Tim Harkness
Sports Psychologist and Author

Can We Talk?

December 21, 2020 | 40:13

What do cricket and investing have in common? A lot more than you think. Join Hugo and Simon for a conversation with Tim Harkness, sports psychologist and author of 10 Rules for Talking: An Expert’s Guide to Mastering Difficult Conversations, and hear how his rules can help improve your personal and professional lives—and your cricket game.

Meet Our Moderator

Hugo Scott-Gall, Partner


00:48 Host Hugo Scott-Gall introduces his guest, Tim Harkness.
01:27 Hugo and Tim start with a consideration of the topic of Tim’s book, 10 Rules for Talking.
03:29 A key problem area in conversation is disagreement, which generally triggers alarm and raises challenges.
04:22 Hugo and Tim talk about biases and heuristics, with Tim introducing both Daniel Kahneman and Jerry Kline.
06:33 There needs to be interaction between intuition and method.
07:46 Hugo asks about how people can be trained in these concepts.
08:20 Tim draws on three examples: investing, sport, and his scuba diving instructing.
08:48 He shares about the need for athletes to anticipate if-then scenarios.
10:38 In sport, you’re usually better off responding intuitively; there are some differences in scuba diving and business.
11:56 In the situation of soccer and use of time, how does Tim think about the interaction between strategic and intuitive elements?
13:31 Hugo and Tim consider science and data in sport.
16:43 Pricing risk is where biases come in, and we as humans need objective information.
21:02 Which sports are most similar to investing (or vice versa)?
21:25 Both investing and cricket are highly measurable, but also not completely controllable.
24:16 Will a sports player listen to psychological help on risk pricing and performance optimization?
25:15 The first challenge is to correct our binary concept of risk; once this correction is made, people tend to get interested in what Tim has to say.
27:18 Tim shares his thoughts about Rick Di Mascio and his paper “Selling Fast and Buying Slow” and considers the popularity of the paper as evidence that the people are interested in the ideas.
28:24 Before concluding the conversation, Hugo asks if Michael has heard of Brunello Cucinelli.
19:31 Hugo points listeners to a past episode with Tom Ricketts, in which Tom shared about the importance of character.
31:02 Do morale and team spirit make an impact in connection with what Tim has been sharing about?
34:31 When working with teams, what are the key steps in Tim’s role as a performance psychologist?
36:42 We need a chance to talk about what matters to us and our values.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Today, I’m delighted to have with me Tim Harkness, who is a sports psychologist who has worked with elite sports people and teams inside the English Premier Soccer League, the Indian Premier Cricket League, squash players, even shooting. And he’s also worked with investors in our industry. He has an upcoming book called 10 Rules for Talking, so we’re going to talk about that, and also the psychology of high-performance teams and individuals. So, Tim, welcome.

Tim Harkness: Thanks very much for having me.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Also, with me is Simon Fennell, a portfolio manager here at William Blair. So, Simon, hello to you.

Simon Fennell: Hello.

Hugo Scott-Gall: So, we’ve got lots to talk about, so therefore we need to get cracking. So, Tim, where I want to start with you is your book it’s saying that talking’s very important but — and humans do a lot of it — but we’re not very good at it. Why is that?

Tim Harkness: Well, I think, first of all, I think we are actually quite good at talking but we’re good at a particular kind of talking. So, a lot of the time, we find ourselves in agreement with each other. And a lot of the time, we’re discussing topics that are relatively low stakes. So, we sometimes end up with an illusion that we are better at talking than we really are, in some key circumstances. Because there are some key conversations where things get more difficult and we need to apply a more strategic approach.

And I think when there’s disagreement, for starters, conversations get much more difficult. So, this conversation right now, there’s probably not going to be a lot of disagreement. And it’s going to be relatively easy in terms of the actual conversation skills that it draws upon. It may require us to have some knowledge of the subject, but that’s not an actual talking skill.

So, first of all, when there’s disagreement, things get more difficult. Secondly, when the stakes are high, things get more difficult. And were something to happen and any of us become emotional, or all of us were to become emotional, then the conversation gets dramatically more difficult. So, when you’ve got those three conditions, that’s when we move out of the zone in which we can simply use our intuition or our automatic responses to a circumstance. And it means generally we’re better off if we can start applying some strategy.

Hugo Scott-Gall: So, we’re quite good at talking when the stakes aren’t too high or when too many of our inherent and innate biases don’t get in the way. Is that what you’re saying? When it feels relatively low stakes or not too emotionally charged, we’re fine. But if any of those things begin to change, we ourselves begin to change.

Tim Harkness: Yes. And I think quite a good one is disagreement. Quite a key issue is disagreement because that triggers a whole lot of alarm, generally. And then, we have to try and pick our way through quite a delicate path to finding a solution. Because, when there’s disagreement, we suddenly need to substantially, in some ways, change somebody’s mind. And that’s quite a different objective from a normal conversation. And at the moment, if we’re to take this conversation as an example, we’re really going to be probably sharing ideas, learning from each other.

And none of us are really significantly anticipating having our minds changed in some way. Whereas, if we did have a fixed opinion on something, and we were required to achieve consensus, that is a categorically different kind of conversation. And it’s much more difficult.

You mentioned biases, and obviously the person who’s most closely connected with biases, Daniel Kahneman, the Nobel Laureate psychologist. And there’s another psychologist who is almost his philosophical adversary, Gary Klein. And Kahneman wrote a lot about the risks of bias, and Gary Klein was quite interested in expert intuitive decisions. And coming from the sports world, the athletes that I work with, a lot of the time, are making expert intuitive decisions, which actually means that they’re using heuristics often.

So, I think the thing with bias is that, once again — well, not exactly bias, but with heuristic — and I think sometimes bias and heuristics get used almost interchangeably. And the point is that heuristics are biased when they’re used in the wrong context. But a lot of the time a heuristic is a shortcut to making a decision which actually tends to be accurate. So, when we’re having a particular kind of conversation, we’re using heuristics. We’re taking shortcuts to make judgements that actually allow the conversation to flow and allow us to keep pace with the conversation and allow us to be creative and even to share humor because humor is a shortcut to expressing an idea.

