Driven by Greed, Ego or Expectation?

A theme I have mentioned before is the ability to identify and learn from the experience of others. Obvious enough you may think, but we often listen too much to our heroes and not enough to those we cast as villains.
shontayne_hape1_250 Two recent articles highlighted this for me. On the one hand, I read the story of international rugby star, Shontayne Hape and how he battled concussion. It is easy to admire, and even attempt to emulate, his determination to carry on regardless. Indeed, as he intimates it is almost expected in rugby circles. However, less admirable were his attempts to beat the system, to ignore advice and refuse help. What lessons are there for us in a business context? It may be as simple as my daughter refusing to take time off work while battling a chest infection or expecting our people to bend the rules in a good cause.
Wolf Wall StreetOn the other hand, Jordan Belfort, the self styled Wolf of Wall Street, who swindled people out of millions of dollars in the 90s and for which he served a mere 22 months in prison is inspiring a lot of comment in the press and the blogosphere.
He has now re-invented himself as a motivational speaker and sales coach (at a claimed rate of $1 million per annum). His seminars are selling out to hundreds despite the price tag of £100-200 a seat with people keen to hear his money making secrets. He liberally peppers his talks with reminders to apply his techniques ethically, but this does ring rather hollow.
If you can endure the Anthony Robbins-esque hype, ignore the All American “Yee-Hah,” and resist the teasers demanding that you shell out even more money for the full three day boot camp, there are many useful ideas and techniques in what he says.
A colleague who attended his recent London seminar identified over 50 useful tips, about managing your emotional state, self belief, clear vision and good sales practice. That doesn’t mean he bought into all that the Wolf proposed, far from it, but it does show how he listened, filtered and identified the nuggets in all the rhetoric.
Ask yourself how often have you admired someone so much that they can do no wrong or, conversely reviled someone so that they can do nothing right?

Blending Youth and Experience – What’s Your Style?

There has been much coverage in the press recently of sporting awards, with rugby and football players being named player and young player of the year. Christian Wade and Gareth Bale took both awards this year in their respective sports, and I would not deny them their accolades as both have been outstanding. I do wonder though, why is there no award for old player of the year? Sometimes the feats of the older players are more impressive. Some have been recognised with James Hook  voted Perpignan’s player of the year at 27, Michael Carrick Players’ Player of the year at Champions Manchester United and Jonny Wilkinson named European Player of the Year at the ripe old age of 33, ten years since he was the last player to win both rugby awards. However, even Jonny’s success is overshadowed by Easton  Roy of Stirling County RFC, who has pledged to keep on playing – just days after scoring a try on his  ninetieth birthday.

Further afield, I read of 80-year old Japanese mountaineer, Yuichiro Miurahas reaching the summit  of Mount Everest, making him the oldest man to scale the world’s highest peak. Another Japanese man, Jiroemon Kimura, who holds the distinction of being the world’s  oldest living person, celebrated his 116th birthday on Friday.
 

Not to be outdone by the Japanese, British great-great grandmother, Doris Long fearlessly abseiled down a  110ft building to mark her 99th birthday and raise money for The Rowans Hospice. I am still proud of my Mother, who shyly announced on her 80th birthday that she had taken up a new hobby of archery and earlier this year achieved the rare feat, sometimes referred to as a Robin Hood, of splitting one arrow with another, not once, but twice!
Age is seemingly not a barrier to sporting success and even less so to management success. Whatever your allegiance, it would be churlish not to acknowledge the amazing career of Alex Ferguson, retiring from football management at 71. Several CEOs in the U.S.A. are in their 70s, 80s and even one in his 90s. Jack Welch continues to write and consult on all aspects of management at 77 and in the UK, John Timpson is still chief executive of his family business at 72 and writes regularly on management in the Daily Telegraph.
Of course, it is not only sports people who vie for awards. The National Business Awards are about to be announced and are partnering with Cranfield School of Management this year, who are calling for business leaders, particularly young entrepreneurs to think more strategically. Apparently younger managers are more likely to adopt a style as the Meddler, the Hero, or the Artisan and while all of these have great strengths, they advocate the Strategist style to grow and develop the business.
An understanding of management style is a topic that many of the delegates on our Stepping in to Management courses find helpful as they seek to be more effective and advance their careers. Flexibility of style is a great asset in managing people and strategy is more about the language we use and the way we work with others than it is about gazing into crystal balls. We have been partnering with Nottingham Business School to explore these concepts and are developing a programme to share them with our clients. Contact me for more information. Strong leadership style and coherent strategy are not the preserve of the old, nor even necessarily the product of experience, but both can be learned.
I talk a lot about experience and learning from it – some say “there is no substitute for experience.” and while this may be true, I believe it is more important that we learn from that experience. How many of you have felt or been told that you do not have enough experience? Does someone who has been in the same job for 15 years have 15 years experience or one year’s experience repeated 15 times – it, of course depends on a number of factors. One of these is attitude – the young players who have won awards and the older players and managers mentioned above all have a positive attitude. Do you always act your age or can you still act your shoe size? While our bodies may tell us we are past it, mind set and self belief can play a big part in how we make the most of our advancing years. Start on that bucket list now!

