One of my favorite TV shows is the reality show Survivor. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s where 18 to 20 people are put together in a remote location – usually an island. They are there for approximately 40 days and every 3 days someone gets “voted off the island” by the tribe. There are various challenges, some for rewards, some for immunity. But in the end the goal is to be one of the final two people not voted off. Then it is up to the final 7 or 9 people voted off (the Jury) to vote for the person they feel was the best player of the game – the Sole Survivor. That person is the winner of the game and receives $1 Million!
What I love about the game is that it’s not just a game of strength, or skill, but rather involves a combination of skills & traits. Some challenges are physical, some mental. Strength is needed but endurance is just as important. And at the end of the day, perhaps the most important facet of the game involves ones social skills. Because in the end those people that were voted off, need to think enough of you and how you played the game to want to give you a million dollars. And far too often it’s been the lack of a good social game that has cost many players that prize!
I bring up Survivor, because as I have watched the dismissal of former CEO Doug Logan from USA Track and Field, I can’t help but see parallels. As with Survivor, a team of people (Board & Logan) were put together to try to accomplish a singular goal. In this case the operation and improvement of track and field in the US. And, as in Survivor, one of the huge tasks that they faced was that of integrating their varied talents to work cooperatively towards that goal. But as always happens in the game (and typically in the game of life) egos, conflicting personalities, differences in vision, and most importantly the all important “social game” came into play to wreak havoc on what seemingly should have been a “strong tribe”!
In Survivor perhaps the single most destructive force to a person’s chances of making to the end is the social game. Individuals with seemingly indispensible skills – great “providers”, awesome on challenges, terrific leaders – often find themselves voted off the island long before the end because they lack social skills. Too outspoken. Too overtly manipulative. Too many alliances and conflicting members find out about them. Too cocky. These are just a few of the negative “social game” plays that take what should be strong game players to “Tribal Council” only to leave after hearing the words “the tribe has spoken and you are the nth person voted off the island”! And typically it is the people who just knew they were the best and definitely in line for the $1 Million, that can’t believe they were voted off and proceed to state how “weak” his/her tribe mates are; how the tribe will fail without them; and how stupid they were to send him/her home!
Such was USATF with Doug Logan and in the aftermath of his departure. Apparently this was a tribe that was destined not to succeed together. Because from all accounts Logan was determined to run the tribe as he saw fit, without the input or support of his tribe members – an early strike in any season of Survivor. As with the former heads of Enron, he was certain that he was the smartest man in the room when meetings were held, and that he and he alone had the correct recipe to “win the game” – in spite of the fact that he was newer to the “island” than anyone and hadn’t taken the time to get fully acquainted with either his new tribe mates or the island itself. Another deadly recipe in the game of Survivor.
But perhaps the worst part of Logan’s game play was the assumption that he could indeed win the game WITHOUT the support of his tribe mates. And THAT is anathema in the game of Survivor as well as the game of life. Because NO man can be an island unto himself. So it was that playing a VERY POOR social game, that after the most recent “Tribal Council” Logan found himself hearing the words “Doug the tribe has spoken and you are the 1st person voted off of Survivor USATF”! And in typical Survivor fashion, just KNOWING that he was better than his tribe mates, and how dare they vote him off the island, Logan has gone on an exile’s tirade. He’s referred to the USATF Board of Directors as “15 bodies in funny suits stumbling out of a little car” – AKA clowns. He wants to take credit for the US having “just finished a terrific competitive season” – though if I’m not mistaken it was the athletes, and not Logan, that did the competing. He’s said that the President of USATF, Stephanie Hightower, is “driven by ambition”, and that Brooks Johnson, the former head of USATF’s High Performance Division, has been “intellectually dishonest” in statements he’s made on his blog.
All of which makes me feel like I’m watching the most recent episode of Survivor, as the current exile takes none of the blame for his departure, but instead insists that he was done wrong by everyone else. Most fittingly however, it tends to be those with the worst “social game” that never seem to understand why they’ve been voted off! They never get that no matter how smart they think they are – or might even actually be – that beating others over the head with it may not be the best way to get their point across! Or that constantly berating the other members of the tribe may not have endeared them much to their tribe mates. And that cursing them on the way off the island is not a good idea if you have any hopes of playing the game again – because sometimes in Survivor you get invited back to play the game in a different locale and with different players. But by then your reputation precedes you, and rarely does someone who left the game on BAD terms last very long the second time around. They’re usually a target and get voted off as quickly as possible!
Logan has turned this into a very bad episode of Survivor. A very ugly episode. The sooner we can turn the channel and turn this episode off, the better the sport will be.