But I think, obviously, the difficulty comes in when the heuristic is taken out of the context in which it was once useful. And then, that heuristic becomes a bias. And that’s when we need to start using a completely different form of communication to try and tackle that bias.

Hugo Scott-Gall: And so, is what you’re saying — we’re probably unaware of many of these things and becoming aware can help us? Or actually, do we all need to be trained in how to speak to each other, particularly, I guess, in a number of different fields — but certainly, when the conversation is important as it can be. So, for us, as investors, we go and meet companies and we’re very interested in learning about their business. But we’re also interviewing the management teams to make an assessment of them.

Tim Harkness: Yes. Yes. Obviously, that’s a significant part of the skill of being an investor, is the ability to make that kind of judgement. And I think that there are many elements to that skill and one of them — learn to make a judgement of trust, that you’re just trying to evaluate, “Do I trust this person? Do I trust his intentions, and do I trust his competence?” And that’s a very human judgement to make. And, I think, as a human judgement it relies on a lot of intuition. It relies on emotion. And it has a level of complexity that can’t easily be boiled down a set of numbers.

And I think, as a skilled investor, this would be one of the key arguments where a human investor can beat an algorithm — is that the algorithm is not capable of making that human trust judgement. But, of course, our trust judgements can go badly wrong. And there are numerous examples in history — and I’m quite sure we’ve all got examples in our personal lives — of when we’ve made incorrect trust judgements. And this is where we need to back up our heuristics, or we need to back up our intuition, with a more systematic way of making decisions. And really, that’s one of the themes of the book 10 Rules for Talking, is this interaction between intuition and method.

Simon Fennell: Tim, when you’re thinking about that in a sports context, that the decision making under stress, under a pressured situation, that demands a physical response rather than investing where it’s a mental response —

Tim Harkness: Right.

Simon Fennell: — can you train the heuristic on patent that you are able to teach to the athlete to recognize situations under which a variety of elements become the conditioned response?

Tim Harkness: Yes. Yes. I think in sport, for sure, that’s something we think about a lot. And what I’ll do is I’ll maybe mention three examples. I’ll mention investing, which is a professional environment. I’ll talk about sport, but I’ll also talk about my first job. I was a scuba diving instructor. And, as a scuba diving instructor, we had to teach people to cope with pressurized situations in the eventuality of something going wrong.

So, in sport, one of the sports where I was involved was the India Premier League, which is the probably largest cricket competition on the planet. And it’s a format of cricket called T20, where the entire match plays out over a very short period of time. Each inning takes only 120 balls. There are 10 batsmen. So, likelihood is that, on average, each batsman is only expected to face 10 balls — sorry, 12 balls.

And within those 12 balls, the risk scenario can shift dramatically because the player might score a lot of runs or wickets may fall and suddenly a player may be in a position where earlier he was required to take a high level of risk but maybe his partner and somebody else has gone out and suddenly he needs to take a much lower level or risk. And I think, for me, going into the sport that was one of the things that I hadn’t anticipated, was that from a psychological point of view the risk scenarios changed so quickly in that game. And we had to be able to teach players to respond appropriately to take the correct levels or risk and seek the appropriate levels of reward.

And there were a couple of ways of doing that. So, the one situation is — and I think this applies to many other sports — is to anticipate if/then scenarios. So, really, just to work through, “If this happens, then I will do that. If this happens, then I will do that. If things go well for a brief period of time, then I will respond in this way. If things go badly, then I will respond in that way.” And I think that applies in a squash match, I think it applies in a soccer match.

And then, one of the individual players that I worked with, who is an Indian International, said that when he was walking out onto the cricket pitch, one of his objectives was to express his inner beauty. And that’s maybe not what you’d expect from someone who’s seen as quite a warrior on the sports field. I mean, this individual, he scored a century — he scored 100 runs in a World Cup match with a broken arm. So, this is a tough guy. And he’s talking about going out there and expressing his inner beauty.

And I think what he’s saying by that is that he trusts himself and he trusts his intuition. Because one of the things that can happen on the sports field is that as we get subject to pressure, we are tempted to become more deliberate and more controlled. And actually, in sport, where time is so critical, we’re almost always better of responding intuitively, naturally, and automatically.

Now, I just wanna take a brief detour through scuba diving because one of the things that we used to say to our scuba diving students is, “You’ve always got time.” And what I would do in the middle of the lecture is I’d say to people, “Okay, everybody. Let’s just stop.” And I’d count out five seconds. And I’d say to them, “That felt like an awfully long time, but you’ve always got five seconds.” When you’re scuba diving, you’ve always got five seconds. Even if you’re 20 meters under the water and your air has just run out, you’ve got five seconds. So, take five seconds to stop and think.

Now, that’s not the case in sport but it is the case in scuba diving. And in the professional world, it’s even more the case. We’ve definitely got five seconds. And I think one of the situations that can happen in sport is that we feel drawn out of our automatic states into a deliberate state, into a strategic state. And I think one of the things that can happen in the business world is that we found ourselves pulled in the opposite direction. That we can be in a strategic mindset, we can be a deliberate mindset, where we’re thinking consciously about things, but for some reason, we can feel that we are under more time pressure than we really are and we get pulled in the opposite direction towards being automatic or instinctive.

And that’s not always — sometimes it’s the right place to be but it’s not always the right place to be.

Simon Fennell: So, take football, Tim, where the use of time can be an offensive weapon — when you think about pressing teams, when you think about an aggressive mindset, particularly in a defensive element, you can use time — you can try to withdraw time somebody else has — and to put pressure on their decision making. How do you think about that when time is slightly taken away from you? Is it again you want the players to rely on instinct in that — even as it gets more and more pressured?

Tim Harkness: Yeah, I think that this is where there’s the interaction between — there’s strategic and the instinctive. Because for sure — and I think one of the things that the great players can do is they can take time away from other people. And the really great players, they are monitoring the intention of their opponents. They know what their opponents are thinking about. They know what their opponents are looking at. And they will time their actions and their movements to coincide with the periods when the opponents are concentrating on something else.

So, they will time their movements for when the opponent looks down at the ball, for example. That’s when they’ll react. I worked with a fighter who could time his movement to coincide with a blink or with a biff. So, they’re manipulating time in particular ways.

