Saturday, 3 December 2011

Attention! Le monstre aux yeux verts!!

Since my last post I have relocated myself and family to the South of France.  If you are anything like me - what Myers Briggs calls a ‘intuitive personality’, you might picture the South of France as a warm and relaxing place where one may sit under the shade of an olive tree sipping red wine, sampling fine cheeses and pastries; spending eternal summer days musing about philosophical aspects of your life.  The thought creates images of a sunshine-filled, indulgently stress-free existence. 

You may begin to wonder what your own life would be like in this type of environment.  How fantastic it would be to have a life like that!  To live out your days without a care in the world with nothing on your hands except time and butter from your croissants.  Quality time that is so precious in your ordinary, everyday world.  No rush hour traffic, no boring meetings and no need to ever the scrape ice from your car in the morning.  Idyllic isn’t it?

Now be honest.  Are you feeling a little jealous yet?    

Jealousy can be a deep-seated and destructive behavioural characteristic. 

We all have the capacity to be jealous and I imagine we have all realised our own jealous nature at some point in our lives.  But of course, there is a huge difference from being occasionally jealous of something or someone as opposed to having jealousy rule the majority of your life.

Many people believe that jealousy is directly linked with other emotions such as love and hatred.  Whereas I believe that jealousy is a marker of self-worth.  And it’s because of our own esteem needs in Maslow’s hierarchy, which are of course, perceptions of self-worth; that we see jealous behaviours in the workplace.

American writer Charley Reece (whose own views I would not normally associate with) wrote that:

‘If malice or envy were tangible and had a shape, it would be the shape of a boomerang.’ 

I think that this is an excellent analogy – despite my general dislike of Reece. 

Those consumed by jealousy can never truly be happy and at peace with themselves.  As their skewed perceptions of what others ‘possess’ serve as reminders of what a poor hand they have been dealt and of what they have possibly missed out on in their earlier life.

I am sympathetic to jealous people, to a point; but most can improve their own sense of worth if they really want to.

What the jealous refuse to accept on a subconscious level is the truth of the matter. 

Life in the South of France has so far been great – but not without pain I can assure you.  And I too long for days where I may sit under a tree (when it eventually does stop raining!) and catch up on all of the books I have collected over the years.  We are surrounded by people who speak a different language and where the stores close for two to three hours of the day – usually just when you really need to buy something. And surprisingly and somewhat worst of all..

Croissants are really expensive!

Wishing you all the very best in all that you do,


Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Do you eat your own Dog Food?

The phrase – to ‘eat one’s own dog food’ is said to have started in Microsoft in the late 1980’s when they challenged themselves to internally promote and use their own products to demonstrate confidence in its ability.  Some may say that it’s the refined version of the saying to ‘drink one’s own Champagne’ however; I prefer the former because in my mind, to drink Champagne signals a celebration of a successful outcome when in reality, only a fool would celebrate success that was yet to be proven.

Following on from a post that I wrote back in June of this year entitled: ‘When Change can be as Good as a Rest’; my wife and I have decided to ‘eat our own dog food’ and realise an opportunity by upping sticks and relocating ourselves from the UK to France.  The move will take place in a matter of weeks.  We have rented and booked a variety of different styles of accommodation along the south coast of the country’s Languedoc region up until the end of January 2012 - with the option to extend our stay for as long as we wish for.  We’re fortunate that the UK’s membership of the European Union allows us freedom of movement to relocate to wherever in Europe that takes our fancy.  So, we’ve chosen France for a number of reasons but mostly because of the relaxed lifestyle and attitudes to the importance of ‘the family’, their first-rate healthcare system, the low crime rate (in comparison the UK) and their excellent standards of education.  And in taking advantage of this freedom of movement, our 10-year-old white Boxer dog will also be accompanying us.  She’s even got her own passport – but without the standard passport photograph!

So, as interesting and exciting as all this may be - where’s the relevance to Emotional Intelligence, Leadership or Management?

Well, if you haven’t already guessed it’s to do with the subject of ‘Change’.

We’re effectively enforcing huge change upon ourselves.  We’re seizing an opportunity that we’ve realised and we’re acting upon it.  Why?  Because we know that if we don’t attempt this now then we may at some point down the line live to regret it.  To avoid the ‘what if’s’ in years to come is something that we feel we must do.  If it doesn’t work; then we can enforce change again.  But clearly, we are not walking into this project with our eyes shut.  The realisation is both exciting and scary at the same time.  We’ve rented out our property and have made a contractual commitment to allow another family occupy our home for the next 12-months.  Although nothing is permanent; we can’t just choose to come home as soon as the going gets tough – which it inevitably will from time-to-time.

