Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Academic snobbery? It's really not that clever!

My school report card was fairly predictable.  ‘Must try harder’ and ‘easily distracted’ was written with regular monotony.  I was always told that I was capable but lacked the capacity to concentrate or that I possessed the inclination to pay only so much as a blind bit of notice.  Of course, it would be easy to fire-up the blame thrower and point it in the direction of the sub-standard tuition.  Or I could blame my divorced parents and the fact that I’d been brought up single-handedly by my widowed Grandmother who cleaned for other people in her spare time.  But in truth, that would be a kop out.  The reality is that I was nothing other than bored.  

In the late 1970s and early 1980s only the really clever kids stayed on at school.  Most of my friends left as soon as they could to pursue employment in the local factory assembly lines and such like.  I had become a burden on my poor old Grandmother and on one of his rare visits, my Father told me that I was to leave home and join the Military; and the prospect of distancing myself even further away from him was too great a temptation, so for the first and last time ever; I took his advice and signed my life away.  Thirteen weeks after my formal education ceased and without taking any examinations, I stepped on a train at the age of sixteen and left my small Welsh hometown to start my Military career, which little did I know at the time, was to span over the next 28-years.

I loved the sense of belonging I got in my first few months of being in the Military.  It was something that I had never experienced before.  It didn’t matter how clever you were or where you came from - we were all in the same boat.  All of us were equal.  Or equally as dumb as each other as our Corporal would enthusiastically remind us on a daily basis.  But I didn’t mind that.  In fact, the more junior you were the greater the license you had to be dumb. It was expected.  They’d pretty much catered for it.

But over time I began to notice a difference.  Those that had done well in school and university were given a commission – they were the Officers.  As a rule, Officers and their men (and women) did not mix.  Relationships were very superficial; a series of transactional incidences that gave no insight into real personalities.  There was a difference between us.  An ‘us and them’ existence.  But it was okay.  Until you were treated unfairly purely on the back of your limited educational achievements – or for not having any in my case.  This was my first exposure to Academic snobbery and I thought it was largely un-necessary.  I knew even then that having a string of academic qualifications did not necessarily mean that you knew what made people ‘tick.’  And at times it appeared that the more one had achieved in the world of academia; the more obnoxious one could become.

Clearly what was lacking were displays of empathy, understanding, communication and the awareness of others.  Snobbery built up resentment.  There were however, a lot of Officers that weren’t like that.  The decent Officers.  They’d afford you the time of day and appeared genuinely interested in what you had to say because they respected your experience and understood your frustration.  And often, it was these ‘good’ Officers that held the lion’s share of academic qualifications.  These were the Leaders that you’d follow.  Because they’d shown an interest.  You may have complained to them about a previous matter such as lack of equipment or because someone in command was being especially uncooperative, and these guys (these really clever guys) had it fixed for you.  And in doing so they’d won your trust.  You were now prepared to follow them, risk your life for them – because they were emotionally intelligent.

As a trainer, I like to start off my Emotional Intelligence classes with a simple yet effective test.  I ask half of the class to think of someone with whom they have come into contact at some point in their lives that had left an indelible positive impression on them.  A role model if you will.  Conversely, I ask the second half of the class to think of someone who had left a similarly powerful but negative impression.  A word of warning here, you have to be cautious because it’s usually easier for people to bring back those negative ghosts and forget about the role models.  I guess its human nature that we’re more likely to remember and recall bad experiences over good ones.  So the session can get quite heated if not controlled adequately.  There’s a lot of stirring of old emotions.  But what’s interesting is the end result.  I always find that the characteristics of the positive role model example are all intrinsically linked to high levels of emotional intelligence.  This exercise tells the participants exactly what emotional intelligence is all about better than any drawn-out descriptive statement from a textbook.  You should try the exercise for yourself.  There will be two key things to take away from it.  The first is how not to behave.  The second rather predictably is how to behave.

How can we become more emotionally intelligent?  Well, my answer would be to visualise your positive role model and take their lead.  Always think of the consequences of what you do and say.  Think of the impact you are having on others and change elements of your behaviour that you know are negative or even destructive.  For some it’s a constant battle but over time it becomes second-nature.