But, I think, also there is this element of the strategic. And what the strategic can do is it can reduce the number of options that the player is considering taking. So — and I know in the game of rugby, for example, I worked with a coach. And he said, “If you’re a rugby player in the back line, you’ve got three options. You kick, you run, or you pass. That’s it.” He doesn’t want anybody thinking about anything else.

Now, to reduce the number of options doesn’t reduce the level of skill that you have to apply to choosing between those options. And I think that’s something that may extend into the business world as well, is that simplifying doesn’t mean making easier. It just means that we’re applying our skill to choosing more accurately between a smaller set of options. And strategically in the sports world, I think that’s a direction I’ve seen sport going in over the last five or six years, is making athletes more aware of a smaller range of strategic options.

Hugo Scott-Gall: How much that is to do with data — so, we now have better understanding of — a sports match used to be recorded by the naked eye, and with a series of impressions by individuals watching it. Now, we can actually turn that match — whatever it is — whether it’s soccer, whether it’s cricket, whether it’s baseball — we can turn it into data. And then, we can mine the data to recreate the patterns of the game. So, we can see the game through a totally different lens.

So, can you talk about the growth of science in sport? Because we’re now turning the game into a series of data driven interactions almost. And so, you begin to analyze the data and you begin to see patterns. Is that making sport way more efficient in terms of decision making because actually you can now recreate lots of potential decision points and train the participants into doing it? Or does that just raise everyone’s level and human decision making is still very important, it’s just everyone’s getting better at it because the data, the analytics around the data, has revealed error.

So, it’s almost — for us in investing, which is if you can reduce your mistakes you don’t have to necessarily find — you’re always looking for great stocks, but if you can improve your worst decisions, that can make you look a lot better overall and be a lot better overall.

Tim Harkness: Yeah. Yeah. I think the different sports lend themselves to data analysis differently. And I think, in general, the more unambiguous the feedback from an event, the more frequent the feedback from an event, and the more immediate the feedback from an event, the more effectively you can apply data to analyzing that event. So, the first sport that really introduced this whole notion of using data to understand was baseball with Moneyball. And baseball, you’re talking about a high frequency, unambiguous events, with immediate feedback.

And that’s a sport where you can really use data effectively. If you were to take the opposite extreme, it would probably be soccer, where you have 22 people playing a game for 90 minutes and sometimes there’s no scoring event in the entire 90 minutes. On average, there are only two or three scoring events in that 90 minutes. And soccer’s difficult because you can’t even say forwards is good, backwards is bad. So, it’s very hard to objectively score any particular event. Now, there’s some companies that tried to do that.

But I think, at the moment, that sport is a sport that still very much depends on human intuition and human understanding rather than — I don’t think data’s, at this point, revealed too many insights to the strategy of futbol. I do think that a nice example is a revolution that’s happened in basketball, for example, where people are going for more three-point shots. And I think that’s quite a nice example of a bias, where nobody likes missing a basketball shot. And nobody likes the rendering position.

So, a very good way to fulfill that objective is to only shoot when you get close to the basket. But, of course, the difference between a two-pointer and a three-pointer is 50% — that’s an enormous difference. And people eventually realize — and I think we were told by the data — that it actually makes sense to overcome your bias. It makes sense to overcome your reluctance to miss because, even though you miss more often, you’re not missing 50% more often and you’re likely to score more points overall by shooting for three-pointers rather than two-pointers.

And I think that’s quite a current example of a sport that has revealed something through data analysis, in quite a simple way, that was not discovered for however many decades of the sport being played for.

Hugo Scott-Gall: That’s fascinating, because essentially what you’re describing is a mispriced risk. That actually —

Tim Harkness: Absolutely. Yes. Yes. And that happens in cricket as well — mispriced risks. And I’ve not actually used that term myself, but it’s a great term because you’re trying to weigh out risk and reward. And that’s what cricket is about.

Hugo Scott-Gall: And that’s what we have to think about as investors all the time, which is — risk is not a negative word. It’s a positive word. So, you can take positive risk. But certainly, we know in our business that for us to outperform we have to take some risks. Now, we want to be intelligent about how we do those and find what we believe are mispriced risks, knowing that over time that’ll work in our favor.

Tim Harkness: Yes. And this is where the biases do come in because pricing risk is not something that we as human beings are intuitively good at. So, this is where we have to bolster our decision making with strategy and with data.

Hugo Scott-Gall: So, as a student of psychology, a student of sport — and I guess, now, you’ve become a student of investing as well — which sports do you think are most similar to investing? Or other way around.

Tim Harkness: Yeah.

Hugo Scott-Gall: — investing are similar to sports?

Tim Harkness: I’m going with cricket. And I suppose we have to apologize, American listeners. I don’t know how much explaining we’re going to have to do about cricket. But, essentially, cricket is a game of trying to score runs, or points, while trying not be dismissed or given out. So, the scoring runs is the reward that you’re trying to gain. And not giving away your wicket, or not being dismissed, is the risk that you’re taking. And the great thing about the short form of the game is that you are trying to balance your reward/risk ratio continually throughout the match.

And I suppose you could say that the price of risk is continually changing. So, what’s happening in cricket is that the price of risk is continually changing from an objective point of view because one team has to score a certain number of runs. They’ve got to do it without losing so many wickets. And as the game progresses, they may be ahead of or behind the curve in terms of the run rate that they’re trying to achieve. So, they could be in a position where they’re needing to take more risk.

They could be in a position where they’re needing to take less risk. That’s an objective — so, risk can be objectively measured. But risk isn’t only objectively measured because risk is measured — is humanly measured also, that you may just have played three fantastic shots. You may have scored three boundaries. The crowd might be cheering. Your teammates might be fist bumping you. And you may feel fantastic. And that could actually influence your evaluation of risk in a way that is incorrect.

And one of the things that we see most significantly — so, in as I said, in T20 cricket, an inning takes 120 balls. So, you are trying to price your risk according to how many runs you need divided by how many balls you have left. And that risk, the price of that risk, does change and it can change quite quickly. But what we find cricketers tend to do is they tend to price their risk on the last three balls that they’ve faced. So, that’s their bias. That’s their heuristic. And it works some of the time, but it doesn’t work all of the time.

