Category Archives: Glorious News

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Wanted: Over-ambitious control freak to run a business

The person we are looking for will possess amply developed non-verbal communication skills, for example they will be able to demonstrate a broody, glowering presence, highly suggestive of their own superiority.

If you are the ideal candidate, it will be immediately apparent to your colleagues why you have been appointed when you take a metaphorical leak in the corner of the room whilst attending any meeting that isn’t your own.  Territory marked, the right individual for this role will then, and only then, let the meeting commence (whilst turning their attention to their e-mails).

To succeed in this role, you will be able to delegate like the only thing that your staff have to do in life is serve you, and to casually trivialize the size and complexity of the tasks that you give them to perform.

Suitable candidates will tell lies to make themselves look better, stronger, and more interesting, and will also be uncommonly gifted in the art of making pronouncements from above – when it’s direction that’s needed.

Unable to realise that this is no way to get your mother to notice you, you will occasionally mess with your employees’ minds by telling them that you only put on a strong face because you’re so insecure.

Key to success once in role will be changing narratives like the wind whilst flicking imaginary specks of lint off your clothes – smoting insignificance.  Inscrutable, joyless and patronizing most of the time, you will occasionally let your guard down ever so slightly outside of work (just to mess with your employees’ minds some more).

You will also have extensive experience of motivating staff by skillfully deflecting their objections with dogma and cocksure pronouncements.  Over a period of time, during which you will take anything controversial ‘offline’, and often tell others what it was that they meant to say, your disapproval of contradiction will become manifestly apparent.

Of course, it’s all an illusion of control, and the number of things that can’t be controlled far outweigh those that can, which means that the ideal candidate will succeed in one thing and one thing only – holding others and themselves back.

The only thing the newly appointed candidate will not have control over is their own emotional state when they feel that they are losing control.

The successful individual will appear very impressive at interview, bearing themselves authoritatively, and holding forth with gravitas and composure.  They will be eminently qualified, smart and engaging, temporarily swapping out their ambition for humility, and their control freakery for deference.  We only expect them to turn into an Inadvertent Saboteur® when they start in role.

Because, in all seriousness, this candidate will, at heart, be a good person, who means well, and is guilty of nothing more than misfiring ambition and a catastrophic lack of self-awareness.

 

Interested in what you have heard so far? Please contact Samantha Coleman on

+447717 424978 or email sam@itsagloriousday.co.uk

Subscribe to Laurence Coen’s blogs at:

http://www.itsagloriousday.co.uk/blog/

 

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“It turns out that it was my tendency to try and over control things that was holding the entire business back.  No one knew how to tell me this, and I didn’t know how to hear it.  Thankfully, my HRD forced me and the rest of the Board to go on this programme, where my inadvertent sabotage was hilariously and brilliantly brought to life by Laurence and his team.”

Glorious Day client at the end of a 6-month, Commercial Breakthrough programme (reference available)

 

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Slackers, bad eggs and idiots apply here

As it also goes with politicians, friends and customers, so it goes with staff: you set about it long enough, you get what you deserve.

And ‘what you deserve’ means what you actually deserve, not what you think you deserve as you survey the world through the arrow hole of the turret in your mind (as I used to, and, often, still do.)

In which case you might as well put up a sign outside your building that reads:

 

“SLACKERS, BAD EGGS AND IDIOTS APPLY HERE”

 

I have struggled to find the right staff for the many years in which I have been running my own business, and it was only a couple of years ago that I realised that my 80% failure rate in this area was down to ‘me’, not ‘them’.  Half of my bad hires should never have been hired in the first place – they were, in hindsight, patently bad fits with my own values and the culture of Glorious Day.  The other half could have worked, but I turned them against me by doing the following:

– Giving them derisory labels in my mind, e.g., ‘bad egg,’ ‘slacker,’ ‘idiot’, ‘me + them’

– Sharing these derisory labels with other staff

– Ranting periodically (rather than providing regular, small amounts of feedback)

– Making allowances for poor performance.

 

If you are doing any of these things, then, chances are, you too will wonder why you are surrounded by idiots; whilst your staff are all wondering why they are led by one.

 

Subscribe to Laurence Coen’s blogs at:

http://www.itsagloriousday.co.uk/blog/

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“When something went wrong, I used to sway between blaming myself or blaming others.  It was quite a binary thing.  After the Inadvertent Saboteur® programme however, I no longer think in terms of blame, but in terms of how a lack of self-awareness caused a well-intentioned person to sabotage a plan.”

