Monthly Archives: April 2012

//April

Help! I am going to have lunch with a friend

Next week I am having lunch with a friend, nothing unusual about that you might think, but although it is his turn to pay, I feel it’s my turn to come up with a brilliant new idea for him to take back to the office afterwards.

I like my lunches with Philippe, our conversations have a habit of spinning off in almost any direction. One minute we might be discussing the survival chances of the Euro, the next we might be talking about Renaissance poetry or the French presidential elections. However, one of our most reoccurring themes is company arrogance in the form of appalling customer service. I can hardly think of a single occasion where the subject has not come up.  It’s almost as if we feel the need to always outdo each other in our shared misery.

Because of the intensity of our lunchtime conversations, the best restaurant for a meal with Philippe is one where; the waiters are happy to accept that the food is not the center of attention but an important accompaniment, where service is impeccable and the ambient noise level is loud enough to not be over heard but not too loud where one has to raise one’s voice. The food should be, high quality, fresh and not pretentious.

Philippe is a person who can entertain, stretch your imagination and at the end of the meal, feed you with a new business idea that just might be potentially far more valuable than the price of the meal itself, including the value of the business hours lost in getting there and the time eating it! In fact, looking back I can think of a number of potentially great business ideas that have emerged from meals with Philippe. The problem is, that both he and I are always far too busy to follow most of them up!

I believe everyone should know someone like Philippe, someone that can stretch one’s imagination and mirror life from another view point. And if your companion has the same opinion of you, then there’s a healthy balance worth preserving.

All I need now is another example of truly atrocious customer service and a great business idea!

Have a good week,

Harley

2016-11-17T08:24:45+00:00 1 Comment

Sue’s story

I once knew a young marketing assistant; she must have been about 22 at the time. She’d never been to university and she hadn’t studied marketing either. She was hired to fill envelopes for mailings, prepare meeting rooms, answer the phone when the receptionist was away and generally help out with the basic administration tasks of a small but busy marketing department.

Now Sue had a young boss, he was only a couple of years older than her. He was a kind young man, very self assured and fun, and always pleased to see her. She liked him. However, the rest of the marketing department treated her like a worthless servant. When her young boss was not around everyone tried to dump all their crap jobs on her. But Sue was stubborn, she was nobody’s fool. She had a friendly smile alright but if she didn’t like someone, she simply ignored their requests.

Her favorite pastime while her boss was away (which was often), was to burst bubble-wrap bubbles between her fingers and thumb and talk to her boyfriend on the phone.  Because she worked in an open plan office, her idleness really annoyed her colleagues especially as they liked to show that they were busy.

After a couple of years her young boss left the company and the department head thought it an ideal time to get rid of her.  So he told the sales director “Monday, morning she’ll be gone”.  Now the sales director had always liked Susan, especially the way she smiled at him every-time he passed by. So he asked the marketing director “please let me speak with her first, and if, after that, she wants to work for me then can I have her in my department?” “sure”, said the Marketing Director, be my guest!

So the Sales Director went to speak with Sue, “Hi Susan how are you today?” Very well thank you Mr. Gardner” she said. “Please, call me George” he said, “Everyone else does!”

18 months later Sue was the UK Sales Office Manager responsible for supplying the back office needs for five sales representatives. She had twelve people reporting to her and took on the total responsibility for the sales department’s administration and transactions. She was happy and having fun. So what did the sales manager do?

•    He saw the person, not the CV
•    He believed in her because she believed in him
•    He delegated responsibility to her and never expected it back
•    He gave her training and support but only when she needed it
•    He gave her space to develop and useful things to do
•    He never assumed that she had reached her limit

Have a nice week,

Harley

2016-11-17T08:24:45+00:00 2 Comments

19 April, secretary day, how patronizing is that?

Every year thousands of well-meaning managers re-enforce a worn out stereotype that should have been buried away under the road to respect and equality long ago. I guess it might be nice for some secretaries to be given a special day when their bosses are encouraged to show them their appreciation for all the effort they have put in throughout the year. But surely isn’t it about time to move on?