Do Manners Matter? Class, Brogues and Bad Role Models.

Will putting on airs and graces help you to climb the career ladder, or is that all out of date nonsense and is it more important to speak your mind with confidence. Should women be more like men if they want to get on in business?

There have been a number of articles in the press recently about class

and etiquette. If you haven’t yet seen the article about the new British class system, it is well worth a read. You can take a questionnaire to determine where you fit, and with a little tinkering work out what you need to do to move up the scale, or down or across! Many claim not to like stereotyping or being typed, but few can resist trying it out, if only to ridicule the results. It certainly seems to be more representative of our current society than the simple three class system, so delightfully sent up in “The Frost Report

There have also been articles about what is acceptable behaviour when cold calling, how to deal with those who seem to abuse this and tips on how to be a ladyin the modern business world, and even why a gentleman’s brogues are so important to his well being and self esteem.
The cold calling dilemma certainly struck a chord with me, finding so many of them to be intrusive and unprofessional, and assuming it is OK to use my first name as though we are well acquainted. I try to fend them off, while remaining firm, but polite, although I suspect I often stray into rude. I have not got the time or patience to “get my own back” as some claim to do by stringing them along, let alone claiming to be a detective at a murder scene and that they are now a viable suspect!
In terms of self improvement and career management, I would agree with all of the more moderate recommendations in these articles – being rude back to someone is rarely going to improve the relationship and you never know when these things will return to haunt you. I am about to interview someone for a coaching position at my rugby club, who was a much vaunted star in his playing days, but rather offhand when I asked him for some help.

To summarise the articles on etiquette, being a lady to is about treating people with respect, having self respect (so not being drunk and disorderly) and having your own personality – but not being abrupt with people (as people so often are today). And all of these traits are to be taken into the workplace, instead of the home– which is where the majority of women spend the bulk of their time.

You may well think, as I do that all of those expectations are just common sense and behaviour that should be expected from both genders? “Manners are all about putting other people at ease and thinking about others,” which is surely the best way to get on and get the best from others.

For the gents, apparently cheap shoes look slobbish and make men shuffle. Quality footwear endows a man with authority, poise and an air of reliability – not to mention desirability! If only I’d known.

Mind your language!

Does swearing make us more credible? According to some recent research in Holland, this may be true. The researchers asked students to read a fictional account of a statement made by a suspect burglar during a police interview. Students who read the version in which the suspect swore rated his statement as more believable than those who read a version that was identical in every respect but with the swearwords removed.
However, the research seems flawed to me. To remove the swearwords, but otherwise leave it intact would inevitably change the way it is perceived. I wonder whether it might have been a fairer comparison had the swear words been replaced by other adjectives, especially emotive ones.
Surely it depends on the context and your audience. The use of expletives can, of course add to a statement’s impact, but would that make it acceptable or effective in a business presentation. I doubt it.
Swearing certainly has a negative impact on some people, especially when used excessively – I have observed people who missed much of the message because they were so offended by the unnecessary use of profanities. This is partly a cultural phenomenon, with older people more likely to be upset by coarse language. Swearing is more common in younger people, but also may depend on where you are from.
I know in my military career, swearing was quite commonplace, but also selective. It was used extensively when at work, largely irrespective of rank, but significantly reduced when in social situations, especially when women were present. With women more widely integrated in the forces, I wonder how this has changed and fear that they have come to accept and adopt the swearing, as seems to be the case in factory environments.
I once heard a quote that said something like: “Swearing is a means by which the inarticulate gain a feeling of eloquence.” I do swear, but try to limit it, especially in business situations. To me it seems unprofessional and unnecessary. As in my quote, if I want to emphasise something, I should be able to find more appropriate and expressive words, which will not cause offence or detract from the message. Did Martin Luther King, Kennedy, Churchill or any other great orator resort to swearing. Certainly not. We might not expect eloquence and may understand emotional outbursts from sports men and women in the heat of competition, but nor should we have to accept foul language. In business, we may want to encourage and express passion and commitment, but should be able to do so without offending our audience.