One of the greatest accolades I could ever wish for is for someone in the audience to immediately think of me as their positive role model.  To think of me as the person that had made a positive, indelible impression on their life.   

How great that would be? 

Imagine how you would feel if they all thought of you!

In truth, it's not how smart you are.  It’s how you are smart that really matters.

With very best wishes,


Sunday, 27 March 2011

Lovely weather we're having!

Here in the UK we’ve been blessed with a few days of what we Brits would describe as ‘good weather’. By ‘good’ I’m talking no rain with highs reaching a whopping 14 degrees Celsius!  Blessed indeed!

But, what I did notice during this mini-heat wave was the almost tangible lift in people’s mood.  Co-workers appeared happier in their work and were more willing to offer their help to those that requested it.  And this positivity wasn’t just confined to the workplace.  People out walking their dogs or taking their children to and from school were more likely to acknowledge your ‘Good Morning’ or ‘Good Afternoon’ whereas when I’d tried to engage them when the weather was miserable; they appeared, well, miserable too.

So what is it about the weather that gives us this psychological lift?   I’m sure there’s a plethora of well informed research out there and frankly, I’m not about to access it now.  I think you’ll know exactly where I’m coming from and will have your own theories on the subject.  But my point to all this is the search for the answer to the following question:

How can we create this positive psychological outlook irrespective of the weather conditions?

Employers have a duty to nourish and care for their workforce.  Irrespective if the workforce is a group of office-based administrators or a team of manual workers employed in a quarry.  The so-called ‘psychological contract’ (which will be discussed in a future blog entry) is vitally important to employee engagement – but there is something we can all do at an individual level that can produce the same results as you might expect during the sunniest of days.  

And that is the ‘pay-it-forward’ principle.

It’s my understanding that the ‘pay-it-forward’ principle relies on the goodwill of someone to first do something at their personal cost for someone whom they have probably never even met.  In carrying out this good deed the process begins so that the beneficiary is compelled to do something worthwhile for someone else and so-on and so-forth.  Eventually, with everyone in a perpetual state of ‘paying it forward’, the reward will come back to the originator – and maybe just at the time that he or she really needs it. 

How does this help bring about a positive frame of mind and create a happy disposition?   

Well, theoretically in paying-it-forward not only will you feel good about helping others but you know that someday it will be your turn to be on the receiving end of someone else’s care, consideration and generosity.

I don’t know about you but I am a believer in what goes around come around – to some extent anyway.  

Creating a pay-it-forward culture in business means getting people to give something up on a promise that they’ll get something back (one day) in return.   

Can it be done?

Who knows?

Try it for this coming week.  Pay it forward and see what the results bring.   

I’d love to know.

With very best wishes and good luck in all that you do.

Saturday, 26 March 2011


So, this is the first blog post...

Is it a post or an entry?

I wonder how many blogs have started off with the Author (or should I now say Blogger?) writing those same first words; or words like them?

I guess I should write something witty or mesmeric just to keep your attention.  But I don’t know of anything witty or mesmeric to say right now.

I could tell you why I decided to start a blog.  I’m in the process of exploring social media – not in any professional capacity; just because I think I should.  I’m a bit of an IT technophobe.  I was initially looking at using Word Press as a platform for the blog but couldn’t figure out how to activate it!   

That’s how IT hopeless I am.  

Anyway, I like to write, although I’m no Wordsmith.  I like to talk; that’s why I enjoy presenting and lecturing.  I have lots of questions and not many answers.  I know lots of stuff but should really know much more.  I’m embarrassed about not knowing about the things I should know.  Like, how an engine works, the rules of cricket, what the Dow Jones really is and which golf club to use.

So, this is a start.  I needed to write something to commit myself to the blog – otherwise there was a very real danger of it just sitting out there somewhere in the ether with all the other orphaned blogs that seemed like a good idea at the time.

The next entry/post will have more substance to it.  I promise that much.  

 In the mean time, good luck in all that you do.