Insights for leaders: Messing with Messi

This weekend, one of the smallest footballing nations – Iceland – met one of the biggest and generally regarded as one of the most talented – Argentina.

Argentina is a team that over the years have had big name players such as Maradonna, Sergeo Aguero and not to forget the man who is universally acknowledged as one of the greatest footballers of all time, Lionel Messi.  (Though personally I have always preferred Cristiano Ronaldo; he is not a pleasant personality, but there is no doubting his footballing prowess.  And this showed in Portugal’s match against Spain).

Iceland held Argentina to a 1-1 draw.  Messi missed a penalty that could have seen Argentina triumphing.  Or alternatively, one could say the Iceland goalkeeper, Hallordsson, made a phenomenal save (depending on whether your preference is for “away from” or “towards” language.  Messi missed or failed to score is “away from” language; Hallordson saved the penalty is “toward” language).

So, the question that I have been pondering is, why is it that Iceland could outperform expectations, while Argentina so spectacularly underperformed?

Some football analysts have suggested that one reason is because Iceland were able to tame Messi’s play and his influence on Argentina’s game by intruding on his personal space.

What makes up our personal space is deeply subjective and often outside our conscious awareness. We usually know when our personal space is being invaded because we “feel” it in our body.  I know when my personal space is intruded upon because breathing might changes; I feel a tightness in my chest, my heart pounds almost in my throat; my stomach wobbles and so do my knees.

Even as I am writing this blog I am experiencing these sensations; sharing with people who are reading this blog how I feel when my personal space is invaded seems almost like a betrayal of my personal space itself!

What this reinforces for me – and in the coaching work I do with my clients – is that our personal space exists as a distinct part of us.  In the way we have fingers, toes, hands and feet that make up our external body; our inner world is made up of lots of different elements, most of which are outside our conscious awareness.  Getting to know this part of ourselves – our inner world – is the focus of Personal Mastery.

Personal mastery is an essential dimension of great performance.  And personal mastery begins with the two “As”:

The first A is Awareness

Awareness is all about self-discovery and a commitment to developing awareness of our internal world and how this shapes how we ‘show up’ in our work, our relationship with others or our personal life.

The second A is Acknowledgement 

Acknowledge what is, for me, is about honouring and respecting the parts of you that have shaped who you are now and how you show up now.  Honouring is non-judgemental; you are simply paying attention to what’s going on for you, how you are perceiving and making sense of your experience at this time.

Acknowledgement does not mean acceptance.  You can change your internal world if there are areas of this part of your life that are not working for you or giving you the results and outcomes, you want.  Change starts with acknowledgement.

So the next time your personal space is invaded, notice how this feels for you and where you feel it; acknowledge what is going on rather than rush to change things.