Glorious Day client at the end of a 6-month, Commercial Breakthrough programme (references available)

 

 

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meeting rage

Meeting Rage

“I thought they were my colleagues,” Bev Gardner’s scream escaped from a body flattened by restraining straps onto a trolley stretcher, wheeled at speed from the soaring glass building towards an ambulance, all flashing lights, static and frantic activity.  “They looked like colleagues!  I thought that’s what they were!”  That was the last we heard of her as the orange and white doors slammed shut behind the disappearing stretcher.

Speaking to Brian Glazer, one of Bev’s so called colleagues, I got his version of events.  “The meeting was going fine.  And then, all of a sudden, we were all laying into Bev as she tried to take us through this particular agenda item.  None of us saw it coming.  And now, we’ve said things that can’t be taken back.  And Bev is in a straitjacket in the back of an ambulance.”

“What was the agenda item?” I enquired.

“Bev was proposing improvements to the way we run our weekly team meetings.”

“And was there any preamble, any pre-reads or consultation, or a bit of a brainstorm to test the water?”

“No, she just rocked up and told us how we should be behaving.”

I grimaced.  Bev had been playing with fire: proposing to a large, senior group, to their faces and without perceived just cause, that they should change their behaviour was a bullseye topic for meeting rage.  It was astonishing that the agenda item had even been allowed to go ahead in the context of the government ban on behavioural change programmes in organisations, imposed recently to preserve capitalism as we know it.

“How did you get the agenda item past the authorities?”

“I’ve got no idea,” replied Brian, “I think Bev may have pulled some strings.  She’s quite an influential person.”

“You mean she thought she could handle it?”

Brian thought about this, and then continued, “Well, it doesn’t sound that difficult, does it: ‘let me propose to you all how we could run our weekly meetings more effectively’?  It’s something that every reasonable person wants.  And yet, somehow, when you’re faced with someone suggesting that you could behave better, sitting there right in front of you and actually saying it, you feel this strange sensation inside your chest and your gall bladder, and suddenly…”  At this point, Brian seemed to break down.  I think it was genuine.  “…And suddenly,” he picked up the thread again, “this vitriolic sentence is flying across the room full speed at Bev who doesn’t stand a chance, she can’t get out of the way.  And you realise that you’re the one who threw it.”

Brian looked down at his shoes, and, at that moment there was no doubt in my mind that his remorse was genuine.  Nor, looking down with him, was there any doubt in my mind either that the shoes in question were custom-fit Milanese loafers.  I tried to resist the tug of my inner judge – just because the guy was wearing a £400 pair of shoes with a tassle on the tongue did not mean he was incapable of experiencing remorse for a colleague.

“At what point did you realise that Bev was in trouble?”

“Well, I think I’d sensed it from the very beginning, when Bev put up an infographic that listed good meeting behaviours and everyone seemed to go cold.  But it was only when security burst in and locked down the room that I realised fully.”

“What was on the infographic?”

“Oh, really obvious, helpful stuff like, you know, no phones, no interruptions, attack the idea not the person, silence equals agreement, you know the kind of thing.”

“So, instead of agreeing with her proposal and moving on, you proceeded to exhibit most of the bad behaviours that Bev was suggesting you try to avoid?”

Brian, baffled by this contradiction, nodded his head reluctantly.

We were now at the irrational, logic-defying heart of the meeting rage phenomenon: the force of the reaction is rarely justified by the topic in question.  The topic in question, always behavioural and involving new ways of working, seems to act as a conduit to a well of pent up emotions.  When this well is opened, intelligent, reasonable people suddenly lose the ability to act intelligently or reasonably.  Or even to follow simple, helpful instructions.  “Was Bev the best person to make this proposal?” I asked.

“Not at all,” said Brian, “when she put up the infographic I think we all thought, ‘what a rip off!’  Bev is the worst offender when it comes to using her phone during meetings, and she has an annoying habit of speaking down to us like she knows best.”

“Does she know that you think this about her?”

“I doubt it.  I have never told her.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know.”

“Are you afraid of her?”

“Of course not!” and, as Brian shot back this denial, I felt like I’d had a glimpse of what Bev must have faced in that meeting room.

But I pressed on, “Does Bev have redeeming features, or is she difficult in every respect?”