Incidentally, personality research suggests that people who swear more, not surprisingly, score higher on traits such as extraversion, dominance, and hostility.

And finally… According to a disturbing news report today, a British tourist on holiday in Dubai was arrested for swearing. He was later ´badly beaten up´ to the point of being unconscious, slammed against a concrete wall, refused food, water, and a lawyer, and then his body was stuffed into a body bag while being removed from the facility.

All Change – From Snowdon to the Amazon

 I am again talking about change and how it affects us. I remember being horrified that Jaguar had produced a diesel variant, and then an estate version – that is not a Jaguar, I screamed! This week I read that they have laid a tarmac path to the summit of Mount Snowdon in Wales, to make it more accessible, why, why, why? Then again, there is already a railway up there and you can still do it the hard way if you want to (I know I do!)

Much is written about change and our reactions to it. I have been working recently with Royal Mail, who are undergoing a huge amount of change, some would say not before time. Much of the focus on the workshops was on debating and preparing for how people would react to change with considerable emphasis on those who would resist and even attempt  to forestall the new ways of working. Of course not everyone is against change, indeed, many of the managers we were working with were positive and even excited about the opportunities that the changes promise. They also reported that many of their people, including union representatives were supportive of the changes.

This does not, of course mean that these champions and advocates are

 immune to the emotional upheavals common to resistors. They need at least the same consideration, support and encouragement as they will have doubts, concerns and even reversals. They will feel any setbacks or lack of progress acutely. If not suitably nurtured and recognised they may even defect to the nay-sayers.

My younger daughter has just completed her degree and is somewhat relieved that the academic ordeal is over and looking forward eagerly to  starting her career. However, even change coming from success presents some challenges. She is now finding that it is not easy to secure a job, which frustrates her ambition and dampens her enthusiasm. Moving back into the family home means she has had to readjust to different norms and standards than those she has become accustomed to; her close circle of friends is dispersed to the four winds and all but lost, despite or maybe exacerbated by the apparent ease of maintaining contact provided by Facebook and email. So lots of changes all brought about by something she wanted deeply and worked hard to achieve. The euphoria and relief of graduation have been tempered with self-doubt and frustration.

Remember that denial and a range of emotion will precede the rationalisation needed for acceptance and commitment to the change, sometimes captured as the mnemonic DERAC. To help people through these stages we need to show that we understand and are willing to offer the support they need. (I remember these stages by reversing the letters and trying to show I CARED.)

A common piece of advice is to beware of spending too much time with the relatively small number of vocal resistors and instead to work with the undecided waverers, who usually form a quieter majority and if converted can provide the critical mass needed for success. Although this thinking is logical, I sound a note of caution. If your focus is too closely on those people, you may neglect your erstwhile allies and fail to recognise important signals of discontent. If you lose your champions, the struggle will be considerably greater to convert the rest.

Spare a thought for Ed Stafford, the intrepid former soldier who has just  completed a marathon 4,000 mile trek to walk the length of the Amazon in 859 days. I am sure he is exultant at his record breaking achievement and relieved to have completed it. However, he will now face huge new challenges in adjusting to “normal” life again and without his goal to focus on.

So it is for my daughter and for those managers in Royal Mail, change is an inevitable part of life and careers, but it does exact a toll. Understanding and support from friends, colleagues and managers will help them all to cope.