And this, I think, is where there’s an interesting interaction between intuition and strategy. And then, what I will also say about cricket — because I was actually asked this question in the elevator of a Mumbai hotel. And I don’t know why they asked me it. But they were saying, “What is the link between cricket and investing?” And I think what’s difficult about cricket is that it’s a highly measurable sport where you’re playing — you’re participating in an activity that is not totally under your control. And I think you could say the same for investing. It’s highly measurable. And it’s not completely controllable.

And that combination makes it quite a psychologically stressful situation to be in. And when we’re stressed, this is when our biases start to get tripped and we need to be careful about what system we’re using to make decisions.

Hugo Scott-Gall: So, do you think you could take a player in the IPL, the Indian Premier League — let’s say one of the top 20 batsmen, which is the equivalent of a hitter in baseball. Can you take him and say, “Look, you’re mispricing risk? I’ve analyzed — we’ve watched you. We’ve turned your performance into data. We think there are recurring patterns of you mispricing risk.” Do you think that this very high level sportsman, an elite sportsman, is going to listen and say, “That does make sense,” or are they going to say, “I’m out there. I just wanna stay with my immediate decision making. It’s working for me overall.”

Because the follow-on to that question is, if you can show a sportsman, “Here’s where you can add an extra x-percent, where you’re not optimizing your performance by making a couple of decisions where you’re pricing the risk incorrectly.” Are they taking on too much risk too soon or whether they’re actually underpricing — whatever. That’s question one.

Question two is does that then link to investing, that actually you can show an investor, “Here’s some repeated error patterns you display” — and if you have perfect data, you can say to the cricketer, “When you get overconfident, then you give away your wicket and you’re out and it’s over because you’ve mispriced the risk because you’ve got a regency bias.”

And can you do the same with investors? Can you look at an investor and say, “Actually, with full data we can see when you’re emotional — and that could be due to some investments going the wrong way for you or it could be something else — your decision making — so we can identify when your decision making is challenged or is weaker. And we can identify the patterns and conditions around those decisions. So, can you do that with an elite sportsman? Then, can you do that with an investor? Can you teach this?

Tim Harkness: Yes. So, I’ll start by saying with some people you can’t. Some people are fully committed to their approach and they’re not interested in changing it. And these tend to be people who are moving towards the end of their careers. And to them, ironically, any form of change is a risk that they’re not willing to take. Because they’re saying, “Doing what I’ve always done has gotten me to where I am and I’m not willing to risk that in any way. So, I’m just not going to change anything.”

But what I’ve found in cricket is that the vast majority of people are very interested in finding ways to improve. Now, one of the challenges is that when it comes to risk, we tend to be quite binary thinkers. We tend to think of just high risk and low risk instead of understanding that there are many degrees of risk. But I think once people accept that, and accept that in their judgement of risk, they could accept that if they were to judge risk more accurately, they could be responding strategically more correctly to different situations.

Then they could — well, then the majority of the people that I’ve worked with do start to get interested. And I would say — and in cricket — cricket is a sport that starts and stops. So, when you’re actually facing a ball, it’s important that you are behaving completely automatically. But once that ball has been faced, you’ve got 60 seconds to sit and think. And in that time, you may want to be quite deliberate and quite strategic and quite conscious in your thinking.

And I think in the world of investment, we’ve also seen — and if I can mention my colleague Rick Di Mascio, who is the CEO of Inalytics and wrote a paper called “Selling Fast and Buying Slow.” And what he showed in that paper, which became a virally popular paper, is that there are circumstances where investors sell poorly. Now, they’re not selling poorly because of their lack of skill, because they demonstrate their skill when they buy well.

So, what he’s showing is that there is some bias in terms of evaluating the importance, or the level of focus, or the level of energy that a particular circumstance requires, where some mistakes are being made. And in his experience — I think the popularity of the paper is evidence of this — people are very interested in finding out areas that they’re not aware of that could be eliminated. And for sure, in the sports world and in the investment world, that’s a big chunk of the work that we do.

Hugo Scott-Gall: So, I guess we’ve talked a lot about this analytical side, the more rigor in the process of decision making. But when I think back to one of our previous podcasts, we were lucky enough to interview Tom Ricketts, who’s the owner of the Chicago Cubs. And he was part of the team — he built the team, put in place the team, to turn around the Cubs, who hadn’t won for a very, very long time.

And we talked to him about the increased role of science and process. But we also talked to him a lot about what he said was very important, which were just good old-fashioned things like team spirit, having the right kind of character on the team. And they spent a lot of time in recruitment. They looked at all the data but then spent a lot of time meeting the individual, understanding that individual’s background, their context, and is this someone you want to be in a clinch situation with.

Tim Harkness: Absolutely.

Hugo Scott-Gall: So, he still believed in some old-fashioned, or maybe some eternal, truths around character and character reveals itself under pressure. And that actually, you can’t just assemble the dream team on paper and expect it to work. There is something else. There is something else.

Tim Harkness: I completely agree.

Hugo Scott-Gall: So, I’m interested in your view on that because if you think about the English Premier League the last two decades, how much you spent on players — either buying them or paying them — is a pretty good predictor of your finishing league position. But it’s pretty good. It’s not perfect. The last couple of seasons, you’ve had maybe the best manager certainly in the UK, and maybe the world, is Jürgen Klopp. And he is — Liverpool has done better than what you would predict from their wage bill and their player acquisition costs.

So, do you think that morale, team spirit, the more base human emotions — there’s still scope for genius, there’s still scope for a team out-performing its potential due to team spirit and wanting to win for each other. Does that still matter?

Tim Harkness: Yeah, I’ll answer that question with a personal experience. So, last year I got a call to go to India to work in the IPL. Like I said, it was a team called the Delhi Capitals. And the Delhi Capitals had done so badly in the competition the year before that they’d actually changed their name. So, they’d come last the year before and this year, they’d renamed — rebranded the franchise. And they asked me to get involved. And they also had a coach called Ricky Ponting who is one of the top five all-time run scorers in the sport of cricket.

So, they got this incredibly imminent ex-player to come and coach them. And I had a couple of assumptions when I went into this environment. The one assumption was that working with cricketers was going to be quite similar to working with golfers. Golf is a very skill-based sport. It’s a high-pressure sport. And a big part of what you’re trying to do with a golfer is to just try to help them individually maintain their technical skill in the face of emotional pressure.