“Well, she is very protective of her team, and she comes to the aid of others if she feels that they are under pressure.  And she’s off-the-charts smart.”

“And where was her phone today?”

Brian thought about this, “Nowhere to be seen.”

“So, perhaps she was aware of her own hyprocrisy as she was making the presentation?  Perhaps this was her own new beginning as well?  Perhaps you should have given her a little more respect, or at the very least just pointed out that it was difficult for you to listen to her recommend a code of behaviour that she struggles to live up to herself?  Doesn’t all of this make her, in fact, the best person to make this presentation?”

“Perhaps,” was all Brian could offer in response, “but that’s easy for you to say.”  And I realised that he had suddenly lost interest in our conversation.  And sure enough, a second later, out came the phone, and Brian was checking messages.

In this, as in all other cases of meeting rage that I have witnessed, no one was blameless.  Yet one person was in a straitjacket, and another was standing here in loafers checking his e-mails.  They are a woman down, and nothing has changed.

As a way of solving a team’s problems, and getting the best out of the human resource that makes up our economy at a time like this when our economy needs all the help it can get, there has to be a better way than meeting rage.

 

 

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“Our inability to have consistently open and honest conversations with each other was a major barrier to productivity and quality decision making.  We introduced the concept of ‘straight talk’ and provided feedback mechanisms and training, but it didn’t really work because people were still hesitant to speak their mind, or if they did pluck up the courage to speak out, it almost always seemed to cause some kind of fall out.  Then we tried the Inadvertent Saboteur approach, and it’s been liberating.”

Glorious Day client that used to suffer frommeeting rage’ (references available)

 

 

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Telling tall tales in a tie (or trouser suit)

A businessman is having breakfast when one of his children looks up from their cereal with widening eyes and asks, “What’s that spotty thing strangling you, Dad?”

No, our hero hadn’t been attacked by a boa constrictor: he was going for a job interview.

The job interview.  That little cocoon of altered reality we share with the interviewer and little else of the known universe.  Where we get rewarded for hamming up our strengths, stretching the truth to breaking point, and, with faux-humility, admitting to tiny frailties that actually enhance our flattering self-portrait.

Where we laugh indulgently with the interviewer at the follies of others, and at the absurdity of organisational behaviour, as if we somehow exist on an island of sanity apart from all that nonsense.

And engage in a playful dance of niceties that comes nowhere near the tension and frustration of the moments in the job (that we’re applying for) that will actually define our effectiveness.

All an interview really calibrates is our ability to tell tall tales in a tie (or trouser suit.)

I know, I know, I know: often there’s more to a selection process than interviews – like testing, profiling and assessment centres.  But how close do these processes really come to bringing to life the organisational edges upon which the new appointee will trip – poor decision-making, inefficient meetings, parochialism and status-consciousness?  How will the new hire respond to what their boss is really like – fair-minded and empowering, or a controller who deals poorly with challenge (neither style, by the way, is without its downside)?

This year’s shiny new thing becomes next year’s damaged goods because both the candidate and the hiring organisation squeeze themselves into a tie (or trouser suit) that they wouldn’t normally wear, and cannot re-adjust when they don’t recognise each other six months down the line.

To remedy this situation, we can start by insisting that all those who are involved in the selection process receive training – interviewing, like management, seems to be a skill that we often assume everyone is born with.

Next, we can ensure that all selection processes somehow replicate the dysfunctionalities of our particular organisation.  Like getting the candidate to prepare a presentation for their next interview at the last minute – see what they come up with in the time available, and, more importantly, if they respond to the imposition of an unreasonable deadline as a challenge or an affront.

And my third suggestion for now (to avoid misfiring hires) is this: rather than treating your new recruits with kid gloves for the first three months after they join, put them under as much pressure as you can.  Within reason of course, but there’s a case to be made for allowing your new recruits to make as many mistakes as possible (the best way to learn) whilst it’s still okay to make them.

Unless there’s already one out there that I’ve failed to notice, I think I might set up a ‘real world’ recruitment agency – Inadvertent Saboteur® recruitment services, here we come!

 

 

I have an entirely new perspective, one that allows me to view my Inadvertent Saboteur as a colleague. Whereas before I may have just given up, I now feel I can work with my ‘little helper’, and find solutions together.  As a direct result of this, my business is now on a new commercial trajectory!

