Monthly Archives: February 2012

//February

Only trying to help!

Once upon a time there was a young priest who felt sorry for his elderly parishioners that were unable to attend church on Sunday.  So he decided to get together with a few of his colleagues and create a rota to visit them in their homes instead. Shortly after his scheme was set up he was sent away on a mission abroad but when he returned a few years later he decided to pop back to see his old parish and how one old lady in particular was getting on.

“I am doing OK, thanks for asking” she said “although there’s one thing that perhaps you might like to help me with?” “Certainly, just ask” said the priest. “Your friends, it’s almost as if they know exactly when to call. Just when I get settled down nicely in front of the television to watch the horse racing, the door bell rings and I feel obliged to welcome them in. I don’t like to be rude so I let them sit and talk for a while but do they have to visit quite so often, or even at all?”

The young priest was taken aback. Until that point it had never even occurred to him that perhaps the elderly, living alone were not necessarily lonely at all!  

When I heard this story it made me think of the number of employee plans that are drawn up each year and perhaps they, like the priest’s rota, might not be welcome either? If he had just spent a little more time finding out what his elderly parishioners really wanted, he might have saved himself and everyone else a lot of time and trouble!

Employees may not always be as quiet and polite as the lady in this week’s story but I find that they too are often reluctant to say what is really on their minds to their bosses, especially when they know that they have the company’s best interests at heart.

Our desire to do good, to do the right thing, is what brings humanity to the world. But there is always the risk of patronizing the very people we want to help and it can all too easily lead us to having a completely false impression of what the real problem is, if indeed there is one at all.

Have a nice week,

Harley

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The Man in the lift

I didn’t notice much about him apart from the fact that he was rather scruffy and that he kept his head down as if trying to avoid recognition. He dashed out in a terrible hurry as I stepped in but it was only as the lift doors began to close that it really hit me; the hard, stomach wrenching smell that made me instantly wish I was anywhere else, rather than in that lift that Wednesday morning.

I wondered if the escaping man may have been a tramp that had somehow sneaked past security to spend the night sleeping under a desk somewhere.

A thought flashed through my mind; what if someone entered the lift and saw me as the cause of the stench?  What if it was someone I knew? And then it happened, instead of going straight to the 6th. as I had ordered, it made an unscheduled stop at the 3rd. “oh please, no” I prayed. The doors opened and to my enormous relief no one stepped in.  But what if they had? What if on the next floor someone does? What then, should I say something, and if so, what?  It may sound stupid now but I was in a kind of panic.

I stepped out at the 6th and luckily no one was around, I had escaped with my reputation in tact! However, the smell seemed to linger on me, so I headed for the gents to wash my face down.  I don’t know if it made a difference but the cool water was soothing and I gradually came back to my senses. My mind returned to the man who had left in such a hurry and I thought that he too may have been completely innocent. Does being scruffy automatically equal smelly? Perhaps the smell was coming from someone else before him, or even from the lift shaft itself?

Re-telling this story to my wife this weekend made her laugh at the silliness of the situation, but it also made me see the connection with when I work for companies facing serious challenges. The people within them tend to act like me and the man in the lift.  They know that even if the smell was not produced by them that somehow they are implicated.  And the more they might protest their innocence, during my one to one interviews, the guiltier they seem to become. What to do?  Lie and see how it comes over? Plead innocence and hope that the interviewer believes you? Take the blame, at least in part, because in that way you feel re-deemed and able to move forward?

It’s too easy to walk into a situation and to get the story wrong. The scruffy man, leaving the lift in a hurry is too quickly the undeniable cause.  But life is not that simple, and experience has taught me to believe everyone’s word until proven otherwise; to trust people’s versions of the truth and to build a picture knowing that it is going to be complex and contradictory, with only glimpses of possible ways forward.  Either way, the lift will need to be cleaned or allowed to stand with the doors open for a while. Sometimes, just sometimes, things have a habit of sorting themselves out on their own.

Have a good week,

Harley

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Time to call it a day?

Sometimes there’s no point in trying to prolong a relationship, especially when the best days appear to be behind you. This might seem cruel and heartless but I will try and persuade you otherwise.

In order to sustain a meaningful relationship, both parties need to experience some kind of benefit, perhaps not always in the same way or in equal measure but it needs to be there none the less. Often we don’t fully appreciate or understand just what the benefit is at the time. Because of this, it is logical to conclude that for every relationship there is an end date; an undisclosed point in time where at least one of the two parties no longer sees the reason in maintaining the relationship with the other.   

In our lives, employers come and go; good friends and lovers too. Unfortunately when they do, someone almost always feels left behind and suffers the pain of abandonment or grief.  But sometimes having the guts to admit when the time has come to end a relationship is important if we are to live strong, sincere and fulfilled lives.

To protect ourselves we like to draw up contracts to give a sense of security to the fragility of our relationships. Marriage contracts: in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer until death do us part; Employment contracts with their pages of detailed conditions and expectations, indicating durations of service that can vary from just a few hours to a life time of commitment until retirement.

Having said all this, I believe there’s nothing worse than failing to celebrate the joys and achievements of relationships while they are still ongoing.  I am not just talking about romantic notions of love and adventure but also about the deeper aspects of partnerships in all their forms. 

According to legend, poor old St. Valentine paid the ultimate price for trying to bring two people together, I guess you can say he was a matchmaker/headhunter with an attitude, driven by divine belief of the importance of true and natural relationships.  However St. Valentine’s actions displeased the emperor of Rome so much that he had him brutally beaten and tortured, eventually beheading him in AD 269.     

So today of all days, let’s not let St. Valentine’s life be in vain. Life is short and there is much to do. And apart from aiming to live each day to the full, we should also celebrate the diversity that forms the basis of our relationships and embrace the riches they deliver.  And when it is time to say goodbye – we must say it, with the deepest sincerity and pureness of heart. But not today, hey?

Have a good week,

Harley

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Ever had the feeling you don’t belong?

I never was that comfortable wearing ‘the company tie’ and restrictive company car policies always made me feel small. Ironically, the moment I switched to being freelance I found myself become far more loyal to my clients than I ever was to my employers and my own company car policy didn’t seem to matter anymore.

Similarly, I find myself fascinated by countries or regions that feel they do not belong to their mother countries. Take for example the Scottish Nationalists’ constant desire for independence from the United Kingdom. They have their own parliament now, why isn’t that enough? Why don’t they feel happy belonging to an integrated England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. The UK is, after all, only a very small island?  Surely they cannot still feel demoralized from their defeat by the English, nearly five hundred years ago, at the battle of Flodden? 

If you look at it logically, Scottish independence does not make sense from a financial position, though there are those that argue otherwise. But as one of my business partners pointed out to me, “It’s not about the money, it’s about freedom, the breaking of ties, it’s all about why we ourselves are independent directors and not employees”.  

Every year hundreds or people apply to The Bayard Partnership; hardly any of them are really doing it for the money. Most are simply wanting to break away from something they feel confines them. They are willing to trade certainty and a good pension in exchange for having their own business card and personal website. 

In relationships too, I have seen that many people enjoy a deeper relationship with their partner when they don’t feel trapped, when they both fully appreciate that every day they have a choice and make the decision to return home. 

In life we are constantly being bombarded with choices; choices for going to work, choices for a new career or choices to concentrate harder and to perform better, even choices to do little or nothing of any real added value. These choices reaffirm our sense of belonging or not belonging. The truth of the matter is that most of the time we do not consciously even recognize them. 

Have a good week,

Harley

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