It’s not cricket! – But it is a lesson about why apologies matter.

 
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We Australians love sport in general and cricket in particular.

Unless you have been living in a cave, with no access to any media reporting whatsoever, you will know that the Australian cricket team is under a cloud.

Saturday March 24th 2018 was the third day of the third cricket test between Australia and South Africa. Australia was being pummeled.

In an event that shocked the cricketing world and most Australians too, the decision was taken to use sandpaper to tamper with the ball to seek an unfair advantage and claw back the match. The deceit was observed by the umpire and recorded on international television.

Punishment was swift and the team returned to Australia in disgrace.

Cricketers are well rewarded and have access to spin doctors and PR advisors in droves. How surprising then that the trio of players who were complicit in the decision to cheat have, in their failed attempts to apologise, made many of us even more reluctant to bestow forgiveness.

The former Vice-Captain, Dave Warner, seemed to begin well, expressing regret and remorse.

But then, facing further questioning he refused to provide details of how the plot was hatched and accepting responsibility only for what he called, (but refused to explain) ‘my part.        

The team Captain, Steve Smith, did better.

“To all of my teammates, to fans of cricket all over the world and to all Australians who are disappointed and angry: I’m sorry,” …”Tonight I want to make it clear as captain of the Australian cricket team, I take full responsibility. …”I made a serious error of judgement and I now understand the consequences. It was a failure of leadership.  I’ll do everything I can to make up for my mistake and the damage it’s caused.”

Cameron Bancroft, the young bowler who applied the sandpaper, seemed genuinely remorseful:

“I’ve had time to reflect on the events in Cape Town and the punishments handed down to me by the ICC (International Cricket Council) and Cricket Australia and I want to say I’m very sorry,” “I love the game of cricket and playing for my nation and my state, there is no greater pride to me”…”I am extremely disappointed and regret my actions”.

Substantial suspensions were announced and there was some move to forgiveness as the cricketers worked on their image in local matches and community work. However, there was lingering community disappointment – not just for what had happened but for the ongoing refusal to give the detailed explanation we needed.

And then …

The wound was reopened months later by a foolhardy Bancroft who was unwise enough to engage in a public interview about the scandal during the Boxing Day test on 26th December 2018.

Placing the blame squarely on his Vice Captain for directing him to tamper with the ball, he sought to minimise his own responsibility.

“I didn’t know any better because I just wanted to fit in and feel valued really. As simple as that. The decision was based around my values, what I valued at the time and I valued fitting in … you hope that fitting in earns you respect and with that, I guess, there came a pretty big cost for the mistake.”

It was a bombshell that reopened the whole sorry mess and made forgiveness less likely.

So now we are left with a set of dismal apologies that are textbook examples of what not to do:

  • Lots of remorse, but even more self-pity;

  • Refusal to explain; and

  • Elements of ‘it wasn’t really all my fault’ and (unspoken) others should really carry the blame especially Cricket Australia for a toxic culture of winning at all costs.

We know apologies matter.

Indeed, in Australia almost every jurisdiction has legislation giving some protection from civil liability for apologies containing admissions of wrong-doing. This legislation reflects the strong evidence that well-crafted and timely apologies reduce the likelihood of a suit for damages and allow parties to move on with their lives without costly litigation.

So what do we need to remember about making effective apologies?

There  are lots of different apology models we could use when working with parties. The RESPECT model gets a lot of airtime, however in my experience parties see this model as unduly cumbersome and confusing and give up.

More useful is the work of Slocum and her fellow researchers which, after exploring why there is no universal agreement about what constitutes an apology, concludes that this lack of agreement reveals an underlying requirement – an effective apology needs to be situation specific.

Their work proposed a three-category approach, with each having an element of self-focus and external focus. In my cricketing case study, the three category apology might look like this:


CATEGORY

Affect

SELF-FOCUS

Regret
I am truly sorry for my behaviour and my failure to live up to the ethical standards Australia has every right to expect of me.