And my second assumption is that Ricky Ponting, as the ex-captain of an Australian team that was an incredibly successful Australian team, quite an abrasive Australian team, very aggressive Australian team — I thought he was going to carry across this dominant, hyperconfident, quite aggressive personality that we’d seen from him as a player into his coaching. And I was wrong on both counts. First of all, Ricky, to my slight annoyance as a South African cricket fan, was an absolutely lovely guy. He was funny. He was kind. He was sincere. He was considerate.

One of the things I used to see is that when you’re having a cricket practice, you get all sorts of people from around to come and help pick up balls and ball in the nets. And some of these people are — nobody’s ever really heard of them. They play cricket at a relatively low level. And Ricky was unfailingly polite to these individuals. So, I was quite surprised to see how much attention Ricky paid to the human side of things and what a generous and just fun guy to be around he was. I didn’t see that one coming.

The second thing that I didn’t really see coming is that, at a player level, I hadn’t anticipated how important team spirit was in cricket. How important it was for these individual players doing individual skills to feel that they were emotionally supported by their teammates. And in fact, while I had a couple of fairly specific conversations with individual players about skill execution, the vast majority of what I did was just talking about team spirit. And I didn’t anticipate that. But it turned out to be a really big part of the success of the team. And, by the way, the team did go on to have an extremely successful competition that finished joint first in the league from last place the year before.

Hugo Scott-Gall: And so, when you worked with teams — or if you were going to work with teams which were underperforming, where this is a problem, what are the key steps you, in your role as a performance psychologist — what’s your playbook for creating team spirit, improving morale? What are the patterns you see and what are the remedies you tend to introduce?

Tim Harkness: Yeah. Well, I think similar to investing, the one thing I’d want to look at is what errors are being made because sometimes they’re obvious errors that are actually quite easy to fix. And in my book 10 Rules for Talking there are strategies that I think can be applied to set plays like team meetings, like individual interactions between peers, and interactions between a boss and an employee. So, I think for starters, there are some errors that are easy to spot and to pick up. And I think also, one of the features of many errors that we make is that they are repeat errors.

So, if I’m playing tennis and I’ve got a bad backhand, I’m going to make a lot of mistakes in my backhand. It’s a repeat error. And I think the same applies to our professional interactions, our professional personal interactions in the workplace — is that, if we lack a technique, or if there’s something that we’re not good at, or if we have a particular bias that gets triggered too easily, these will tend to be repeat errors. And in some ways, a repeat error can feel overwhelming to try and fix because you think, “Well, I’m just getting this wrong all the time.”

But the fact that it is repeated means that there is an opportunity for improvement. And you get to practice it again and again. So, I do think that’s the one thing, is to look for errors. The second is to think about strategies that can be applied to situations that recur. And this is a great thing, is that we get the chance to practice. But something else that I think is really important is that we do have a chance to — we need, as human beings, a chance to talk about what matters to us. We need a chance to talk about our values.

And I think this is something that in this current climate, where we’re sitting in three separate rooms, connected only electronically, I think we’re going to need to work quite a lot harder to actually build shared values and build a sense of supporting each other and wanting the best for each other. Because I think as human beings, naturally we respond very well to physical proximity.

My cousin has a saying. It’s very hard to continue to hate somebody after you’ve met them. And what he means by that is that when we get close to people, we tend to like them because we’re social beings. And I think some of that may just be hardwired. And that’s one of our heuristics, that if I’m close to somebody and I’m safe with that person, I like that person. And in this coronavirus environment, we’ve lost some of that. And we’re going to have to work harder to make sure that we’re building those emotional connections and we’re building the social and the team connections that generally happen around our shared values and shared interests. And I think for sure, that is a challenge in any environment. But it’s a particular challenge in this environment.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Okay. Well, Tim, I want to say thank you for giving us so much time. It’s a shame we’re not doing this in person.

Tim Harkness: Yeah.

Hugo Scott-Gall: But we’re still under lockdown so we can’t.

Tim Harkness: Certainly.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Exactly. But thank you very much. We covered a lot of stuff, important stuff, and all very good. So, thanks very much for taking the time. So, it’s thank you from me.

Simon Fennell: And from me, too. Thank you, Tim.

Tim Harkness: Yeah. Well, thank you, Hugo. Thanks, Simon. Very nice to be here. I look forward to talking again.

Meet Our Moderator

Hugo Scott-Gall, Partner


[easy-social-share buttons=”twitter,linkedin,facebook,mail” counters=0 style=”icon” template=”6″ size=”m” point_type=”simple”]

Questions, Comments, Podcast Ideas?

Create an
Enduring Partnership

Our active ownership culture creates long-term client relationships by aligning with your interests and helping you achieve successful investment outcomes. Contact us to learn how we can partner with you.


Cookie Policy

At William Blair, your privacy is important and we want to be clear about the information we may collect when you visit our website. This policy explains how we use cookies and may be amended, from time to time, without notice. Please read the information below about our cookie use. By using this site you agree to the placement of cookies on your computer in accordance with the terms of this policy. If you would like to modify your browser to notify you when you receive a new cookie or to disable cookies, please refer to Managing Cookies below. Additional resources, and a link to our full Privacy and Security Policy may also be found below.

What are cookies? Cookies are text files containing small amounts of information that are downloaded to your device when you visit a website. When you revisit the website, the cookies allow the website to recognize your device and remember certain information about you. Cookies can serve many purposes (helping us to understand how visitors use the website, letting you navigate between pages efficiently, remembering your preferences, and generally improving your user experience). Cookies also can help ensure that we provide information to you that is relevant or that you have requested.

You also can learn more about cookies at www.allaboutcookies.org.

Our use of cookies

Session Cookies
Session cookies are used to temporarily store information about logged in users. These cookies do not collect information from the user’s computer, and do not identify the user. These cookies do not gather information about you that could be used for marketing purposes or remembering where you have been on the internet. The William Blair website uses the following session cookies:

  • “ASP.Net_SessionId”: this cookie helps to identify each browser session on the server so that the user has an uninterrupted journey through the William Blair Website. It expires automatically when the session ends.
  • “ARRAffinity”: these cookies are set by our hosting provider to help load pages efficiently by routing users to the same server consistently. They expire as soon as you close your browser.

