Monthly Archives: March 2011

//March

Ten things that drive me nuts!

I recently saw a very poor TV program on the things that people hate about work.  The problem was that it only featured actors and comedians whose office experience was too limited to be worthy of sharing. This got me thinking about what irritates me in the office place.  So I decided to make my own top ten list.

Ten things that drive me nuts at work:

  1. Receiving emails from IT support that ignore the real issue and try to patronize me
  2. Long, very long, emails that you know contain something important and that you are obliged to wade through to find the bit of information you are looking for
  3. People that do not apologize when they have clearly made a mistake
  4. People that agree to do one thing then immediately go and do the complete opposite
  5. Spell checker in MS PowerPoint
  6. People that type during 1 to 1 phone calls
  7. Bosses that constantly give false praise, especially when they know that what was delivered to them was sub standard.
  8. People that hold a grudge when they consider you to have made an error of judgment
  9. Large ‘Town Hall’ meetings where the presenters have not bothered to prepare the content and format of their presentations sufficiently
  10. Accidentally sending a large colour print job to the printer and for some strange reason not being able to cancel it
Now what have I forgotten?

Harley

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Diversity & Tolerance, opposite sides of the same coin

There’s something about the poet Benjamin Zephaniah that intrigues me.  He has an openness and honesty that allows him to describe in the utmost simplicity what he sees as going on under the surface. I imagine that his daily life is probably more removed from mine than almost anyone’s could be.  And yet I believe that it is the diversity between us that enriches my life and even possibly his, if he ever were to know me.

Diversity is not just about how many ethnic employees you have in your head office or how many women you have in your boardroom, or whether your marketing campaigns are in line with local cultures and practices.  Of course it means all these things but most importantly for me diversity is about differing approaches towards thought and vision and belief and understanding. 

Seeing ourselves and the challenges that confront us from differing perspectives, enriches us in many ways.  Five men of a similar age, from the same club, facing the same dilemma, in a single group, are likely to quickly merge their ideas into one way of seeing the solution; whereas a diverse group of people will challenge the thought processes and provide many more opportunities for moving forward.

Diversity is being open to listen to the voice of the poet; to open one’s mind to a new and challenging point of view, especially when it comes from someone whose gender, race or cultural background is very different from one’s own. And herein lies the word ‘tolerance’.  Tolerance is the first step to listening.  From listening we gain understanding and eventually respect, and respect in my eyes is the most basic element for creative dialogue and discovery.

Thus: diversity and tolerance, in my opinion, are two sides of the same coin and are the most important aspects for a creative and growing culture, be it at work or at home.  As we move ever closer to a fully connected world, we need to embrace them as important aspects of our daily enriched lives.

Have a good week,

Harley

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Stop the world, I want to get off!

Is it just me, or does anyone else find that things seems to be going just a little too fast? One minute we’re dealing with the images of peaceful revolution and the suspense of wondering whether Hosni Mubarak will go and then we’re hurtled on to Libya and now the devastating scenes of the power of nature coming out from Japan. 

It seems to me that in our 24/7 news fed world not a single day goes by without us being catapulted into some extreme circumstance, mostly on topics that we are completely powerless to react on and can only try in despair to somehow rationalize.

When I was a boy in school, even the slightest distraction was enough for me to lose concentration on topics that my teachers tried in vain to teach me.  However, now in my sixth decade I am sometimes left wondering how it is that people at work manage to focus at all?  Apart from the obvious distractions of e-mail, we have Facebook and Linked-In and all kinds of social media networks that we are encouraged to keep up and to follow, but how?  When will we ever find the time and the motivation to do any work again?

And then I remember that the two things that all of us need in times of distraction are discipline and leadership. There is nothing better to keep us focused on the job at hand than a reassuring voice and a short-term deadline.

So as we are reminded that outside (and not so far away) there is another world where going to work will never be the same again,  we should not worry about letting it become real, even if it is only for a few moments of each day. By doing so we become more human and more compassionate, even more tolerant to the short comings of those around us with whom perhaps we would normally find no affinity at all.

Have a good week,

Harley

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It’s a question of principles!

Now I like to think of myself as a fairly decent kind of guy.  I have a moral code and a set of principles which I apply to my daily life.  But the more I think about my principles, the more I realize what a dangerous set of things they really are.  

Principles are often the root cause of many disputes.  The fiercest battles I have had in life, falling out with business colleagues, loved ones and friends have all been over ‘principles’.

As George Bernard Shaw put it, back in the late 19th. century about the English:  “An Englishman does everything on principle: he fights you on patriotic principles; he robs you on business principles; he enslaves you on imperial principles.” (taken from the play ‘A Man of destiny’)

This statement may be a bit extreme but honestly, think about the last really serious argument you had and ask yourself ‘was it your pride or principles that you were defending or something else?’  Principles are dangerous because they cloud our judgment and make us believe that only our way of thinking is the only possible one.  

In this time of international business and cultural diversity, one cannot expect everyone we meet and work with to share ‘our’ principles.  The best we can hope for is that they understand them, even if they cannot share them.

Life is short and there’s no point in wasting it by falling out of business deals or long term friendships on arguments based upon pride dressed up as ‘principles’.  

Daring to confront ourselves and to step back to examine who we are and our set of principles from the view point of our opponents takes a great deal of courage.  We might not like what we see but we become all the stronger for doing it, especially in times of serious disputes.

Have a good week,
Harley

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Lost for words…

The past few weeks have been pretty tough and finally my body has simply given out.  It’s taken away the most useful attribute I have – my voice!  And this on the eve of an awards ceremony at CEBIT, Hanover, where I was lined up to give a motivational speech to this year’s winners of the European Seals of e-Excellence.

This unfortunate happenstance that leaves me at home alone has got me thinking… What is it about humans and their apparent need for award ceremonies?  The cynical ones among us denounce them as self indulgent ego parades, while the rest (mostly past winners) say that they are a very useful and motivational exercise for personal development.  Whether it is the Oscars or the European Seals of e-Excellence awards, what is for certain is that the winners, more often than not, see them as milestones in their careers; points in time that separate phases of achievement and change.

I have not won many awards and those few I have won have never been presented to me in front of large audiences and parades of cameras.  The strange thing however is that awards often have a bigger impact on the teams that surround the winners, than on the winners themselves.  So while I was thinking about what to say to my audience of winners, my body had its own natural way of saying don’t bother! 

Sadly though, instead of a holiday and time off to rest, I was asked to send my speech to my stand-in. And here lies the problem: While all the Oscar winners claim to act surprised and apparently struggle to find appropriate words to say through lack of preparation, I, on the other hand, have been given plenty of time to prepare and still I am lost for words!

The most important element I can think of, apart from acknowledging the organizers, is the unique opportunity that the winners have of mixing with other winners and the chance to establish a new circle of friends with an acknowledged extraordinary level of talent.   But in order to do this, the winners will have to temporarily park their own egos in order to concentrate on the wisdom they can receive for free from their fellows.  But this is a lot easier said than done.

Question: When was the last time you had to stand up in public to receive an award?  What did you do with the trophy?  Is it on your desk or in the bin?  Either way, perhaps it's a good idea to acknowledge the talent that surrounds you every day and to find a fun way of celebrating it, possibly by setting up your own award ceremony?

Have a good week,

Harley

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