Olympic Notice

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The Beijing Olympics were a cauldron of lessons. I am sure junior swimmers, runners and gymnastics gleaned big lessons about hard work and winning or losing with grace. For those of us in the workplace, there was another key lesson: People Notice. We continue to forget that people notice. There was more than a little chatting and blogging about the Mayor of London when he took the stage at the closing ceremony in Beijing.

Before a formal ceremony like that, one would think that Mayor Boris Johnson would take note that his suit didn’t fit and that it would have to stay unbuttoned. Or, one would think that when he asked his staff, “How do I look?” someone would have been able to find a tailor in China that could whip up a larger suit in little time. Or, one would think that before appearing before 90,000 people live and probably billions on TV, one would understand the proper way to dress for such a ceremony. But he didn’t, which led everyone to ask, “Why didn’t the Mayor of London button his jacketIt looked like it didn’t fit.”

It made some wonder, I am sure, if he doesn’t know how to find a suit that fits, how will he pull off the herculean task of leading London as Olympic host? Just as Tom Peters always talked about how, if you spot a bunch of garbage in the seat pocket in front of you on an airplane, it makes you think the maintenance on the plane is shoddy and the plane might crash. What the good Mayor wanted to convey was the excitement that I am sure Londoners feel about the prospect of hosting the games. What he did convey was a guy who doesn’t know that he can’t button his suit coat. People noticed.

When I was a student nodding off in large lecture halls, I convinced myself that the professor wouldn’t notice. When I was an instructor in those large lecture halls full of hundreds of students, I noticed if any single one was asleep.

At work, everyone notices too. Don’t forget.

If you create a Facebook page full of inappropriate content, people notice. If you tell a racist or sexist joke, people notice. If you worry more about your Blackberry than the interactions at a meeting, people notice. If you pick your nose in your car, people notice.

As a venture capitalist, we notice if the management team quibbles during presentations. We notice if entrepreneurs don’t have a real command of the data or product. We notice if they are late, take too much time, or are not committed to making a company successful.

Somewhere along the line a rumor spread that went something like this, “Don’t worry, no one will notice.”It was a false rumor and don’t believe it. Others do notice and it effects much more than you think including your success.

Mr. Mayor, I have some names of tailors in London I can refer you to. Next time you are on stage, people will be noticing.


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