Monthly Archives: June 2012

//June

It wasn’t me!

Although I dare not say it out loud, I am very quick to blame others if things do not go to plan or become misplaced.  It is something that I am not at all proud of so when a friend of mine shared with me the following confession this week, I felt I just had to share it with you too.

Not so long ago, my friend was trying to make an attractive arrangement of a series of family pictures to hang up on his living room wall. Being a very practical person, he had carefully cut out a set of paper templates, each one representing a different picture. After much arranging and re-arranging, he had finally settled on an appealing pattern and had laid it out on the living room floor.  But before he could complete the job he had to pop out to collect an urgent document from the local town hall.  When he returned the house was full of the sound of pop music and his daughter’s laughter.  “Hi girls” he shouted up the stairs but before they could reply he saw that his pieces of carefully cut paper were scattered out all over the floor. Some had been trampled on; others crumpled up and some torn into pieces. “Girls get down here immediately!” he yelled.

“Who did this? I spent hours getting my templates arranged just perfectly and now look at them!”  His two daughters jointly protested their innocence.

“Well one of you must have done this, there’s no one else in the house and we don’t have a dog or a cat. So if it wasn’t you then someone must have broken into our house and done it. I am sorry but I have no other choice than to call the police and report an illegal entry!” 

At this point the younger daughter was so terrified, she said “please don’t do that Daddy, I do not remember doing it but I guess it must have been me, I must have somehow slipped over and spoilt them but I do not really remember!”  

My friend was furious, how on earth could his daughter not know for sure and why didn’t she simply admit it? And why couldn’t she simply own up and explain how they became so crumpled up?  As you can imagine, there was a very bad atmosphere in the family household, seldom had he been quite so upset.  

Three days later, he was working from home when he heard a strange whirring noise coming from the living room.  It was then he remembered his robotic vacuum cleaner.  At first he stood dead in his tracks and then he ran over to it, switched it off and carefully inspected its programmed schedule:  15:45 every, Monday, Thursday and Friday. That was exactly the time he had left the house three days earlier!

Have a good week,

Harley

2016-11-17T08:24:43+00:00 0 Comments

Beyond Borders

How far do you dare go beyond your comfort zone? How far are you prepared to drive yourself to inspire others to achieve results that perhaps only you believe they are capable of?

Back in October of last year I was preparing a very detailed presentation for the PMI Benelux day on the subject of beyond borders. It was rapidly turning into a heavy, theoretical professorial talk when at the very last moment, literally on the way to the venue, I had the idea to take out all the ‘I know better’ text based slides and to lighten it all up by simply telling a story or two.  

I should have been nervous but I wasn’t, I should have been self conscious but I was relaxed. That Saturday morning in the Netherlands, instead of lecturing my audience I decided to take them on a journey. The result was a thirty three minute presentation that many people told me they found inspiring.

Several months later, the amateur video footage has been re-engineered and is now available on YouTube. I am curious to know whether what happened that morning also makes sense to those who were not there…

If you are interested, here’s the link:  Me at the PMI

Have a good week,

Harley

2016-11-17T08:24:43+00:00 1 Comment

Welcome on board!

Over the next few weeks, just as we are preparing to go off for our long awaited annual holidays, thousands of young graduates are looking forward to their first summer of ‘real’ work.  Exams over, passing out ceremonies completed and letters of engagement in their pockets, this annual paradox drives to the heart of what can either be the beginning of something magical or the ugly realization that student life, might well have been the best days of their lives.

I believe that the first impressions made during the early days of a young person’s career are the ones they will keep with them for a very long time. So my advice is to have young graduates start in mid September when everyone is busy and when there is a real sense of urgency in the air. (Pay them for their time on holiday if necessary but do not bring them into a half empty, half hearted office environment). And while one might want to make them feel welcome with some simple things to do, in my experience us business leaders should become much more selfish.  Let’s look at it from our side:

Here we have the brightest, most gifted, hand selected young hopefuls on the planet. They are excited to get started, they want to make fast, first Impressions, so let’s encourage them!  Why not think of all those complex and challenging issues that we, or our colleagues, never got around to solving: Issues that have been on the shelf for a very long time, even issues that might involve delicate political decisions or require a great deal of knowledge that ‘only we can solve’. 

I strongly believe that how we see our new recruits is how they will serve us in return. Patronize them and assume they are as naive and ignorant as we were at their age and they will prove us right.  See them as enthusiastic geniuses, coached and trained to solve even the toughest problems our university professors could throw at them and that is exactly what they will become. Never underestimate the power of creative unpolluted minds.

If they start in early July, when most people have left for the sun, by the time you get back in September, eight weeks of underutilized boredom will have already dulled their brains into accepting that they will have to wait at least ten years before they get even a chance to show what they believe they are really capable of right here, right now.

I am making my intern task lists now.  I have a nice bunch of really challenging projects that I am itching to get started.  Think about it, their research is really up to date, their minds are still open for all points of view, their optimism is overrunning. All they need is a gentle push and the confidence to believe that they know loads of stuff that us ‘oldies’ don’t and they’re off!

I hope I can get to them before the curse of disappointment and apathy sets in!

Have a good week,

Harley

2016-11-17T08:24:43+00:00 1 Comment

A tale of two business models

Last week in a little hillside village, not so far away, an elderly lady was busying herself around the house when she was interrupted by a knock on the door.  The caller was a charming young woman who told the old lady that she and her husband were in the area sharpening knives. This was excellent timing as the old lady’s knives were very blunt and her husband eyesight was no longer good enough to sharpen them himself. After winning the old lady’s confidence, the young woman managed to persuade her to hand over all of her best knives and reassured her that she will bring them back safely within the hour. 

Meanwhile, ninety kilometers away in the capital city of Europe, two businessmen were sitting down for lunch in a Portuguese restaurant. They chose the day menu; fresh cream of vegetable soup followed by roast duck with hand cut fried potatoes served on a bed of freshly prepared salad.

Back in the hillside village the young woman has returned just fifteen minutes after collecting the knives and is demanding two hundred Euros in cash.  The old lady doesn’t have this kind of money in her purse and her husband is searching everywhere around the house to find the extra to make up the balance.  The knife lady is cool and very persuasive, eventually all the savings pots have been emptied and two hundred Euros is exchanged for the sharpened knives. 

Two and a half hours after their meal began, the businessmen finally ask for the bill. It comes to exactly 26EUR for the both of them and this even includes a very acceptable bottle of red wine and coffee and biscuits.  When enquiring if there has been a mistake, the owner of the restaurant tells them that everything is as it should be and that 26EUR is the correct price for his ‘recession special’ menu.  He hopes that they will return again soon, possibly bringing their wives with them for an evening meal.

When we start out as entrepreneurs sometimes we only have the outline of our business model but we always seem to know the service we want to offer and what level of income we expect in return. In today’s examples, while the meal was hot and delicious, the knives were rendered useless and were returned in a far worse condition than when they were handed over. 

“Don’t take it personally, it’s only business” are words I have heard one or two times too often in my career.  I wish there was something we could do to regulate against tricksters and crooks, but no firm of lawyers or  group of politicians can ever stop them all. The problem is that when a business, no matter its size, has lost its sense of moral decency, it is extremely hard for it to ever get back to an acceptable starting point again.

Have a good week,

Harley

2016-11-17T08:24:44+00:00 1 Comment