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Monday, August 20, 2012





He's arguably the greatest Olympian ever. No one can argue against his being the most decorated. He amassed 39-world records dating back to 2001 (29 individual). Most recently he surpassed a 48-year record of 19 medals for an Olympian, having earned a total of 22-medals: 18-gold; 2-silver; and 2-bronze. Michael Phelps is both a swimming and Olympic legend.


But his start in this 30th-Olympiad in London was inauspicious. After amassing a perfect record of 8-gold medals in Beijing in 2008, he failed to medal in his first event in London, the 400-meter Individual Medley, finding himself finishing in fourth place. He was not merely disappointed with his performance but utterly disgusted with himself. Pundits explained it as Phelps experiencing the “inevitable declining arc” in his career. This prognosis was given credence when South Africa’s Chad le Clois, an admirer of Phelps, bested him in his second individual event, the 200-meter Butterfly.


However less than perfect, Michael Phelps demonstrated that he remained a force to be reckoned with. He closed his storied career with 6-medals, 4-gold and 2-silver medals, in seven events in London. Looking back we may safely say that he proved the pundits wrong.


Why didn't Phelps go “7 for 7?” Why wasn't Phelps solid gold? It doesn't appear that his competition was invincible (while he lost to teammate Ryan Lochte in the 400-IM Phelps bested him in the 200-meter Individual Medley). It wasn't that Phelps lost his competitive spirit, he stated in an interview with Bob Costas, Sportscaster and prime-time host for a record 9-Olympiads (Summer and Winter), that he "always wanted to be first" and that he hates to lose. In this same interview Michael Phelps also divulged, regarding his failed start to this Olympiad, "I got the results I deserved." With the hyper inflated boasting of many world-class athletes (and even wannabes) one might interpret "deserve" as meaning "owed" to the athlete, as in a sense of entitlement or reward. This is all the more expected of one who is considered a living “legend.” But Michael Phelps used the word "deserved" as getting his "just due" in the sense of negative consequences, even a punishment.


For what did he get his "just due?" For not training in earnest in the first two years following the Beijing Olympiad. He disclosed that his trainer would have to walk him into the weight room or Phelps would walk out the back door. This is a startling admission from a world champion who undoubtedly knows better about the causal relationship between training and performance. To make this perfectly clear, he was admitting that he would skip training or put in a halfhearted effort. And, this lax in preparation showed. Where he was once dominant he began to experience losses to other more committed swimmers like his own teammate Ryan Lochte. Remember, as he declared to Costas, he hated to lose. Eventually, losses suffered between Olympics brought him to his competitive senses. He finally began training in earnest just 6-months prior to the World Championships, or about 18-months before these Olympics. Now, that's not the way to runaway with Olympic gold.


This reminds us of a story we heard, and have told many times ourselves, about a world-class sculler who wins gold at the Olympics. He not only wins but also sets a world record. His coach, a demonstrable and burly East European, embraces the new champion in a bear hug, lifts him off the ground, and kisses both cheeks in congratulations for the gold medal achievement. With it he tells his young charge to take the evening off to savor his win and return for training in the morning. The athlete, who had trained six days a week, 7-hours per day for more than 6-years replies, "But coach I've worked so hard for so long, sacrificing my life for this sport, I thought I'd take a few months off to travel, and enjoy life." The coach, astonished, asks the champion "Do you want to gold medal in the next Olympics?" "Of course," responds the athlete. "Well," says the coach, "your world record time won't qualify you for the next Olympics so if you want to win, no less compete in this event, you need to begin training tomorrow."


"I got the results I deserved." This comment demonstrates that Michael Phelps appreciates the causal relationship between his training and results. Similarly, there is a causal relationship between our decisions, our actions, our strategies, our choices and marketplace results. While Michael Phelps got the results he deserved, client marketers get the results they deserve. Here's that word "deserve" again. While it is easy to blame poor performance on external factors (the economy, price-cutting competitors, unfair practices, stringent regulations, etc.) we need to reexamine our thinking, practices and choices, and adapt them, to ensure that we deserve (as in “merit”) positive results.


Yes, Michael Phelps certainly appreciates the causal relationship between his preparation (swimming, technique, weight training, nutrition, rest, psychology, strategy, etc.) and winning. He understands that an athlete needs to dedicate himself to all the aforementioned elements if he is to experience success. All business people, regardless of function, including we marketers, need to appreciate causal factors and make the right choices to win in the marketplace. The table below highlights elements and causal factors that spell the difference between “predictable, great success” and "also-ran" in the marketplace.


Causal Relationship - Great Success versus Also-Ran Performance


Element Predictable Success Also-Ran      
 Role of Marketing  General Management  Support
 Marketing Focus  Customer Centric (BAM)  Sales Support
 (Little "m")
 Positioning  Power "Brand"  Product and/or Subset
 of Promotion
 Marketing Planning  MBO - Marketing By
 "Behavior" Objectives
 Culture  Intelligent "Collective"
 Silo Thinking
 Staffing  Marketers  Other Functions (Sales)
 Organization  Learning - Accountable
 and Predictive
 Conventional Wisdom
 Knowledge  Fact Based  Opinion
 Operating Practices  Innovation - Adaptive
 and Generative
 Business as Usual
 Mind-Set  Excellence  "Good is Good Enough"
 Marketing Training  Mission Based - Integrated
 and Inculturated
 None or, at best,
 Competency Based
 Direction  Coaching  Evaluation
 Customer Insights  "Legitimate" and
 None or "Unsights"
 Communications  BIG Campaign Ideas  Tactical, Dictated by



If you'd like an explanation regarding any of the aforementioned, all of which have been addressed in previous issues of DISPATCHES and/or shared with clients through our practice, or care to weigh-in on what it takes to get the positive results you deserve, just click reply and let us know.


Everyone gets the results s/he deserves. Make your marketing matter more to get the positive results you deserve!

Richard Czerniawski and Mike Maloney


Richard Czerniawski

430 Abbotsford Road

Kenilworth, Illinois 60043

tel 847.256.8820 fax 847.256.8847

reply to Richard: or



Mike Maloney

1506 West 13th

Austin, Texas 78703

tel 512.236.0971 fax 512.236.0972

reply to Mike: or

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