As we prepare to move through this transitional period, we have to keep focused on the anticipated challenges that change brings. I’ve been looking at work undertaken by John Fisher in relation to his model entitled The Process of Transition’ so that we know what to expect as and when things happen.  Similar to experiences encountered through the grieving process, Fisher takes the view that reaction to personal change occurs as follows:

Anxiety.  Are we anxious?  Well, yes, indeed we are!  Not knowing what the future holds is daunting.  I mentioned earlier that the ‘what if’s’ may play on our minds for eternity if we don’t take this chance – but right now, the ‘what if’s’ are: ‘What if we don’t like it?  Can’t settle?  Aren’t accepted?  Miss home and family members?  What if we soon decide that the adventure has been one huge mistake?’  The ‘what if’s’ are still there.  They’re just a different set of ‘what if’s’.  So anxiety comes into play and will do until (if ever) we make the final decision to relocate permanently or not.      

Happiness.  For happiness I guess you could read anticipation.  It’s exciting!  Our hopes and dreams may be realised and the fact that we are making concerted changes to our lives, hopefully for the better, makes us happy.  There’s obviously something wrong somewhere that has brought about this idea in the first place.  Something strong enough for us to make such a large leap of faith and set about changing our lives that brings hope and the happiness we’re seeking.

Fear.  Like anxiety can sometimes grip you when you’re least expecting it. And that emotion gets stronger each time you achieve one of your objectives to reach your goal.  For example, last week I left my permanent job in order to embark on this adventure.  It was only when I was given a leaving gift and a card signed by my friends at work did I realise how ‘real’ the situation was.  That my imminent departure was not just some desire I’d once shared with my wife whilst watching numerous television programmes about relocating to the sun, but that this was really happening!

Threat.  For threat read worry.  We’re moving into a completely new and alien environment.  Despite the UK’s close geographical proximity to France there is a vast difference in cultures and expectations.  The mindsets are worlds apart.  The threat of not being accepted or almost worse, of having to come back and not be accepted is great – even if it may be a false threat. 

Guilt.  On many levels.  Feeling pangs of guilt that we’re moving away from loved ones.  That we may be betraying our own country by going to another.  Guilt that we’re acting selfishly as adults and that our son who will soon be having his fourth birthday celebrations away from his big sister and Grandparents makes us feel guilty.

Depression.  The loss of self-identity, that we don’t belong no matter how hard we try to integrate.  The feeling that we’ve made the wrong impression.  The depressing notion that we’ll long to turn back time and wish that we had not made the move in the first place.  The list is endless.  What if we never settle?  What if we’re seeking a utopia that doesn’t exist?  How will be feel of this does not work out as planned?

Following these emotions come disillusionment, hostility and denial.  They’re all great feelings to be looking forward to right?  Only happiness seems to be the positive emotion that awaits us – the rest, I’m sure you’ll agree are pretty gloomy. 

After reading this you may well ask: ‘So why do it?’

The reason is because that without taking chances and making changes the predictability of the square root of nothing happening is high.  Life will go on and on and before you know it the opportunities are lost and one of the few things left to keep you company are the ‘what if’s’.  Let’s face it; no one ever achieved anything without taking a risk.

What changes do you want to make to your life? 

More importantly, what changes CAN you make to your life?

Despite all of the above, we live in hope that there will soon come a time when we will be ‘drinking our own Champagne’.  After all, given its origins, what better country to do it in?

Wishing you well in everything that you do and in the changes that you may make.


Friday, 26 August 2011

Reasons to be cheerful.....Part II

At the beginning of this year, my Father in Law was diagnosed with cancer of his liver.  This finding was completely unexpected.  Today I’m happy to report that he has remained completely clear of all cancerous cells for about 2-months now.  Amazing given the size of the tumour and his other medical conditions with which he suffers.  Added to this is his age of 72 years.   It’s remarkable what the medical profession can achieve these days.  That and his positive mental attitude that undoubtedly helped carry him through.  His wife, who has since been ordained as a Minister of the Church will have spent hours and days asking God.  And then equal if not more time thanking God for sparing him.  He’s now in really good health given what he’s been through.

Last week, a friend and respected colleague announced that he too had just been diagnosed with cancer.  Being a religious man he asked for prayers to be said to help both himself and his family at this time of struggle.  I spoke with him just this week and was bowled over at how up-beat he was.  Determined to fight his condition, up for the challenge and extremely focused on the battle that lies ahead of him.  His name is Mike and he’s started his own blog to document his thoughts and feelings which he has graciously allowed me to link to here:

Some good news though, Mike found out yesterday that his initial diagnosis and prognosis is not as bad as it first appeared.  He still has cancer, but his type of cancer does not appear to be as aggressive as he and the physicians first thought.  This is fantastic news.  

