Monthly Archives: October 2013

//October

Don’t listen to gossip – just imagine it!

I was always told never to listen to gossip and for the most part I don’t (although, once in a while, it can be entertaining)!  However, recently I discovered that the best decision makers are those that imagine what gossip might be said behind their backs about their decision before they take it. How does it work?

You may be forgiven for thinking that the best decisions are made when all the evidence is weighed up and a cool sense of logic is applied, this may be true but the gossip ingredient is apparently very important and can be proven, statistically, to make a real difference.

The problem with most solo decision taking is that it is very subjective, we only see the effect and logic of our decision from our own point of view and even if we consider others we usually only do so in terms of impact. However gossip is not so much focused on the content of the decision but what people think of the decision maker and how and why they made the decision. In fact considering what gossip might be spread, allows us to imagine how others will not only think about our decision but also us; our authority, frame of mind, motives etc.

I regularly preach that the best change managers are those that take the time to anticipate what other people are thinking and how they are likely to react, well in decision making one also needs to consider what people are thinking about you the decision maker. But why is this and how can it allow us to make better decisions?

Firstly it gives us a better understanding of the likely emotional impact of our decision. Secondly, it helps us estimate the likelihood of people respecting us and therefore, in part, the decision itself. Thirdly, it allows us the possibility to prepare relevant arguments to defend the decision from their point of view.  And fourthly, it enables us to adjust or even re-consider the decision, or its timing, before it is even made.  In leadership, timing is everything.  

Considering gossip does not mean that our decisions need to be watered down, nor does it mean that we should only decide for what the stakeholders want, but it does mean that at least we consider our decisions very carefully and especially how we are seen by others in the process. For if we are not respected then, most likely, our decision will not be either.

It’s worth considering and it is statistically proven!

Have a good week

Harley

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Eureka – it’s finally finished!

You may know that I have been working on my third book, well today I actually handed it in for typesetting and printing. The next milestone will be the proof copy in the letter box.  The French, German and Dutch translations are now in their final editing stages too – the project is coming to an end you might think, but you would be wrong!

No sooner had I typed the last few words, I went off for a holiday, not an activity holiday but a relaxing holiday, you know the kind; sitting in the sunshine, sipping wine, reading the books I had put off for so long, wondering what will be on the menu for supper.  This was a real holiday, with big chunks of time that needed filling.

When my eyes were tired of reading I lay back and listened to radio programs that I had downloaded a while back. But then gradually, ever so gradually, new ideas for my next books came into my head: snippets of conversations, scenes where the characters of my latest book took on new personas. The next thing I knew, they were on holiday too! I started imagining where Simon would take his wife Jennifer, I imagined an argument between Peter the production director and a hotel receptionist.  I guess if I told this to a psychiatrist they would probably declare me psychotic: unreal people sharing a holiday with me in my head, that can’t be normal can it?

But the flight back and the hard reality of deadlines and demanding colleagues and clients certainly brought me back to the real world. The characters from my book went back to work too it seems, no time for them to fill my head anymore with their concerns.

The day after I got back, I gave a training and one of the participants told the group how she went to Africa to help the poor orphaned children. She told us that even though many of them had no possessions at all, except maybe for a stone or a twig, they were all happy, living each day for the day. There was no planning ahead, no cares about tomorrow. What will be, will be. When she compared them with her own children, who had everything but were still far from content; demanding every minute of their lives to be filled with events and stuff, I could not help reflect that I too had far too much stuff and far too many concerns about the future.  I think we, in the west, have much to reflect on, much to re-consider.

This week, I will be away on business for three nights and every moment of everyday is fully planned and documented in my agenda from 08:00 to midnight. Even this morning I was trying to squeeze in an extra thirty minute telco for Friday afternoon. I ask myself – is this normal, is this how it should be?

Have a good week,

Harley

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Reunions

I have never been one for reunions, going back to school and meeting all those elderly people that once had beautiful young faces. But this week some of my cousins have begun plans for a big reunion next year (and to be honest) they have wetted my appetite, probably because we are so much older now that we have got past the stage of competitive analysis and are more interested in simply having fun and reflecting on the bigger questions of life. 

But if reunions are good for families then how about for business?

Massively important people leave our organizations and somehow the world continues revolving.  It seems that the lessons we learn in life are more important for us than those we left behind and yet, if you think about it logically, the lessons we learn are probably just as relevant for our ex-employers as our current ones.