Permanent Cookies
Permanent cookies are used to enhance a user’s browsing experience by “remembering” users on subsequent visits. Please note that if you delete these cookies, we will not be able to remember your preferences or your login details or provide you with the content you have requested. These cookies do not gather information about you that could be used for marketing purposes. If you no longer wish for us to remember your selections, you should delete cookies on your machine. The William Blair website uses the following permanent cookies:

  • “recentOffice” and “recentPeople” cookies to speed up navigation by giving you the option to return to pages you have already visited. The cookies expire one year after the last page was requested.
  • “SC_Analytics_Global_Cookie”: this persistent cookie identifies repeat visits from a single user. The cookie expires one year after the last page was requested.
  • “SC_Analytics_Session_Cookie”: this cookie is used to collect anonymised information about how visitors use the site, including the number of visitors, where visitors have come from before coming to the site and the pages they visit on the site. The cookie expires one year after the last page was requested.

Analytics Cookies
There are also certain unique cookies and/or third-party cookies that we may use for analytics purposes to enhance the performance of our website. These cookies may track and provide trend analysis on how our users interact with our website, or help us to track errors. The data collected will generally be aggregated to provide trends and usage patterns for business analysis, site/platform improvement and performance metrics. The type of information we collect includes how many visitors visit our website, when they visited, for how long and which areas of our website are visited and which services are used. While this analysis may be performed by third parties, only William Blair will review the analytics. Your use of our website indicates your consent to the use of these web analytics cookies. One of these third party analytic tools used is a web analytics service provided by Google. Google Analytics is one of the most widespread and trusted analytics solutions on the web for helping us to understand how you use the site and ways that we can improve your experience. Google Analytics uses cookies to help analyze how visitors use the William Blair & Company website. Four types of cookies are used by Google Analytics:

  • __utma Cookie A persistent cookie – remains on a computer, unless it expires or the cookie cache is cleared. It tracks visitors. Metrics associated with the Google __utma cookie include: first visit (unique visit), last visit (returning visit). This also includes Days and Visits to purchase calculations which afford ecommerce websites with data intelligence around purchasing sales funnels.
  • __utmb Cookie & __utmc Cookie These cookies work in tandem to calculate visit length. Google __utmb cookie demarks the exact arrival time, then Google __utmc registers the precise exit time of the user. Because __utmb counts entrance visits, it is a session cookie, and expires at the end of the session, e.g. when the user leaves the page. A timestamp of 30 minutes must pass before Google cookie __utmc expires. Given__utmc cannot tell if a browser or website session ends. Therefore, if no new page view is recorded in 30 minutes the cookie is expired.
  • __utmz Cookie Cookie __utmz monitors the HTTP Referrer and notes where a visitor arrived from, with the referrer siloed into type (Search engine (organic or cost per click), direct, social and unaccounted). From the HTTP Referrer the __utmz Cookie also registers, what keyword generated the visit plus geolocation data. This cookie lasts six months.
  • __utmv Cookie Google __utmv Cookie lasts “forever”. It is a persistent cookie. It is used for segmentation, data experimentation and the __utmv works hand in hand with the __utmz cookie to improve cookie targeting capabilities.

For further details on Google analytics cookies, visit cookies set by Google Analytics.

Targeting Cookies
William Blair may utilize a select set of cookies provided by third parties, such as Like and Share buttons. These cookies store non-personally identifiable information, but may store information that is available to third-party advertisers, publishers, or ad networks.

Managing Cookies
Most browsers are initially set to accept cookies. However, you have the ability to disable cookies if you wish, generally through changing your internet software browsing settings. It may also be possible to configure your browser settings to enable acceptance of specific cookies or to notify you each time a new cookie is about to be stored on your computer permitting you to decide whether to accept or reject the cookie. To manage your use of cookies, there are various resources available to you. For example the “Help” section on your browser may assist you. As our cookies allow you to access some of our website’s essential features, we recommend that you leave cookies enabled. Disabling cookies may mean that you experience reduced functionality or will be prevented from using our site altogether.

Additional Resources



William Blair & Company Privacy and Security Policy

Social Media Disclaimer

William Blair & Company, L.L.C. is a broker dealer and investment adviser dually registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). William Blair, along with affiliated entities William Blair Investment Management, LLC and William Blair International, Ltd (collectively, “William Blair”) sponsors and publishes posts on or through pages, profiles, accounts, feeds, channels or other portions of various social media platforms, including but not limited to YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter (each, a “Site”) for educational, promotional or other business reasons.

About William Blair Posts

No William Blair post published on any social media platform is an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy shares of any William Blair investment product to any person in any jurisdiction in which an offer, solicitation, purchase or sale would be unlawful under the laws of such jurisdiction. Additionally, all William Blair posts published on any social media platform are for informational purposes only and should not be considered as investment advice or recommendations to invest in any particular security, strategy or investment product.

William Blair posts on social media may include statements concerning financial market trends, and are based on current market conditions, which will fluctuate and may be superseded by subsequent market events or for other reasons. Historic market trends are not reliable indicators of actual future market behavior or future performance of any particular investment which may differ materially, and should not be relied upon as such. The investment strategies and broad themes discussed in William Blair’s social media posts may be unsuitable for investors depending on their specific investment objectives and financial situation. Information contained in posts has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but not guaranteed. You should note that the materials on the social media platforms are provided “as is” without any express or implied warranties. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. All investments involve a degree of risk, including the risk of loss. No part of William Blair posts may be altered without express written permission from William Blair.

William Blair posts may provide links to third party websites only as a convenience and the inclusion of such links does not imply any endorsement, approval, investigation, verification or monitoring by William Blair of any content or information contained within or accessible from the linked sites. While we make every attempt to provide links only to those websites we think are trustworthy and accurate, we cannot be responsible for the content or accuracy of the information presented on those websites and we specifically disclaim any liability for any loss or damages which you may incur, directly or indirectly, as a result of your use of them. We reserve the right to terminate a link to a third party website at any time.