I was brought up by my Grandmother who used to drag me to church every Sunday to attend Mass at St Joseph’s Catholic Church in North Wales.  I hated going for many reasons.  It was a long walk to get there.  Worse in the winter months and worse still because I was never allowed to eat anything until we eventually returned home again because we would be taking Communion.  At 8-years of age I had no idea what was being said nor why my Grandmother who barely had enough money to put food on the table, used to hand over little envelopes of cash to the Priests each week.  Especially as most of them used to reek of stale tobacco or booze or both!

It’s a funny thing religion.  I’m not knocking it and I fully appreciate and respect the faith people have in their Gods.  I don’t really buy-in to it being the cause of all wars because in my view, that’s down to the people using it as a vehicle for violence and hatred – it’s not the religion per se.  I’ve always wondered why, if God exists, good people are made to suffer such horrible illnesses like cancer.  I’ve been even more perplexed as to how such people take an even stronger grip  on their faith when they’ve been blighted by such things when I would be asking ‘Why me?’  ‘Haven’t I served you well for all these years?’

But I guess it’s a mindset.  A total belief despite whatever is happening in their worlds they still have faith that God will do what is right irrespective of the final outcome.

Faith, hope, even glory.  It’s what drives people on to succeed and beat the odds.  It’s the faith in God, oneself, the team, the systems of management and processes that appear to work.  Who would have thought 50-years ago that we would have advanced at the rate we have as a collective of mammals; mere mortals?  But somebody somewhere had the belief.  No one ever achieved anything by not daring to believe; to dream; to hope, overcome and achieve.

When all is dark around you, whatever your circumstances; however slim your chances of achieving your dream; it’s important to believe.

Wishing you every success in all that you do,


Friday, 5 August 2011

Reasons to be cheerful ... Part I

It’s Friday! 
Granted, it may not be Friday where you are but Fridays for me are my favourite day of the week.
Not because it signals the end of my working week but because generally, people usually appear to be happy that it’s the beginning of the end of their working week. 
Moods seem brighter; people seem to have a renewed energy to focus-in on the work that needs to be completed before the weekend arrives.  There are conversations about plans for the next two days, a fairly genuine interest in each other’s short-term objectives develops and these discussions invite colleagues to share information about life outside of the working environment.  Some choose not to disclose too much, others will share all of the details – either way, the benefit is that people become more ‘humanized’ and often allow people to get a glimpse of their interests, hobbies and family life.  Subjects that wouldn’t usually surface during discussions over a complex spreadsheet on a Tuesday afternoon!
It’s important to get to know each other at work.  If you know what someone likes then you can sometime make reasonably safe assumptions about what they don’t like.  And so you can begin to build up a picture of their values, beliefs, motivating factors and internal drivers.  Hugely important snippets of information can be shared during these casual encounters. 
You see Jane at the water cooler and ask her what her plans are for the weekend.  Jane is having her elderly mother over to stay until Sunday.  You ask where her mother lives and find out that it’s at least 100 miles away.  Jane’s mother can’t make her own way over because she’s ill, too frail and lives on her own.  So you’ve now learned it’s possible that Jane must at times feel the pressures of having a sick and elderly parent living alone miles away from her.  You realise that  Jane will probably be worried about the journey she needs to take in order to collect her mother and drive her back to her own house.  How does Jane’s young family cope with having an elderly and sick relative staying over?  How will Jane get her mother back to where she lives before the new working week commences? 
Is there anything you can do to help Jane?  Could you let Jane leave early today?  Could you allow Jane to come in a little later on Monday?  Is Jane really okay? 
You get the drift, right?
Of course, I’m not suggesting that you hold weekly interrogative interviews with every member of your workforce!  Nor am I suggesting that you will always be in a position to help.  In many cases, you’re offers of assistance will most likely be declined anyway.  You must tread carefully but the fact that you are listening to what’s being said will provide you with the opportunity to show that you care.  That you are reinforcing the psychological contract between you and the person that you’re working with and importantly, that you understand that life goes on outside of the workplace.  You realise the overall impact of continual outside pressure will inevitably start to manifest itself at work.  And let’s face it; employees usually leave their place of employment because of the attitudes of their managers.  If you’re in any relationship where it’s made clear that the opposite number doesn’t give a hoot about you then the writings on the wall so to speak.  It’s only a matter of time before the relationship ends.
Care for your people.  It’s your job!

