fun nonetheless.
However, reading of the handbag World Cup (a front page story in The Times) got me thinking about other such things within our corporate world that also might be just as ludicrous. I suspect that within most companies there are several equivalents to the handbag throwing World Cup. We have rules that are adhered to, the origins of which – and purpose of, no one can recall. Yet, these rules are followed and imposed. Rules often prove to be the enemy of agility. We have too many rules that are faceless, out dated and a legacy of the old way of doing things. They are rules that make as much sense as the competitive throwing of handbags yet they persist, waste energy and ultimately serve as a distraction from what we really should be doing and where our focus needs to be. The pro-bag tossers, and there are many, will claim that whether it is a bag or a javelin or shot-put, matters little; that we should continue to throw bags with gusto – with due diligence, dedication, commitment and enthusiasm, however silly it seems. The bag-tossers love the rules and processes that were once a means to an end but somehow, over time, have become an end in and of themselves.
Good leaders recognise the bag tossing practices within their organisations. Those things that waste energy, that distracts focus and which serve no useful purpose. Good leaders know such things become the enemy of change and hamstring the need for agility – something that is essential if you are to survive and thrive into the future.
So, as a leader, before you chuckle too loudly at the silly people who throw handbags through the air; maybe you need to ask yourself what your handbag throwing practices are that appear just as silly to those looking in?
And in closing…if you are going to succumb to the temptation to have a go (at tossing that bag), best check-in with the owner of the bag first, if that is you wish to live a long and healthy life. The average male doesn’t quite understand the attachment and bond (not to mention the content!) that bags and their owners seem to have evolved over time. Recklessly grabbing and flinging her bag across the garden (and if you’re talented, the neighbour’s garden as well), might not be met with the quite the enthusiasm you would expect, even were you to smash that 24.21 barrier!