What can we learn from top tennis players?
Or the giants of world rugby?
There’s a quality most exude.
Normally absent in politics.
Seldom seen in business.
And sadly lacking across football.
The ability to praise your rivals.
And recognise their talents.
It’s a quality we need to bring more into business.
This week, Stan Wawrinka soared in my estimation.
As he praised his conqueror in Antwerp.
Andy Murray’s comeback from surgery was impressive on the court.
And Stan’s was just as impressive off it.
The duo had battled for over two hours.
Until Murray triumphed.
His first singles trophy since major hip surgery just months ago.
Wawrinka could have made excuses.
But instead he said this to Murray:
“To see you back at this level, it’s amazing.
“We’re all really happy.
“I’m really sad I lost today, but I’m really happy to see you back.
“You’re an amazing champion and you deserve that.”
That speech came minutes after the match.
Straight from the heart.
One former rugby national coach once told me:
“The most difficult interview is the live TV one.
“When you’ve just lost with millions watching.”
So the grace shown by Wawrinka was truly inspiring.
It can be just as hard to show grace when you’ve won convincingly.
Most coaches and players want only to talk about their achievement.
But All Blacks coach Steve Hansen had other priorities in his live TV interview.
Minutes after crushing Ireland in Japan.
He wanted to pay tribute to the retiring Irish captain.
And retiring Ireland coach.
“Just before I talk about what we do.
“I want to acknowledge Rory Best and Joe Schmidt.
“They’ve been instrumental in making Ireland the number one ranked team in the world.
“Big congratulations to them on their career.
“Well done to them.
“They’ve done great things for Irish rugby.”
The words are all the more remarkable as Hansen was highlighting Ireland previously holding top spot.
Which had resulted from twice beating his side.
And demoting the All Blacks to second place in world rugby rankings.
It’s uplifting to hear the victors and the vanquished demonstrate grace.
In business, we can do the same.
By pointing out the qualities of people around us.
Highlighting just why we’re pleased for their success.
And also showing dignity when decisions go against us.
When losing out on business in a competitive pitch.
At Pink Elephant Communications, we always wish companies well when they choose other trainers.
And we ask what we can do to improve our pitch.
Some become clients further down the line.
They’re more likely to if we make it easier for them to return.
President Obama showed grace in TV interviews.
He often saw his opponent’s point of view.
Then introduced an even more compelling argument.
Compare that to the current occupant of the White House, whose praise is reserved exclusively for himself and his friends.
At our Glasgow studios or in countries around the world.
Our advice is always the same.
Use positive words to highlight success.
And avoid criticising in public.
The grace shown this week by beaten Wawrinka.
And by victorious Hansen.
It’s heart-warming to see and made them both winners in my book.
It’s what we all should aspire to when speaking in public.
Or being interviewed by the media.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.
Bill McFarlan is co-Founder and Executive Chairman at Pink Elephant Communications in Glasgow.
You can read his full profile here.
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