Wishing you a very happy and safe weekend and all the best in all that you do.


Monday, 25 July 2011

Tell Me Why... I don’t like Mondays!

How many times have you dreaded going into work?  I mean really dreaded it to the point that it plays on your mind, ruins your weekend, makes you wake up early and consider all sorts of desperate excuses not to go in?

I’m sure it’s happened to most of us, if not all.
Now think of the reasons why you’ve felt like this.  I bet for most of you, it’s because of someone who you will have to face in the workplace.  Perhaps it’s a colleague, your boss, a subordinate (do they still use that term?) or the person that delivers the mail.  But SOMEONE is making your life unbearable.  And how do these feelings affect your performance, your attendance record, your health, you relationships with other people that aren’t even connected to your workplace – like your friends and family?
Work-related stress is horrible; more so when the stress is caused by the actions or attitude of someone else (or maybe a group of people).  It doesn’t even need to be direct bullying.  It could be subtle.  It may be that this person’s moral compass is so way-off your own that they don’t even need to speak with you to bring about this effect.  And consider this, maybe they’re unaware of the affect that their very being has on your state of mind.  It’s feasible don’t you think?

So, given that it’s possible that such a person may well be unaware of the effects of their actions, isn’t it possible that YOU could provoke the same feelings in others?
Are you quite sure that you are the approachable person that you may think you are?  That you don’t cause someone’s stomach to turn-over whenever you’re anywhere near their personal space.  That you’re not the indirect cause of someone rowing with their partner over the weekend or when they’ve arrived home from work?  That your actions didn’t cause someone to miss their child’s school play or football game?  That your behaviour isn’t the real reason that someone who would be otherwise considered as a talented asset is now leaving the Company because of YOU?
It never harms us to be introspective at times.  Never assume that your good looks, charm and witty personality fit with everyone.  Seek feedback, not only on your performance but with how you come across.  You may even be surprised!
Wishing you every success in all that you do,


Wednesday, 13 July 2011

How to lose friends and disenfranchise people

We’re Landlords of a property in Scotland.  It’s no big thing, just a three-bedroom apartment.  The Letting Manager has stopped responding to our inquiries and refuses to return our calls.  We don’t mean to bother him.  It’s just that we haven’t received all of the rent.  I think that’s good enough reason to disturb his lunch don’t you?  Maybe he doesn’t like being a Manager anymore.  Perhaps the fun has worn off and it’s all become too much trouble.  He’s still taking his 12% cut though.  So why wear the badge if you’re not going to be the person it that it represents?

Isn’t it odd that many people aspire to win the coveted title of ‘Manager’ but when they eventually realize their goal they become the most ignorant and worthless operators who struggle to acknowledge their past ambitions let alone recognize the individuals that make up their team or department or organization?

It amazes me that people operating under this umbrella-title so often relinquish their responsibilities so soon after acquiring them.  You would think that they’d throw themselves into the role.  After all, they’ve waited for it long enough.  They’ve supposedly worked hard for it.  Yet once they’ve had the title bestowed upon them too many will duck and dive; seek to blame others and generally act totally irresponsibly.

The thing is...  The title ‘Manager’ is supposed to mean something.  Look it up in any dictionary and you’ll see that the title infers some form of higher level of responsibility, accountability and authority.

I know of an Accountant that was particularly good at his job.  So much so that he was placed in-charge of the firm’s Accounts Department.  Problem was, the Accounts Department contained people; and he was now in-charge of them too.  Clearly this was another challenge that he would be able to take in his stride because he was such a great Accountant. 

Wrong!  Totally wrong!

So the point here is two-fold:   

First, if you’re an aspiring manager (or you may already hold this title) then please remember what it means to be a Manager.  I don’t mean a systems manager or a manager of equipment but I mean a Manager of People.  There are expectations held by everyone that once they see your badge they assume and expect that you’re up for the job. It tells everyone that you are proficient as a Manager and more importantly that you give a damn. 

Secondly, if you’re considering promoting someone into a managerial role then you must consider their ability to manage others, otherwise it’s unfair on the Manager, the people that hope to be managed and you’ll end up looking like an idiot.