Feedback from a participant currently attending a Glorious Day, 6-month commercial breakthrough programme (feat. the Inadvertent Saboteur®)

 

Because we can still be so much better at business

 

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The Fearless Post

To fear is human.  It’s mandatory.  We need fear to survive.  It drives us.  It’s incredibly powerful.

A force this strong is impossible to hide.  However smart the suit, strong the cologne, savvy the jargon, offhand the manner, big the car, steely the gaze, or jutting the lower jaw.  What we think we are keeping locked away in our own, personal, fear chamber is actually on display for everyone else to see at work.  Because it ends up twisting our behaviour out of shape as we try to keep it hidden.

We hide our fear because we think that fear has no place in business – because business is a logical undertaking, requiring a strong hand, a firm will, and decisiveness.

However, to fear is human, it’s mandatory, we need fear to survive.  Fear exists, so, to pretend it doesn’t is neither logical, nor sound, nor likely to contribute to effective decision making or the appearance of strength.  In short, to deny fear is to suppress your own humanity.

It may have been okay in the past, pre-2008, buoyed up by ever-rising markets, not to worry about this sort of thing.  After all, it’s not easy – embracing your humanity as a leader means that you have to do that most difficult of things, and, in full view of your colleagues, rise above your contradictions.  But, as growth in the marketplace gets harder and harder to come by, staff satisfaction more and more of an imperative, and social and environmental concerns increasingly pressing, it’s entirely possible that we will all have to learn how to leave the confines of our fear chambers in order to become fit for purpose leaders for this century.  Whilst it’s safe in there, if you stay in your chamber, you’ll never experience the exhilaration of passing out into the fearless world, where you can achieve all of your achievements, and fail all of your failures.

And that journey starts by working out what it is that you are afraid of in the first place.  Of being overlooked, left out, misunderstood, not needed, not wanted, unfairly judged, undervalued, not smart enough?  Unsuccessful?  Fired?

For me it was fear of being wrong.  Only recently have I learnt to lead without having to be right all the time – not that I was right all the time, and in trying to cover my tracks I often made a fool of myself.

Whatever your fear, everyone around you can already see it, so the idea of keeping it hidden is vaguely absurd.

And whatever your fear, letting it drive your behaviour is what got you this far, but it won’t necessarily be what takes you all the way.

Do you want to pour your talents into avoiding failure, or achieving success?

Do you want to leave all your ships in the harbour, and never set sail, because at least you’re sure that they won’t sink there?

Or, do you want to re-define your relationships with your colleagues, but this time, for real?  Having stepped out from your fear chamber into the fearless world, where you can achieve all of your achievements, and fail all of your failures.

Feedback after a Fearless Organisation speech made by Laurence in 2015:

“The inadvertent saboteur methodology provided a simple and clear model for understanding basic psychological defense mechanisms and how they slow down change. And I appreciated that the presentation was with so much humour!”

 

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Fearless in our underpants

I recently read this brilliant introduction to one of James Atkins’ blogs, on his wonderful, www.thebustard.com: ‘There is a scene in Bertolt Brecht’s play, The Life of Galileo, where the Pope is getting dressed.  Whilst still in his underwear, he is sympathetically disposed towards the heretical, Italian astronomer.  By the time he has his papal robes on, however, the Pope is ready to allow the Inquisitor to show Galileo the instruments of torture.’

Now, my blog is not going to turn into an exposition on the virtues of going to work in our underpants, because that would be ridiculous.  Not to mention, impractical.  Distracting.  And, most importantly of all, unimpressive.  I don’t mean, ‘unimpressive’ in terms of bulges in all the wrong places (speaking for myself here, before any of you take offence), but unimpressive in terms of my wannabe serious blogger/business commentator kudos points that I’m so desperately trying to accrue…

Hold on a second…

No, I’m sorry, but scrub that.

An exposition of the virtues of going to work in our underpants is exactly what this blog is going to turn in to.

Because in our underpants we are human, and what business needs more than anything else right now, IMHO, is more humanity.

What’s my case for business needing more humanity?  Well, we’ve done pretend management to death, where, instead of trying to rise above our contradictions in the workplace, we pretend we don’t have any.  Where we pretend to know things even when we don’t, and to have done things that we haven’t.   Where we say things not so as to be true to ourselves, but because we think we should say them.  Where we get things done at any cost.  Where we go through the motions of whatever ritual we think needs playing out to survive the meeting.  To get through the day.  And I’m not saying that every business is stuck in this Fear Chamber, but I’ve seen so many that are, that I’m comfortable with my generalisations on this occasion.

