Lazy

My son Luke who is 12 is “Lazy”. Since about the age of 3, we have called him “Lazy Luke”. Why walk when you could be carried, use “I cant” as an excuse not to do something, and this has carried on to current day when he had great plans for halloween, and when he talked about “we”, that meant Mum and Dad doing it for him because he could not be bothered to learn how to cut a pumpkin, to make fairy cakes, or to prepare icing. He will clearly go a long way with his mastery of delegation!

But this blog is not about Luke, its about us and our professional lives. This blog has been brewing for some time, and refers to the laziness we have for how we use language and our laziness in really determining and communicating what we mean, or to really determine our expectations of others.

Too often its my perception that we fall into the laziness of not really being bothered to clarify what we mean. Is that because we don’t want to, or is it because we can’t actually clarify what we mean?

What makes me bristle is the way we throw cliches and management faddy words around in particular on social media. I wonder how much we really understand and maybe more worrying is whether people really believe all the hype and blather that is spouted? Just like the “emperors new clothes”, how much do we challenge, question and seek to understand? My fear is that we perpetuate the myth, fantasy and “bollocks” that seems to occupy the way we describe things that occupies the twitter sphere and social media space.

Top of my “bristle list”

authentic leadership
inspirational leadership
being strategic
anything to do with leadership – too much blather!
So back to where I started. I asked Luke to make his bed a couple of weeks ago, and apparently he could not put the duvet cover on. After much huffing and puffing last night, he finally put his cover on. He knows how to do it now!!

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The General

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“Good-morning; good-morning!” the General said

When we met him last week on our way to the line.

Now the soldiers he smiles at are most of’em dead,

And we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine.

“He’s a cheery old card”, grunted Harry to Jack

As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.

But he did for them both by his plan of attack.

Siegfried Sassoon

For the many that were poorly led, I will remember you! RIP

Why Leader v Manager is the wrong question!

I noticed a tweet yesterday “today we will be thinking about what is the difference between Leaders and Managers?”

My response was “maybe your question should be the difference between leadership and management as your question implies that its a status rather than a behaviour?”

So walking the dog this morning, I mused some more on this tweet and I realised that I am also guilty of asking the same question when I am running leadership programmes. In the first half day of a session, getting a sense of where people are and what the view is in the room, I unconsciously  slip out out “so discuss the difference between a leader and a manager”. So lazy, on my part, and in fact its the wrong question.

Firstly, what do we mean by a leader and a manager, they are meaningless titles because we are all both, and in fact I am coming round to the fact that we have made management a “dirty word”, we place little value on it and we believe  that leadership is some panacea for our ills. Frequently getting them jumbled up and confusing metaphors from sport.

Maybe the better question is “what are we doing when we are doing management, and what are we doing when we are doing leadership” or something like that. In essence, lets talk about whats each one is actually achieving, having equal regard for both, and lets be brave to talk about the pros and cons of each.

I would welcome your thoughts to add to my musing.

To be continued….

“A Poor workman always blames his tools”. (RIP Bill Perry)

I responded to a tweet the other day which had the headline “kill email”. I get the sentiment and I know the writer so therefore I imagine it was being provocative to get us to think about the impact of email and how much its made us lazy and avoiding dialogue with others.

I admit to being a fan of email. I could not survive as a worker in a shed without email to help me engage with others, to share documents, and to share clippings and usual information as a natural collaborator.

When I saw the tweet that said “kill email”, I responded “like all tools, its not the tool but the behaviour that has to change”. This comment got me  a few retweets so I concluded that others were in disagreement.

It was my father that often said “a poor workman who always blames his tools”, and as I write I have reflected on his generation. Sadly he died a couple of years ago, but he did national service at the end of the war and carried out peace keeping in Italy and Palestine, and as a Coldstream Guard stood outside Buckingham Palace. I imagine that generation endured some hardship, and as a result had a “make do” attitude. Accepting what little they had and made the best of it. Probably no switching fancy phones or apps like the wind.

My background is in Production Engineering. An apprenticeship followed by sponsorship to do a degree. Possibly my nature, I questioned everything and quickly I got a sense of waste in the workplace. I saw numerous practices that people did not question or challenge either through ignorance or just simply settling for a simple life, or those above “know best” so you did not question it. All the way through my career in engineering and production management I have seen and experienced poor processes, and functional practises that have no connection to what the customer really wants, and as a result we go off in search of the new tool or system to automate and speed up the processing.

Of course the flaw, like most systems its the garbage we put in it, or we keep on putting in. Just like the over used quote “if we always do, what we always did, then we always get what we always got”.

Email has issues. But in the large, its not email thats the problem but the behaviours that people use. People hide behind it, sending an email believing that constitutes action, over use and mis use of CC, and sometimes a call would make much more sense. I know that twitter and even Instagram has removed some of the need for email, because it is after all the connections that matter.

So in memory of my Dad, lets not blame the tools, lets do better work!

Get rid of the white lines, and its not just about the bike!