General User Guidelines

Due to the highly regulated nature of our industry and as a matter of policy, William Blair, in some instances, may not reply to user comments. Please ensure that your contributions in relation to any William Blair posts are relevant and topical. Do not publish your own advertisements of any kind on any William Blair social media page or with respect to any William Blair posts. We ask you to be respectful and courteous and refrain from publishing, including through hyper-links, inappropriate or offensive material on any William Blair social media page. Do not attempt to promote investments (this includes posting testimonials, giving investment advice, or making recommendations about specific securities, securities strategies, products or services) on any William Blair social media page. Do not attempt to submit to William Blair any personal, confidential or account information through any William Blair social media page. William Blair is not subject to any obligations of confidentiality regarding information submitted to them through any William Blair social media page or otherwise through any social media platform.

Third-Party Posts on any William Blair Social Media Page

While William Blair may monitor third-party posts published on any William Blair social media page, such posts may be reviewed to ensure regulatory compliance, but otherwise are not edited before being displayed. Third-party posts on any William Blair social media page are the view and responsibility of the third-party, not William Blair. William Blair cannot guarantee the appropriateness, accuracy or usefulness of any third-party posts or of any third-party hyper-link, nor are they responsible for any unauthorized or copyrighted materials contributed by a third-party in any William Blair social media page. William Blair reserves the right to remove or edit any third-party posts or comments on any William Blair social media page that are inappropriate or that violate (or may violate) applicable regulations.

William Blair does not publish or otherwise disseminate statements relating to current or former clients’ positive experiences with or endorsements of William Blair and expects you to refrain from publishing such posts on any William Blair social media page. You should limit your posts on any William Blair social media page to investment themes rather than commenting, positively or negatively, on William Blair, its products, services or personnel. Although our clients may follow this account, this should not be interpreted as a testimonial regarding any client’s experience with our firm.

Any descriptions of, references to, or links to other products, publications or services do not constitute an endorsement, authorization, sponsorship by, or affiliation with William Blair with respect to any hyper-linked site or its sponsor, unless expressly stated by William Blair. William Blair expressly disclaims any responsibility for the posts, the accuracy of the information, and/or quality of products or services provided by or advertised on these third-party sites, as posted by third-parties on any William Blair Social media page.

Use Social Media Platforms at Your Own Risk

William Blair is in no way affiliated with any social media platform and has no responsibility for any social media page’s operations and services. William Blair and their respective affiliates, directors, officers, or employees are not liable for any direct, indirect, incidental, consequential, punitive or special damages arising out of or in any way connected with your access or use of, or inability to access or use, a social media platform, any William Blair social media page thereon or reliance on any William Blair post or any failure of performance, interruption, defect, delay in transmission, computer viruses or other harmful components, or line or system failure associated with a social media platform or any William Blair social media page thereon. Use of a social media platform or any William Blair social media page thereon is at your own risk.

Privacy Policy

William Blair is not responsible for the terms of use or privacy policies of any social media platform on which William Blair posts may appear, including in any William Blair social media page. For additional information regarding account security and privacy, refer to our Privacy and Security statement

Copyrights and Trademarks

Each social media page’s content and information, and all trademarks, service marks, trade names, trade dress, logos, copyrights and other intellectual property displayed on the Site by William Blair (“Content”) are protected by U.S. and worldwide copyright and trademark laws and treaty provisions, and are owned by, controlled by or licensed to William Blair or their respective owners. By using any social media page, we do not grant you any rights to reproduce, sell, or license any of the content contained herein, except that you may print a copy of the information contained herein for your personal use only. You may not reproduce or distribute the text or graphics to others or copy all or substantially all of the content to your own hard drive or server without the prior written permission of William Blair.

Permitted Uses of Our Sites and Content

We have listed below the permitted uses of our Content. We reserve the right to change our permitted uses at any time.

  • William Blair grants you a limited, revocable, nonexclusive and nontransferable right to view, store, bookmark, download, copy and print pages from the Site for your personal and noncommercial use only. Unless you receive our permission in advance, you may not exploit any of the Content commercially or forward it as a mass distribution.
  • If you link other websites to any Site, you may not imply or suggest that William Blair has endorsed or is affiliated with such websites and you may not display this Site as “framed” within another website.

Prohibited Uses of Our Sites and Content

William Blair does not grant, by implication, estoppel or otherwise, any license or right to use Content on any social media page other than those set forth above, and you shall not make any other use of such Content without William Blair’s written permission. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing:

  • You agree not to copy large portions of any social media page (such as by bots, robots or spiders that “harvest” the Site), interfere with the functioning of the Site or restrict or inhibit any others from using the Site.
  • If you download any pages from any social media page, you agree that you will not remove or obscure any copyright or other notices or legends contained in any such Content. You may not alter or modify the Content in your copies.
  • You may not (and may not encourage or assist others to) violate any law, regulation, rule or the intellectual property or contractual rights of others, or attempt to violate the security of any social media page or use or gain access to the identities, information or computers of others through any social media page.
  • You may not transmit any virus, worm, time bomb or similar system interference or corruptant through any social media page.

William Blair has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor any social media page for unauthorized or objectionable conduct and to take all appropriate actions in response, without notice to you. We reserve the right to change or supplement our website policies at any time to the fullest extent permitted by applicable law.

Forward-Looking Statements

Statements made on any social media page that look forward in time involve risks and uncertainties and are forward-looking statements. Such risks and uncertainties include, without limitation, the adverse effect from a decline in the securities markets or a decline in William Blair’s products’ performance, a general downturn in the economy, competition from other companies, changes in government policy or regulation, inability of William Blair to attract or retain key employees, unforeseen costs and other effects related to legal proceedings or investigations of governmental and self-regulatory organizations.

Forward-looking statements reflect our current views with respect to, among other things, the operations and performance of our businesses. You can identify these forward-looking statements by the use of words such as “outlook,” “believe,” “expect,” “potential,” “continue,” “may,” “should,” “seek,” “approximately,” “predict,” “intend,” “will,” “plan,” “estimate,” “anticipate” or the negative version of these words or other comparable words. Forward-looking statements are subject to various risks and uncertainties. Accordingly, there are or will be important factors that could cause actual outcomes or results to differ materially from those indicated in these statements. We undertake no obligation to publicly update or review any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future developments or otherwise.