A change, though can be as good as a rest. So for something different, have a look at http://www.recyclethis.co.uk/ for tips on recycling everything from old wall planners to empty walnut shells!

Changing Times Call for New Perspectives and Challenging the Rules

Change, we are often told, is inevitable, unavoidable and should be embraced by leaders. Change, though is not just organisational, it is also social and as leaders we need to recognise and appreciate all its manifestations.

A great friend of mine, in his seventies and a military man is exasperated when he sees young men enter a building or room while wearing a hat. In his day this was completely taboo and considered rude. The offenders are more likely to be ignorant of this tradition rather than rebellious or intentionally disrespectful.
Another friend berates the younger members of the rugby team he coaches for not phoning him with their availability, preferring instead to communicate through Facebook.

I read recently of people “tweeting” each other during a presentation. Normally I would consider anyone using their mobile phones during a presentation as rude and inconsiderate, but are these just new norms and am I in danger of becoming as curmudgeonly as my aforementioned friends? Looking at this in another way, it offers a new way to interact with your audience
The etiquette of social media is evolving rapidly as is this new way of interacting with people. Organisations are trying to come to terms with it, writing rules to avoid the worst potential consequences, but this is not easy. I read last week of a police force that had issued a 7,000 word document outlining acceptable email practice, the size of which may reflect the complexity of the subject, but also inhibits the likelihood of anybody reading it, let alone complying with it. Sites like Facebook are a potential minefield as they are very public, but the traps are avoidable if you use common sense and sensitivity, providing a powerful new communication tool.

Etiquette is peculiar to generations and to cultures. Globalisation, multi-culturalism and foreign travel all expose us to different practices and standards, occasionally causing confusion and offence, but also delight, wonder and appreciation. I remember being fascinated in Hong Kong by the local tradition of burning money and laying out food on graves to honour deceased ancestors. This was all the more intriguing when the money was revealed as “hell money” – akin to Monopoly money and the food was retrieved and enjoyed by the family once the ancestors had chosen not to partake!
When abroad it is tempting and generally a good idea to adopt the local customs – when in Rome – but you can still stay true to your self. You don’t have to use the mixed sauna if you find it embarrassing, no matter how much pressure from your host.
On a recent course with students on an international Masters programme at Nottingham Business School, we were treated, on top of Mam Tor in snowy Derbyshire to songs in several different languages – three of them were to the tune of “Frère Jaques” but were about tigers and butterflies. A wonderful demonstration that in many ways we are as alike as we are different.

When is it correct to bow, when to shake hands, when to hug and when to kiss cheeks? Should emails contain greetings, and polite sign offs? I believe that leaders help to set standards, but not by being stubborn, change resistant or aloof. Leaders should look to set an example, but also to be sensitive to others’ preferences, upbringing and habits, and maybe even embracing the new way. Challenge different behaviour and standards if it bothers you, but more to appreciate why they do things as they do. Remember Stephen Covey’s 5th Habit of Highly Effective People – “Seek first to understand and then to be understood.”

Life Lessons from Gandhi and Clint Eastwood

I have read a lot in the last week or so about people and blame. We have had political leaders apologising, refusing to apologise, blaming others or global forces for problems. We have even had Josef Fritzl blaming his mother for the abhorrent crimes against his family.

And then I was directed to an article in the Times, condemning all “management” theories as irrelevant and blaming them for organisations ills.

This all takes me back to a central tenet of my personal philosophy, which is best summed up as the first of Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, which is to be proactive. Covey’s definition of this term takes it back to the fundamental premise of taking responsibility for yourself, your life and your actions, past, present and future – a strong theme from Transactional Analysis, which is another good old theory. This was well put by Abe Wagner, my favourite TA tutor, who advised us to “Be self determining and help others to do the same.”

I believe that if we do that, which frees our minds and our spirit. it then becomes much easier to be effective and successful. You are not hot tempered because you are Irish or have red hair or because your Dad was like that. Life and personality are based on choices – choices about acceptance and direction. No-one else is to blame, and certainly not a theory, which is only someone’s attempt to describe or explain their experience of how life has been for them. How you interpret and live that theory is your responsibility.