The question therefore is more about “If I knew then what I know now, how would have my input in the company have been different?”  And yet there were people on the planet then that did (most likely) know what we know now, we just didn’t take the time to seek them out, or we were not ready to listen.

Last night I took part in an exploratory workshop where we had to interview someone for a maximum of two minutes and then breakdown the result to two words: one describing the character of the person and the other describing the core skill of the person; It was extremely tough but an amazing experience.  Of course, when the two minutes were up, the tables were reversed and the interviewee interviewed the interviewer.

After all these years of experience, my interviewer summed me up as: an ‘Inspirational’ ‘Problem solver’. Which to be honest, I was very happy with – think about it, it could have been much worse! 

Have good week

Harley

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Great recovery job

I was late leaving Cologne and I needed to be in Brussels, in under two hours, I was concerned that I might be late for a meeting with my editorial team. But the road was strangely clear and it looked like I would make it. As usual, my agenda had been packed full to the brim and I would only have half an hour before welcoming guests at a strategically important evening reception.

It hit me the moment I arrived, my Partner was paler than usual and looked concerned, apparently the door to the room where the reception was to take place was locked. One guest had arrived early and was hanging around. The organizers were nowhere to be seen and by all intense of purposes had completely forgotten!  Any moment more guests would be arriving expecting a friendly welcome, chilled drinks, cool music and food. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) I couldn’t be of much help as I was needed in my meeting.

By the time I joined the reception, the locked door had been opened, guests were standing in groups looking relaxed, smiling and talking with drinks in their hands, there were nibbles to eat and within another half an hour, by the time the latecomers had arrived, there was hot food and a really buzzing atmosphere.

The organizer had apparently mistaken the dates, she lived one hundred kilometers from the venue and was already at home when the phone rang. Quite how the recovery was made is not all clear to me but it seems that some fellow tenants of our building heard about the impending disaster and jumped to ours and the organizer’s rescue; contacting a relative that owned a Greek restaurant nearby.

Where they got the drinks from and where they found the barman – who was very relaxed, friendly and extremely efficient, I do not know but the atmosphere in the room was electric. Of course some of the talk was about how when the early guests arrived there was nothing and how sorry they felt for us and in particular the person responsible.

My company, The Bayard Partnership, stands for excellent planning; a high level of service, fun and efficiency. Ten years of image building was suddenly under threat.  I needn’t have worried one moment.

My mother sometimes talks about ‘the war time spirit’ of how everyone pulled together and looked after one another but then I read alternative history books that talk about looting and selfishness in times of need, and who needs a war to create a team spirit that can seemingly make miracles happen anyway?

All I know is my mother doesn’t lie and our Bayard Café had a very special atmosphere and I am sure the event has entered the company’s history books and will be remembered and talked about for years to come. “Remember the time when…?”

Have a good week,

Harley

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Turning points

Here’s a true story I heard the other week. A young woman was fed up with high school and so decided to leave and get herself a job. Throughout the summer, while her friends were off having fun, she worked away in a dull administration office of a large industrial company. On the wall opposite her desk hung the famous image of the three monkeys.

‘The three monkeys remind us that in this office, it is best you hear nothing, see nothing and say nothing’ she was told when she asked why the poster was hanging there. After three months of mind numbing work and having 3 monkeys in her direct line of view she could take it no longer and decided that she was not yet ready for a career in an office! So she quit her employer and applied back to college to further her education in the autumn. Thankfully the young lady later found her true vocation and has since then had a marvelous career in nursing, caring for literally thousands of patients over the last thirty years.

I think we can all reflect back to important turning points in our lives and just like the young lady in our story, when we do so we can sometimes remember the triggers that inspired them, be they positive or negative.

Life is a bit like reading a restaurant menu, it is often much easier to decide what you do not want rather than what you do, and if given the chance, we are happy to follow the suggestion of another, especially if one’s mind is on other things.

It’s nice to think of our lives being neatly planned out, but they seldom are. And when we find ourselves twisting and turning in new directions, there are often trigger points that lead us to the next adventure.

I have had several memorable trigger points that turned me in new directions in my life. There was the serious disagreement over a point of principle that ended a personal relationship; being made redundant from a sales team when my figures were way above everyone else’s, a difference of vision on the strategy of a high technology business, a chance meeting that led to an exciting new opportunity, oh yes and the time I took my cat to the vet… (but that’s a story for another day).

How about your turning points and their triggers? Feel free to share them, I won’t tell anyone!

Have a good week,

Harley

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