As ever, with best wishes in all that you do,


Monday, 13 June 2011

When Change can be as Good as a Rest

I attended my Mother in Law’s funeral last Friday.  It was a small, predictably sad affair with about 30 to 40 people in attendance.  After the Service, all of the guests came over to our house where we’d provided food and drink for all to help themselves.  As I mingled in and out of the small groups of people ensuring they all had food or something to drink I noticed how quickly their discussions had moved-on from what was the reason for the gathering to other things that were affecting their daily lives;  the weather, work, health, holidays; all those sorts of things.  It struck me how rapidly the matter in-hand; ie the life and demise of my Mother in Law appeared almost inconsequential.  I know that it wasn’t but, if an ‘outsider’ had just dropped by my house they would have been forgiven for not realising that it was a wake in process as it appeared more like a tea party.  It made me think.  It’s a cliché I know but life is short; so short that you’re almost forgotten as soon as you’ve departed. 
Now of course, I didn’t expect wailing and acts of self flagellation by the bereaved, but I guess it’s pretty much the same the world over.  Some will be of the opinion that we move on to a better place – so there’s really no need for sadness.  Others will just celebrate life and leave it at that.  But as I said, it did make me think, life IS TOO short!
And what will most of those who attended the funeral be doing next week?  Will the experience change anything for them?  Will they be at all motivated to seize the opportunities that we all have?  Or will they return to doing all the same things that they were moaning about; the weather, work, health, holidays, those sorts of things?
Opportunities come and go.  Most are probably lost or missed and we don’t take them for a number of reasons but mainly it’s because seizing an opportunity will undoubtedly lead to change.  And it’s having to commit to make that change that renders us immobile.  So why are we so resistant to improving our lives?  Fear of failure perhaps?  Too comfortable with what we’re doing?  Comfortable doing those things that make us unhappy so that we can all tell each other how much work and life sucks whenever we get the opportunity at a social gathering.
Review your opportunities before it’s too late.  Because, life is too short and because change can be as good as a rest.
With best wishes in all that you do,



Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Who are your key stakeholders?

You’d probably take a moment to think of your most valued customers, your senior management teams or the client that you’re currently trying to convince to come on-board.  And of course, you’d be right. 

However, our true key stakeholders are the people that perform within your organisation on a daily basis without whom you’d have nothing.

It’s all too easy to take people for granted.  Especially those with whom we have no daily direct contact with.  After all, they should be happy to have a job in the first place right?


If you take your workforce for granted then you’ll lose them.  Just like in any tired relationship which becomes mundane and routine.  There’s no spark, no meaningful level of interest, no passion.  You’ll soon be sleeping in separate rooms leading separate lives and begin to view each other as more of a hindrance than a help.  Without action, the relationship fizzles out to nothing other than the embers that were once the source of energy that fed the fire and kept the relationship alive.   But it might be dying and you may not have noticed.

We’re all busy.  We’re busy running the business, the departments, the workflows and schedules.  We’re busy securing deals or making new things to sell or promote.  We’re busy attending meetings that waste hours and only ever produce minutes; minutes that no one reads because they’re all too busy.  Busy being busy!

I’m no time-management specialist.  In truth, I was once embarrassingly late for a time management course!  But we should all make time for our people; for those that are working hard on our behalf.  It doesn’t have to be a long drawn-out process.
One of the most effective people I once had the valuable opportunity to shadow was a Colonel in the French Air Force.  I followed him around each morning as he personally met every member of his team and shook their hand.  He knew all of them on a personal level.  He knew where they lived, if they were married, the names of their children and the football teams that they supported.  And their reaction to him was the same.  They were visibly lifted at the start of their day.  The atmosphere was warm and reciprocal.  You just knew that their bond with their Boss was on a far deeper level than the usual leader/follower relationship.  And you knew that they’d all go that extra mile for him if he ever had to ask them to.  It was an enlightening experience and one that has stuck with me – despite me being a mere bystander very much on the periphery at the time.  I spoke with him before I left the Air Base.  I told him that was hugely impressed by the way he operated.  He told me that he had once been in the command of an officer that used to act the same way; and that it had left him with an impression of how to act whenever he reached a level in the military where he would command large groups of people.  He said that he only had a few weeks left to serve in the Air Force and that he was retiring.  This revelation impressed me further as it told me that there was no hidden agenda in his MO. 

There was nothing that any of his people could do for him now that he was leaving yet he still afforded each one of them the time to ask how they were and was genuinely interested in their wellbeing.

“I’m far too busy to walk around shaking hands with everyone that works for me” you might say.  If that’s the case, then why not select a few key influencers who may learn from your example and start doing the same?  It’s well known that good behaviour can breed good behaviour.

We can all make time for important clients, meetings and calls.  We’re all very busy being very busy.  But if the outcome from one of your meetings requires your people to work extra hard for you; then they’re more likely to accept the situation if they know you’re on-side.

Never be too busy to engage on a regular and meaningful basis with your true key stakeholders.

Wishing you the very best in all that you do,