There are just so many aspects to this topic that wind me up that I will force myself to write in bullet points to be sure of keeping a level head: Secretary day is:

  • Patronizing at best and outright sexist at worst (perhaps there are even grounds to ban it under European equality law)?
  • Not helped by the Dutch language that reinforces the fact that only the female secretaries will receive special attention
  • Unfair; why not bookkeepers, cleaners, sales personnel, or even CEOs? If we chose for cleaners we could at least extend it beyond the office and out into the streets and bus stations?
  • The role of secretary is a professional position. The incumbent is employed under the law of the land and is financially re-warded for her or his effort so why do we need to single them out once a year for extra special gifts and attention? Or are we implying that the secretary’s tasks go beyond the usual code of employment and therefore need compensating in some other way? If this is true, are a few flowers or some chocolates once a year enough?
  • For those secretaries that do not appreciate being singled out – what about their rights not to be patronized by their boss in front of their fellow professional colleagues?
  • Degrading the professional status of one group of female employees degrades all women, while at the same time categorizes men, especially bosses, as fitting into the same patronizing group. You cannot impact one without the other.

If I have not convinced you yet, try looking at it this way: If my wife saw me going to work with chocolates and flowers for my secretary on any other day of the year, she might have good cause to question what the hell is going on? 

There can be no question that women are still way behind the equality stakes when it comes to professional careers and it is my opinion that the last thing that we need is to have an annual day legitimizing that image.

Perhaps secretary day should be turned 180 degrees around into a kind of Martin Luther King day, one day a year where we can reflect back, not on racism but on sexism in general?  If we did which female person do you think would be best suited as a role model? Harriet Tubman, Jane Addams, Emmeline (or Sylvia) Pankhurst or…?

You can call me a ‘kill joy’ but quite frankly we need to encourage more women into senior and managerial positions. The spring plank from secretary to departmental manager or even director has always seemed a logical one to me. I have witnessed several situations where the secretary could have done just as good a job at running the department or company as their boss, especially if they had received all the training and support that was offered to their male counterparts.

I can just imagine what Emmeline would do. She would most likely re-establish the 18th of April as ‘patronizing sexist manager day’, where secretaries around the world would be encouraged to politely return their presents with the words “Thank you for your kindness, happy male boss day!”

So on the 19th of April, lucky secretaries all over Europe and even the US will be receiving cards and gifts and even (most likely) an unwelcome kiss from their bosses; just because she is a she and he is a he and she happens to work for him.

Have a nice week,

Harley

2016-11-17T08:24:45+00:00 3 Comments

What have you done lately?

Imagine you’re once more standing back in the most beautiful place you have ever been. Imagine that somehow you could have captured it in such a way that you could return to that moment in time whenever you wanted and even share it with others. Imagine that.

And while we all have experienced our own unique highs, moments in our lives where everything is just perfect, some people’s highs are not circumstantial but are born out of their own unique creativity. Luckily for us, some of these creations have been captured on canvass or video allowing them to be admired and shared for all time.

And while we, lesser mortals, are privileged to be able to witness them, we must also learn to live in the knowledge that although we might be talented in one way or another we may never reach the same heights as they do.  

So if anyone ever asks you ‘what have you done lately?’ There is no reason to feel ashamed if you believe your achievements are not up to the expectations that you might have had for yourself once upon a time. Your life is your own and no one else’s and it is pointless to compare with any kind of lingering regret. Having said that, I do believe that we should at least try to motivate and inspire others to achieve beyond their expectations; both in our private lives as well as at work. 

It is my experience that some company performance appraisals are too self-centered on individual achievement and not focused enough on what the person may have inspired others to achieve.  

There is a musician called Colin Benders (otherwise known as Kyteman). Once upon a time, someone gave Colin a trumpet; just look what he did with it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjhF6S6UUGI&feature=related

The thing that inspires me about Colin is how he inspires all those around him, even the audience, to become a part of whom he is and what he is doing.

If you liked my first link and you want more, here’s the entire concert (1hour), perhaps something to enjoy if the weather turns bad this Easter weekend. Thanks for the tip Nino…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l21h1fJk9tw&feature=related

Have a good week

Harley

2016-11-17T08:24:46+00:00 1 Comment