International Use

The Content provided in or accessible through any social media page is not intended for distribution to, or use by, any person or entity in any jurisdiction or country where such distribution or use would be contrary to law or regulation or which would subject William Blair to any registration or other requirement within such jurisdiction or country. William Blair reserves the right to limit access to the Site to any person, geographic region or jurisdiction. Unless otherwise expressly set forth herein, William Blair makes no representations that transactions, products or services discussed on or accessible through the Site are available or appropriate for sale or use in all jurisdictions or by all users, or that access by any user in the place it is located is not illegal or prohibited. Users who choose to access the Site from other locations do so on their own initiative and are responsible for establishing the legality, usability and correctness of any information or Content on the Site under the laws of any applicable jurisdictions. You may not use or export the Content on the Site or accessible through the Site in violation of applicable laws and regulations.

Transmission to and From any Social Media Page

Subject to any applicable terms and conditions set forth in our Privacy and Security Statement, any communication or other material that you send to us through the Internet or post on any social media page by electronic mail or otherwise, is and will be deemed to be non-confidential as between you and us and William Blair shall have no obligation of any kind with respect to such information. William Blair will be free to use, for any purpose, and without compensation due or payable to you, any ideas, concepts, know-how or techniques provided by you to William Blair through any social media page.

Disclaimer and Indemnity

William Blair and its affiliates disclaim, to the fullest extent permitted by law, all express and implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, and non-infringement. If you live in a state that does not allow disclaimers of implied warranties, our disclaimer may not apply to you.

William Blair does not warrant that the information in any social media page is accurate, reliable or correct, that any social media page will be available at any particular time or location, or that any social media page is free of viruses or other harmful components. Electronic communications can be intercepted by third parties and, accordingly, electronic mail and other transmissions to and from any social media page or made via any social media page may not be secure.

The investments and strategies discussed in the content may not be suitable for all investors and are not obligations of William Blair or any of its affiliates or guaranteed by William Blair or any of its affiliates. The investments are not bank deposits and are not insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other entity and are subject to investment risks, including the loss of the principal amount invested. Nothing contained on the Site constitutes investment, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. You should obtain and carefully review any applicable prospectus, statement of additional information and/or offering memorandum as well the William Blair Form ADV, as applicable, before making any investment decision. Decisions based on information or materials contained on any social media page are the sole responsibility of the user.

As consideration for access to any social media page, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless William Blair and their employees, contractors, affiliates, officers and directors from and against any claims whatsoever and of any nature for damages, losses and causes of action, including but not limited to actions by third parties against you, William Blair or any of its Related Person, arising out of or in connection with any decisions that you make based on such Content, your use of any social media page, or your violation of our website policies. You agree to make William Blair, whole for any and all claims, losses, liabilities, and expenses (including attorneys’ fees) arising from your use of the Site or any violation of this the policies laid out in this Disclaimer, unless prohibited by law.

Miscellaneous Provisions

YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and any other social media sites are public sites. William Blair is in no way affiliated with them and has no responsibility for their operations and services or for related service sites. William Blair is not responsible for any social media platform’s terms of use or privacy or security policies, or any other third party sites that may be linked to by a social media platform. By using a social media platform, you accept at your own risk that the Internet and online communications medium may not perform as intended despite the efforts of William Blair, your Internet Service Provider, and you.

For additional information regarding account security and privacy, refer to our Privacy and Security statement. For customer service inquiries or questions about your accounts, please visit our website at: www.williamblair.com.

Your Acceptance of these Terms

Your use of the Site constitutes your acceptance of the terms contained herein. You may reject these terms by leaving the Site at any time.

For additional information about William Blair or to contact us, please visit our website at: www.williamblair.com.


The Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index is a broad-based benchmark that measures the investment grade, U.S. dollar-denominated, fixed-rate taxable bond market, including Treasuries, government-related and corporate securities, mortgage-backed securities (agency fixed-rate and hybrid ARM pass-throughs), asset-backed securities, and commercial mortgage backed securities.

The MSCI ACWI IMI Index is a free float-adjusted, market capitalization-weighted index that captures large, mid, and small cap representation across developed and emerging markets.

The MSCI ACWI ex-US IMI Index is a free float-adjusted, market capitalization-weighted index that captures large, mid, and small cap representation across developed and emerging markets, excluding the U.S. The Value and Growth Indices are a subset of the Index that adopt a framework for style segmentation in which value and growth securities are characterized using different attributes. Multiple factors are used to identify value and growth characteristics.

The MSCI ACWI Small Cap Index is a free float-adjusted, market capitalization-weighted index that captures small cap representation across developed and emerging markets.

The MSCI Emerging Markets Index is a free float-adjusted, market capitalization-weighted index that is designed to measure the equity market performance of emerging markets.

The MSCI World Index is a free float-adjusted, market capitalization-weighted index that is designed to measure the equity market performance of developed markets.

The Russell 2000 Index is a market capitalization-weighted index designed to represent the small cap segment of the U.S. equity universe.

Index performance is for illustrative purposes only. The indices are unmanaged, do not incur fees or expenses, and cannot be invested in directly.

Alpha is a measure of an investment's return in excess of the market's return, after both have been adjusted for risk.

Beta is a measure of the volatility of an investment relative to the overall market, represented by a comparable benchmark.

Half-life is a statistical measure of the time required for the discrepancy between price and value to contract by half of its starting value. Fundamental value estimates are based on the Dynamic Allocation Strategies team's proprietary research.

P/E Ratio is a measure of valuation which compares share price to earnings per share, calculated using estimates for the next twelve months.

Standard deviation is a statistical measurement of variations from the average.

The William Blair Earnings Trend Model captures information about short- and medium-term changes in analyst estimates in an attempt to anticipate future estimate changes and stock performance. The score combines measurements of earnings revisions, momentum, and earnings surprise.

The William Blair Valuation Model combines varying metrics used to characterize the relationship between the stock’s trading price and its intrinsic value. By going beyond using only one or two measures, the model attempts to build a more holistic version of a stock’s worth vis-a-vis the market. The score combines measurements of earnings/cash flow based, asset-based, and model-based factors.