EXTERNAL FOCUS

Remorse
I recognise that my behaviour has had terrible consequences and destroyed the trust of the Australian people in the integrity of those who play test cricket.


Affirmation

Admission
Here are the details of exactly what was planned, how it was executed and who was involved.

Acknowledgement
I acknowledge that this amounted to cheating and that it is not in keeping with the respect and dignity expected of a team that represents Australia.


Action

Restitution
I have scrutinised my actions and I am determined to find a way to make amends for what I have done. I hope to be able to demonstrate that I am truly sorry and that I can find a way to make a positive contribution to my community to restore my reputation.

Reparation
I recognise that I need to be punished for my wrongdoing and I will accept whatever Cricket Australia and the Australian public requires of me in order for them to feel I have paid for my mistakes.

In the opportunity provided by an intake process or in a caucus called during the heat of conflict, I find these tools are simple to follow and helpful for parties who genuinely want to make things better, not worse.

This article first appeared on Kluwer Mediation Blog.

Making it without faking it - building an authentic presence

fake news

I have a lot of time for Professor Amy Cuddy. Her 2012 Ted Talk – ‘Fake it Till You Make It’ – is credited with over 40 million views. It is listed as the second most viewed Ted video and has had a powerful influence on many of us – particularly women crushed by a glass ceiling that, at times, seems to be lowering rather than cracking.

She is no stranger to adversity. A serious accident as a college student led to a temporary drop in her IQ of approximately 30 points and doctors’ advice that she would struggle to complete her undergraduate degree.

I’m sure those doctors regret missing the steely determination which saw her not only complete her undergraduate degree but go on to complete a doctorate at Princeton. She is now an Associate Professor in the Negotiation, Organization & Marketing Unit at the Harvard Business School. No mean feat.

In 2015, Cuddy turned her Ted ideas into a well-received book focusing on body language and its influence on our brains and our behaviour.

‘Presence- Bringing your Boldest Self to your Biggest Challenges’ is a terrific book, effectively pursuing her theme that if you act powerfully you will begin to think powerfully. Her ‘Fake it till you make it’ encouragement in her Ted talk morphed into her final chapter, Chapter 11,  now called ‘Fake It Till You Become it’.

So I’m a fan.

However, times have changed and I find there are parts of Cuddy’s work that don’t sit well with me now.

What seemed powerful and relevant in 2012 and even in 2015 now seems out of step with the language that inspires us today.

Because now we are living in the ‘fake news’ era.

We are bombarded with that expression by a world leader whose own disdain for truthfulness has spawned websites dedicated to exposing and counting his daily volume of untruths in twitter feeds and public statements.

The ‘Fake News’ claims encourage us to disbelieve information presented by the institutions we once trusted readily. Whether we believe the assertion or not, it has affected how we scrutinize information.

The website of the Edelman Trust Barometer reports that:

 ‘Globally, nearly seven in 10 respondents among the general population worry about fake news or false information being used as a weapon, and 59 percent say that it is getting harder to tell if a piece of news was produced by a respected media organization’

These concerns mean that an exhortation to do anything fake now comes with a lot of baggage and does not hold the power to persuade.

It is time to be more thoughtful about our language, particularly those of us who already have a deep-seated, personal connection with imposter syndrome.

My advice to Cuddy is to keep her message but change the frame. Her research remains valid and her encouragement for us to develop our own positive narrative is powerful. However it is time to focus on authenticity. It is authenticity that enhances our power and makes us memorable in a positive way. It is authenticity that we are all hungry to see but so rarely find.

So we need a new title for Chapter 11. What about ‘choose what success looks like and own it’ or ‘Finding and being my boldest self’ or ‘discovering my authentic self’. Probably not as catchy as Cuddy’s language but it is more useful language for where we are today.

(Photo credit: Linkedin, Creative Commons, Flickr)