We can all learn from experience, whether it is our own or someone else’s, which is why we like to read or watch biographies and in a shorter version, peoples quotes.

As Mahatma Gandhi said: “Nobody can hurt me without my permission.”

Or as Clint Eastwood puts it: “Respect your efforts, respect yourself. Self-respect leads to self-discipline. When you have both firmly under your belt, that’s real power.”

So I need to “make my day”, not wait for some punk to do it for me! We should all learn to learn from and through experience.

Positive Feedback – What a Great Message

Had just posted my comments about receiving difficult feedback positively, when I was pointed to this by a colleague, Dr John Kenworthy – thanks, John.

Just watch this – it is quite long – 15 minutes, but great story and you can all work out the message for yourself! You can get the gist in the first 5 minutes, but if you are like me, you will have to watch it right through!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cbk980jV7Ao

Shoes, Pizzas, and Well Aimed Feedback!

In the week that President Bush had shoes thrown at him by an Iraqi
journalist and a delivery man was saved by a pizza, I was prompted to reflect on the learning potential of feedback.
To explain, George Bush had shoes thrown at him in Baghdad, although he was agile enough to avoid both missiles. He then showed presence of mind and even statesmanship by defending the man’s right to protest in a free society and pointing out to journalists that his assailant had succeeded in getting people talking about his protest.
The other story relates to how a Florida pizza delivery man was challenged by armed robbers in the city of Miramar, but got in first with his own weapon – a large pepperoni pizza. Eric Lopez Devictoria, flung the piping hot pizza at the gunman, then turned on his heels and ran, making a safe getaway, despite one shot being fired as he fled. Police later arrested three teenage suspects, who have been charged with armed robbery.
I came across these two stories as I was thinking about how some people still cower in their comfort zones, avoiding risk and change. If you want to develop, you need to step out of your areas of competence and confidence, and challenge your fears. Children have few fears and often explore the world with wild abandon. As they mature they are taught and learn to respect and even fear experiencing some life situations and activities. While this is useful learning in some potentially dangerous situations, they can develop the unfortunate idea that to try anything new and failing is embarrassing and uncomfortable and should be avoided.
This learned fear of failure can become stronger as we grow older and severely limit our development. One way of learning is to invite, contemplate and act on feedback. If we don’t ask for it, or worse still ignore it or even punish the giver, we lose that learning channel. As leaders we need to encourage feedback, even if delivered in awkward or rude ways. A mature learner will filter out the insult and listen to the kernel of truth in what has been said. In the same way that George Bush ducked the shoes, but respected the journalist’s right to criticise him!
Remember that feedback is not the absolute truth, but someone else’s perception. To accept feedback constructively you need to:
  • LISTEN – and ask for clarification if necessary
  • DON’T ARGUE
  • DON’T DEFEND
  • REFLECT
  • ACCEPT IT OR REJECT IT – whichever you choose, try to identify the learning.

And finally, this week’s bizarre fact – Please keep all raisins away from your dog… they are extremely toxic to dogs and can be deadly! (I never knew that!)

 

Living and Learning and Leading.

Hello, I am Steve Goodwill, founder and Managing Director of Goodwill Training. I formed my training company in 1989 and incorporated in 2004. We design and deliver learning and development events to help people to become more effective, confident, liberated, and motivated so that they can contribute more to the organisations they serve.
A key aspect of our training is the title of this blog – “Learning Through Experience”. Training can be, and I believe should be enjoyable and memorable, but the key is applying the learning in our lives. On our programmes we use a lot of experiential activities to make this happen – but we encourage participants to consider, analyse and learn from all of their experiences, not just those on the programme.
There is an old saying that “We live and learn.” If only this was true! Too often we fail to recognise the lessons or apply them to our lives. We try to address this on our events, but recognise that only the individual can do that, all we can do is try to show and model the way.
It has often been said that you cannot manage others until you can manage yourself. This is just as true for Leadership. While not wanting to debate here the difference between Managing and Leading, I am trying to make a point about learning. An update of that old saying might be:
We Live and Learn and Lead.”
…. but only if we work at it consciously and deliberately.