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I cycle a lot, and so I am drawn to lots of coverage of cycling on twitter and other news feeds. I also have teenage sons who are keen to ride so therefore as any parent might be I am conscious of their safety on the roads so take an interest in cycle safety as well as being dismayed by the poor driving, arrogance and ignorance of many drivers.

There was an article a few weeks ago (the source I can’t remember) that argued for the removal of white lines in roads as it was proven that there was a resulting reduction in accidents involving bikes and overtaking cars. The hypothesis was that the centre white lines created a feeling of restriction to overtaking cars, and increasing the likelihood that cars would overtake bikes too closely. Its really quite scary when a car passes you closely at speeds over 30mph. Trust me!

I was out on my bike yesterday, on quiet Sunday roads, and this was brought back into focus when a sports car passed close to me on a bend and cut right in front of me. My usual arm waving and V sign over, my thoughts reflected on the white lines.

So as I continued my ride, and my coherence returning to my human rather than my “chimp” brain I thought about work and organisations and how the white lines might have an impact on our behaviour and thinking.

So why do we have them? We clearly need guidelines and limits to ensure our safety and bring a required amount of order. They create certainty, and give us a direction of travel (excuse the pun). They are comfortable, we know our boundaries and within the lines we can create and innovate. I wondered though whether we might become complacent because we are within the lines. They get us there without having to think, and perhaps we can go faster as we don’t need to be that alert as the “oncoming traffic” is also within the lines.

So I challenge you to think about what lines you are following. Are you on auto, not really being that mindful of whats happening, whats oncoming, could you even get rid of the lines?

and if you are out in the car, please, please, please remember we are not cased in steel!

Thanks

TWENTY FIVE

Murmuration

Abandoned

Management books take up hundreds of pages and thousands of words building a case with which to support the author’s hypothesis. There’s an enormous amount of padding out of case studies and other people’s research involved. Dry academic subjects are enlivened with witty prose. You often reach the end and think “Damn right! But didn’t we already know that?”

And you know what? You’re right. We do know this stuff. Intuitively. But it’s conditioned out of us. The more we progress, the more responsibility and accountability we take and are given the more we unlearn the simple truths about being an effective leader of people. Ever wondered why CEOs invite other people to the annual conference to offer motivational speeches? Why those same CEOs are not motivational and inspiring enough in and of themselves? It’s because they fail to consistently demonstrate the most simple principles of leadership.

All of those…

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acts of kindness, positive psychology and don’t mention the engagement word!

I was approached over the summer through an associate relationship I have to do some work and potentially grow an offering around the subject of resilience and wellbeing. I was asked because as an engineer by training they thought I would be both curious about some of the science as well as being quite challenging around what might be perceived as another “fluffy” topic, and possibly in danger of creating something that raises differing emotions like the “engagement word”!

So I have spent some time reading some books, playing with some  heart rate monitors, drawing loads of mind maps and creating models. I’m still at a surface level, but joining the dots, positive psychology seems to me to be the “glue” thats possibly holding it all together.

In terms of positive psychology, the writing of three good things and journaling to embed positive experiences is a consistent theme, as well as acts of kindness and expressing gratification for good deeds.

This week has been a great week in those terms and I’ve been touched by a lot of kindness toward my son Luke, and I have expressed my gratification.

Luke is a swimmer, a reasonably good one at County Level and aiming next to compete at a Midlands level, before maybe national level. Who knows!

In these last weeks, we went through a dilemma of whether we should move swimming clubs because we were unhappy with his progress at his current club. A club we had been associated with for around 7 years, my eldest had swam there, my wife had been secretary, I had been Chair taking it through some difficult times and then stepping down because I couldn’t cope with it along with another load of pressures and commitments. So a lot of personal history, some friends and foes, all mixed in with the politics of children’s clubs, which some of you might know or I guess you might imagine. Corporate life comes no where near for politics!!!

So there are three swimming clubs in our immediate area, Luke’s current club, a bigger club to whom Luke’s club is a feeder, and the other club. Well the decision we made was to join the other club which wasn’t in the script!!!

We have had some different reactions, some indifference, and probably a load of people who might be glad to see the back of us.

So the kindness which is what the story is about!

In swimming, pool time is the holy grail. Luke is 12, and if he aspires to great things he needs to be doing at least 10 hours a week in the pool, covering 1000’s of meters each week. Its gruelling, but if you aren’t putting the hours in, someone else will and they will get the times and win the medals.

By moving clubs, Luke’s pool time was threatened due to reciprocal arrangements between the clubs around sharing pool time and developing the county’s talents. But the three coaches of the respective clubs have come together this week to ensure that Luke does not lose out, they have each made some concessions and made some commitments to review arrangements.

They could have followed the rules, but they were dealing with a young lad with some talent, and they chose a different option so he didn’t lose out.

So this could be a club, a team, a business unit, a business, relationships between customers and suppliers but what I have learnt and been reminded of this week, is acting with a positive intent and regard for others results in acting with kindness. Doing the best for someone so they don’t lose out and not held back in their ambition and results.

Might not seem such a big deal, but to a 12 year old boy, its pretty important!

So I’m going back to my books, heart rate monitors and you-tube clips.

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