Monthly Archives: August 2010

//August

Not with a bang but a whimper

In 1925 the great poet T.S. Eliot ended his famous poem ‘The Hollow Men’ with this line. It was his prediction of how the world would end, but it could be applied to anything with regards endings.  A career, a marriage, an affair, a holiday, a project. Instead of a great big wow ending, most things, it seems, simply fade away with a whimper. 

Many astronomers today believe that the universe will not end in a second big bang but with a continual divergence of matter, never to re-implode.  And while you may be wondering what I am on about this week, I wanted to share with you my thoughts on coping with the trivia of life.  

There are times when all we do or say just seems so trivial that little or nothing has any importance.  We compare our lives and actions with the meaning of bigger things; like trying to alleviate the suffering from a natural disaster, or indeed answer questions on the sense of the universe and apparent infinity.  Seen from a distance, all mankind and life itself can seem trivial but close up everything begins to have meaning again.

The simple pleasure experienced by another when someone caries out a daily courtesy, like opening a door or offering to assist in some way, can in itself have meaning.  So if and when you enter the zone where you begin to feel that everything is pointless, try and study something new.  It can be anything that you may have previously taken for granted.  You will find that quite quickly your life will begin to feel in balance again and you will find yourself back in the driving seat once more.

T.S. Eliot was a brilliant man, but he didn’t know for certain any more than you or I.  Our opinion is as good as anyone else’s.  Whether you are the president of a giant organization or a bus driver or a carpenter, at the end of the day no one is completely immune to feelings of self doubt and irrelevance.  

We all need a little lift or dare I say, a gentle kick up the backside once in a while to get ourselves back and focused on what it was we were doing before our emotional dip came along.  

‘Natural leaders’ usually don’t require too much to re-motivate them.  Whether they like it or not, it is in their nature.  However, if on the other hand, the lost person is a ‘follower’ – then they will need to fall back under the influence of a leader soon.  They will need more than someone to tell them a good joke to make them feel complete again.  They, like all of us, need something useful to do, preferably that in their group, only they can do.  This will be their meaning and motivation; adding something to society that is generally appreciated, anything no matter how apparently trivial.  

Have a good week,

Harley

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Big Moments

How long was it since you last had a ‘big moment’; since you felt really good for just being alive? We associate these feelings with life changing events but in fact they don’t need to be. Of course there are those key moments: the first kiss at Summer camp, passing one’s driving test, getting that first important job after leaving college, and for many the biggest of all,  the birth of a child.  These are the big moments that make our lives our own.  But how often do we encourage Big Moments at work? 

As leaders, do we recognize big moments in the careers of those we have influence over and do we encourage them?  For many a simple meeting with a director or senior manager can be a big moment, motivating them to try harder and to excel in their career.  But it is also important to remember that the injection of exhilaration and motivation gradually wears off and the reality of daily life kicks in again.  A leader needs not to forget this and to ensure that they do their best to create a structure in their department or organization that can at least try to keep motivation alive by encouraging considerate acts that make people feel special, needed and appreciated.

By giving someone the opportunity to present their findings at the next management meeting, or simply recognizing that for the person you are interviewing that this is probably a big moment for them, is the first step to creating more of them.  It is all too easy for us to forget the impact we have on others and that how we behave can make a real difference.  After all where would we be today without the lucky breaks, the moments when people gave us opportunities we may not have expected?

Inspiring others to excel requires us to give up some of our own precious space and to share it. Giving a junior the chance to open an important meeting is a natural thing to do, how else will the next generation ever learn?

Our lives are made up of a series of big moments. If we have the opportunity to inject a few into the lives and careers of others, then we owe it to ourselves to do it, without desiring any more in return than the satisfaction of observing and understanding the effect it has on the lucky recipient.

Have a good week,

Harley

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Back but not fully with it..

I don’t know about you, but I find the first couple of days back at work from holiday rather difficult, especially when it has been a particularly good one?

I see it in other people too.  During that first morning they seem to roam around aimlessly looking for people to talk to, putting off the hard landing of opening their dreaded mailbox.

The sad part is that no one really wants to hear about their trip.  It’s not because they are not interested, it’s just that they do not want to be reminded that there is another life outside work.

This phenomenon reminds me of a story a colleague recently told me.  She was on a long haul flight travelling back from Asia when the man next to her started moving his hands and arms around, swirling them above his head and in front of his chest in deliberate rhythmic patterns.  At the same time he kept bowing up and down and talking to himself in rather strange and severe kind of way.  She caught the attention of a stewardess who politely asked the man if he was OK.“Oh yes fine!, very fine”, he said.  “May I ask you what you are doing?” said the stewardess.  “Indeed” replied the man, “no problem.  I am praying. I am praying because my body is here but my spirit is still not”. 

And so it is with many things when, we are in one place but our hearts and minds are somewhere else.  And just like the Indian on the plane, sometimes it takes a few days for the two of them to be fully re-united again.

In some ways we have a kind of ‘holiday world’ and we have ‘a business world’.  And although our bodies are fixed and cannot be in both places at the same time, our spirits can; fluttering between them like restless birds looking for a comfortable place to perch.

It is a shame to have to leave our holiday world behind, but leave it we know we must.  I find bringing a photograph into to the office helps, not to show others (they do not belong in your holiday world) but just to look at at certain times during the first few days.  It helps my spirit relax and flow a little more freely between the two; until it finally catches up with my body and settles down within it in work mode once again.

Have a good week,

Harley

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Our best performance ever and the boss is still not happy!

Firstly a big ‘Thank you’ to all my contributors for taking over my chair while I was away this summer, the break was much appreciated and your input very welcome!  (If you would like to contribute a blog next summer, or be available as a stand in, please feel free to contact me).

Last week the British athletics' team won more medals in the European Championships than ever before, coming only third to
Russia and France. But among their jubilant celebrations and
enthusiastic flag waving, the coach of the English team, Charles Van Commenee was still not happy!

He told reporters: "The women were a disgrace and the men were not much better,"  he then went on to say how there was still much work to do and that he would have been embarrassed had the British team not won the medals they did.

And when you might begin to think that he is being too harsh, you might be surprised to learn that the team having nothing but respect for this very impressive coach.  He is passionate and speaks his mind and indeed has been described as ‘fiery and eccentric’ but he is also described as ‘calm, influential and really sensitive to a person’s needs’.

And so it is, coaches and leaders must not be afraid to show genuine disappointment when an individual or team has screwed up.  If you are passionate about what you and your team is doing, it would be rather strange not to show it, especially at a time of sub standard performance. 

However, the point is that great coaches, like great leaders, also know how to work on an individual level; one to one.  They know how to listen and to understand not only the words they hear but the context from which they come.  And by doing so, they can quickly decide what it is that those in their care really need.  And by connecting at that level they inevitably win the trust and respect that is so essential in any coaching/leadership role.

So the next time you think about celebrating an achievement, don’t be afraid to mention the bad points too; the wasted opportunities the areas where things could have gone better – speak your mind.  

There is nothing worse in business than a leader that goes around praising everyone, even when their team clearly has not performed to their best ability.  After all failure is failure and all you can hope to get from it is a lesson on what not to do next time.

Have a good week,

Harley

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