Monthly Archives: May 2013

Women, wine and delicious food

These are the three things that I think I would miss the most if I was cast into solitary confinement. A close fourth and fifth would be music and stories. Music can shift my moods like no other medium; it can lift me up and make me feel whole again. But Stories are the thing that keep my brain nourished and active; stories from friends, stories from my past, stories from books, plays, poetry and songs.

This week I have been preparing for a two day workshop on executive communication and the one theme that keeps coming back is the importance of storytelling. A good story creates a powerful image and educates the listener while delivering its message in an entertaining way. 

Some people associate the word ‘entertaining’ with something light or unimportant but entertaining means engaging, it requires holding someone’s attention, and as long as you can do that then you have created the perfect channel to deliver the message you want to share.

In the ‘Engaging with Corporate Executives’  workshop the participants will, among other things, have to speak for three minutes about a song that has made a powerful impact on them; so powerful that of all the songs they can think of, it is the one that would most want other people to cherish when they are gone.

Because the tutors in this workshop will also have to talk about their song for the next generation I have been considering why I chose Bob Dylan’s ‘Tangled up in blue’.  And the answer is clear; because it’s a story, or rather a number of short stories, each verse is set in a different place a different situation. In less than six minutes Dylan captures an enormous span of time. It starts with him reflecting on the past and ends on the very last line with him moving forward again.

Through a series of flashbacks he drifts from one town to another, from one experience, lover and group of friends to another. And, if I am honest with myself, I kind of hold this song as the alternative me; an artist a poet drifting through life witnessing exceptional events and engaging with extraordinary people.

In my teens ‘Tangled up in blue’ spoke to the dreamer side of me and later to the fantasy side of me, the one that didn’t have family obligations or a twenty five year mortgage. And yet as I get older I realize that I too have gathered my own collections of stories. And that’s why I would choose it; to remind others that stories are the basis of life; letting them happen in the first place and then replaying them until eventually releasing them to make way for new ones.

In solitary confinement, with no books or music, I think my own stories would eventually bore me because I seem to always be in search of new ones: exploring roads that I have never been down. For me, life is about meeting new people, addressing new challenges, lying in the sunshine with a gentle breeze upon my face, temporarily reminiscing on things gone by.  And yes in solitary confinement I would miss the company of women, fine wine and delicious food – who wouldn’t?

Question: What song would you want to hand over to the next generation and why?

Have a good week

Harley

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What will we do now?

Imagine this: You’ve spent the last three years working your heart out on a really challenging project. You’ve given up nearly everything for its success. Your work life balance has been out by a mile and there’s no way of ever getting it back to where it was again. And just then, your leader quits. You and the team are left wondering what on earth you’re going to do next.

For the first few days you’re shocked. You find yourself arguing with your colleagues. Then there’s talk of finding a new leader or even if the old one is coming back. But then on the tenth day, just when you least expect it, everything becomes clear. The path forward is obvious;  the energy and importance of your mission is stronger now than it has ever been. Only days ago, the leader was the most important element now it’s no longer him but what he stood for that matters.

This is the situation that millions upon millions of people of varying religions have been contemplating these last few days of what the Christians call ‘Pentecost’. For most of us in Europe it’s just another bank holiday in a month that seems to be full of them. But what I find interesting is that still in this crazy modern world of ours parallels can be drawn from this ancient story.

When massive change hits, the first we feel is anger and disappointment. We can only see it from our perspective. After that we tend to become downhearted and depressed: “what’s the point in carrying on?”  And yet, after ten days or so, most of us begin to pull out of it; things become clearer and new ideas are born. From the vacuum of uncertainty comes new energy and with it creative plans and strategies.  This is why we all need breaks once in a while, sometimes forced upon us, sometimes in the form of a retreat or holiday.

New ideas cannot enter into a head that’s already full. Like the Pentecostal believers, you need to dump some baggage and misconceptions before creativity can begin. The only thing for me is, I do not know where the new ideas come from, I find it too easy to say it comes from a higher being, but that’s question of personal belief and understanding. All I know for sure is that rest, relaxation and some time on one’s own is important for us all. No matter how cleaver and important we might think we are.

This week, Manchester United lost their coach. Sir Alex served them well for over twenty six years. They knew he would be leaving for a little while and logic would tell you that it could not go on forever. But even so, when the players and colleagues he left behind return for training, everything is going to be very different. Sure a new boss will take over but it will never be the same again and that will take some getting used to and some major adjustment. Luckily in football the objective is clear, win as many trophies as you can and the way to do it easy: win, or at least draw, every match you play!

Have a good week,

Harley

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A Tale of Two Restaurants

I was in a restaurant on Saturday, it was packed; they couldn’t have found a place for another person anywhere, no matter how hungry they were. It’s not famous, it’s won no awards that I know of, it’s not cheap but it’s not crazy expensive either. The food’s very good but not wow amazing, I like it. Right next door is another restaurant; it looks the same, has the same number of tables (each decorated in much the same way as its rival).

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Happy

These last few days have been really gorgeous. Streaming sunshine and a gentle breeze have made for perfect weekend weather.  After the long and gloomy winter that seemed to drag on forever, this recent spell of sunshine has brought out the best in everyone. Off with baggy winter coats and polar bear outfits and on with summer cottons and smiles. This natural transition is making everyone happy it seems.

There’s no doubt about it, just as the weather can make us happy then so can positive people. In English there is even a saying “he is like a ray of sunshine” and a ray of sunshine is exactly what every working environment needs. One happy person at the office coffee machine can have an enormous impact on the morale of many, many people.  I believe that happiness and positive thinking are the two essentials for running a successful business.All the studies point in the same direction: happy people are statistically more successful than their unhappy counterparts. They tend to create positive environments around them that encourage effort and creativity from everyone within their influence.

And while most businesses nowadays are trying to focus on being ‘lean’, I want to promote being ‘happy’ as the primary ingredient.  Real happiness has nothing to do with loads of pay and lots of time off, quite the contrary. The happiest environments I ever helped create were the ones where money was often short and the working hours long and where the team spirit far outweighed the ‘me’ .

Broken teams with dis-satisfied managers usually lack two main ingredients: smiles and laughter. It’s time therefore to bring in a Ray or Sally of sunshine into every office, and this can best be done by positively discriminating towards positive, happy people. I don’t believe there is a law against it and if there was (and you broke it) I wouldn’t tell on you!

Have a good week,

Harley

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