SARAH, John Barnes & Neo

In a difficult situation time is normally a very scarce resource. That’s why you need to get used to making it.

Sure – our principle job is to satisfy the needs of clients as efficiently & quickly as possible. But as my grandmother used to say ‘a stitch in time, saves nine’. Particularly when shit is really starting to unravel.

The great John Barnes – the England, Liverpool & Watford centre forward used to talk about how when he is in the zone the world around him seems to happen in slow motion. He used to talk about mentally slowing down or speeding up the play according to the situation. Great sports performers often talk about being able to activate a sixth sense – almost intuitively – when under pressure.

Malcolm Gladwell talks a lot about this phenom in Outliers & relates it back to practice, practice, practice. His 10,000hr rule was widely critized for oversimplify a complex set of factors but in general the fields of behavioural psychology & sports psychology support the general principle that intuation/instinct is honed on the practice field.

In his excellent book – Agency Account Handling – Michael Simms likens this to the batting cages at Coney Island. I was lucky enough to work with Mike on a number of pitches & his analogy goes something like this:

At the beginning of the practice the firing robot was switched to slow & there were a torrent of baseballs being fired at what seemed like an incredible speed. Eventually he was able to ‘get his eye in’ & started to see the balls individually rather than as a constant stream. This meant that he could flick the switch to medium & after some more practice he was able to pick out individual balls to strike them sweetly out of the cage.

As an account handler there are always multiple balls being fired at you. You need to decide which ones to strike, fend off or leave. Whatever you choose – emotionally & psychologically you need to slow them down to get the best result for the team.

We work in a very stressful business where problem solving is a core value that we bring to the table. Mastering the moment is key to success. There is no magic bullet but creating the conditions for ‘bullet time’ – like Neo in the matrix – can really help you.

Looking for & understanding the following conditions can also really help:

– yourself, information, timing, the communication climate, the message.

These elements will give you the power to control the situation & that power gives you the time to evaluate your options, make a decision & communicate it.

When dealing with a very serious problem there are often 5 steps that we all naturally go through. Psychologists call this SARAH.

Shock, Anger, Resignation, Acceptance & Help.

Understanding this can help you manage the emotions that your audience is likely to be experiencing.

Overall, managing difficult situations need a sense of perspective. Take a walk. Think. Breathe. Slow things down. Take glasses of water into meetings to take a sip & buy yourself a few extra moments to think. Anticipate the recievers reaction. Consider alternatives.

But don’t let your emotions (or others emotions) prevent you from getting to acceptance, help & a win/win situation.

Even with limited information it should be possible to make the situation work for you. But this is learnt through experience. Those 10,000hrs come from years & years of practice with difficult conditions. And you have to accept that it will take many, many tricky phases before you can slow things down to be really effective.  But with each one you are learning.

With El Classico behind us there are lessons from CR7 that even in the most difficult conditions through reading the signals, slowing things down in your head & making the right analysis you’ll stick the ball in the back of the net for the team. Only through training, discipline & focus comes the intuition to augment talent.


One response to “SARAH, John Barnes & Neo

  1. Pingback: Pushing back | remasteredaccountman

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