March 26, 2014

KP, Adolf, and the art of being honest

Why clear-the-air meetings don't work if everyone doesn't agree to not be honest

"No, it's certainly not too orange. More an attractive sort of deep pink" © AFP

It was early March 1945. Results on the battlefield hadn't been going the Germans' way, and having put a line through "Rocket Bombs", "More Rocket Bombs", "Cunning Disguises" and "Time-travelling Robots" on his list of Things That Are Certain to Win the War, Adolf Hitler was down to Plan Z: a clear-the-air team meeting.

So he invited Goebbels, Eva, and his remaining followers: the librarian who transcribed and filed his rants by subject from "Aberdeen" to "zucchini"; the three-fingered dentist responsible for his pet dog Kaiser's dental hygiene; his crack SS moustache-maintenance team; and Gustav, the pharmacist who filled out his daily prescription, to gather in Bunker Conference Room 1 for a brainstorming session.

Adolf himself opened proceedings with a brief seven-and-a-half hour presentation entitled "Why Germany Will Win The War, and Even if We Don't it Isn't My Fault, Any of it, Not Even the Silly Flag, Which Was Goring's Idea Anyway". Then he handed the meeting over to Goebbels, explaining that he was going for a lie-down, that in his absence everyone was to speak freely and that anyone who didn't speak freely would be shot.

One at a time they stood up and expressed how confident they were that Germany was going to win the war and how much they were enjoying serving under Adolf. Then it was Gustav's turn. Gustav had never really fit in with life in the bunker; he was an outsider. He suggested that perhaps the war wasn't going that well, that on occasion Adolf had been a little inflexible in his strategy, and that with the benefit of hindsight, his approach to personnel management had been a little counterproductive.

Unfortunately Gustav had completely misunderstood the phrase "speak freely", and he was shot at dawn, after which Adolf gathered his staff in the Don't Panic Room and declared that thanks to their new spirit of camaraderie and honesty, he was sure they would go on to enjoy a thousand years at the top of the world tyranny rankings.

The history of the clear-the-air meeting is littered with such examples, of which the fiasco in Melbourne is just the latest. This week Chris Tremlett revealed that the England players were locked in a hotel room and invited to speak freely, for as long as they liked, on the subject of "Why Are We Suddenly So Rubbish", without deviation, hesitation or repetition. Sadly, KP proved so good at the game, he was later asked to leave.

The reason why the clear-the-air meeting so often goes wrong is that it invites people to break a fundamental rule of civilisation. When asked to say what you really think, you should on no account say what you really think.

And with good reason. If everyone were to go round saying what they really think, riots, looting, anarchy and general Armageddon would surely follow. Consider the phrases below:

"Do you like my new hairstyle?"
"Do you like your birthday present?"
"Do you love me?"
"Are you looking at me, mate?"
"Daddy, would you like to hear me play my new trumpet?"

On the surface, they appear to be invitations to speak freely. But if you value your well-being, there is only one possible answer to each of these questions. The same rule applies when your coach asks you whether you think there's anything he could do differently. The correct answer is:

"Not at all, coach. You are the right man for the job, I have every faith in your methods and I'm sure things will sort themselves out eventually."

See, it really isn't that hard, Kevin.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • David on March 27, 2014, 2:41 GMT

    Andy Flower once stood up to a murderous dictator. Now he's being compared with one.

  • gmsj on March 27, 2014, 0:48 GMT

    Haha! only u can write like this Andy! Great stuff.

  • Dummy4 on March 26, 2014, 23:16 GMT

    Mr Hughes has made this point before. Cricket is a sport spectators pay money to watch. We shouldn't be robbed of the opportunity to watch the most talented and entertaining players because they have some annoying personality quirks and a propensity to speak their mind.

  • Dummy4 on March 26, 2014, 17:18 GMT

    Fantastic article mixing history and present issues

  • Steve on March 26, 2014, 16:59 GMT

    @webba84, I agree he knuckled down, and in my opinion he is by far our best player, just wanted to offer the only possible reason I can think of for what appears to be an outrageous decision. To categorically state that you will no longer select a player, regardless of form, should almost be illegal! What if he is man of the IPL, comes back to Surrey and averages 100, and we lose both home series because of middle order batting collapses? That is the sort of ridiculous position they have put themselves in.

  • Luke on March 26, 2014, 15:01 GMT

    @steve48 You did see how he batted in the last two matches, right? Head and shoulders above the rest of them, in application and attitude there.

  • Steve on March 26, 2014, 12:32 GMT

    You writers are certainly having great fun out of this fiasco! Very funny article. The one thing, until the truths, half truths and downright lies start coming out in October, that I can find in support of KP being sacked is, did he accept criticism as easily as he dished it out? If not, then I can understand the loss of patience, after all, his shot selection was at times laughable (if you were an Aussie). If, however, he accepted that flicking the ball to two short midwickets and holing out to Lyon were ridiculous moments not worthy of his talent and importance to our cause, then he had every right to be honest about the shambles around him. If he tried to say 'thats how I play', then he had no right to say anything!

  • Dummy4 on March 26, 2014, 10:59 GMT

    I would have thought that being a coach or captain meant being grown up enough to understand when people think you're messing up. For that matter I *still* don't think Gower should have gotten the boot under Gooch.

  • Android on March 26, 2014, 9:50 GMT

    At only this world t20 people noticed the so called orange kits! while england have been wearing it for year and a half.

  • Jared on March 26, 2014, 8:52 GMT

    Just read heading??? Its very interesting

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