And, economically speaking, pretend management has worked.  And maybe we didn’t know any better.  And don’t speak ill of what you are, Laurence.

But in many ways, pretend management has not been kind to us: look at the toll that business activity has taken on the environment, look at the numbers of employees claiming to be unhappy, look at the alarming, recent, rise in the incidence of stress at work.

So, I think that the world of typical, management practice (not the intent, but the practice) does need saving from itself, and that more humanity is the means to achieve that.  And then, once humanity has saved business, business will return the favour and save humanity.  Because it’s only when business people, with their tenacity, ingenuity and vast numbers, decide to repay their debt to this planet’s ecosystem and natural resources, that we will mobilise fully to address the imminent environmental catastrophe that is global warming.

And it all starts by being fearless in our underpants.

I hope there are easier ways, and please feel free to suggest them below, but if that’s what it took to take myself a little less seriously and let my humanity shine through in the workplace, I’d go to work in my underpants any day of the week.*

 

*Er…obviously, in summer only, and, er, only if I was absolutely on tip-top form, and certain that the rest of you were going to do the same.  And if I didn’t have an important meeting, or a new business pitch that day…I’m sure you understand.  But I truly believe in this idea.  No, I really do…

 

And if you like the idea that real influence lies within easy reach of the semi naked, check out Nick Hilditch’s brilliant, World leaders in their underpants, at http://nickhilditch.com/world-leaders-in-their-underpants/ But if you like his work, you can’t engage Nick, because he’s all mine.  He drew the Inadvertent Saboteur®, he drew that brilliant caricature of Pope Benedict XVI at the top of this blog, and he draws all my cartoons for me, and so he’s mine, mine.  Mine.  All mine.

 

Subscribe to Laurence Coen’s blogs at:

http://www.itsagloriousday.co.uk/blog/

©2015 Glorious Day Limited.  All rights reserved.

falsefamiliarity

To learn to learn (Part 1)

I rolled out a client service improvement programme across an entire organisation once, without ever meeting the trainees.

The training rooms I stood at the front of were full of people with client service roles in the company that had engaged me, but that was where the trail seemed to go cold.

At the beginning of each session, like a good trainer, I’d try and establish relevance.   So, I’d ask the delegates if they saw a need for improving client service.   If I was lucky, and I mean really quite lucky, one of them would actually say something.

Something, yes, but rarely confirming relevance.  Here’s a typical example: ‘Yes, I understand the need for periodic improvement, but as long as I’m in here listening to you, I’m not actually providing any of my clients with a service, am I?’

A small, incredulous part of me, that I’ve since learnt to suppress, would, at this point, say something like, ‘Not five minutes have passed, and already the gloves are off?’

But trying to tackle the resistance in a direct fashion was never going to achieve anything.  Nor would diffusing the resistance slowly have been effective, in my opinion – even had there been sufficient time for this.  Because the gloves had never been on.  There was something in that company’s culture that made it acceptable for this to happen.  Something in their corporate DNA that made it okay for someone to toss away the first comment of the day on a nullification of the day.

Then we’d go through the training session, and, at the end of the day, once again – only if I was having a good one, a delegate would acknowledge the usefulness of this content for someone who actually needed client service training.  As if there might be such people out there who required such a thing.  But the sub-text was clear: whoever these people are, I am most definitely not one of them.

By the time I got to the final session of the programme, a small, naïve part of me, that I’ve since learnt to suppress, was really excited, thinking that, finally, by some incredible coincidence, all the people in this company who actually needed some help with client service improvement would be there with me, in the same room, on the same day.

Like I said: a small, naïve part of me, that I’ve since learnt to suppress…

 

None of the delegates I met during that training programme, I can guarantee, turned up with the intention of learning precisely nothing.  None of them sat in their cars, on their trains, on their bikes the morning of their training, thinking, ‘Today, I’m going to waste the company’s money…Today, I will become a beacon of indifference.  Today, I will close my mind to learning.’

None of them.  I guarantee it.

So, what on Earth was going on?

The most fundamental question had not been asked, that’s what.  Namely, does our organisational culture permit learning?  Does it encourage our people to open their minds to at least evaluate new ideas – rather than instantly rejecting them, just because they are new?  In short: do we know how to adopt new behaviours – as individuals even, let alone en masse?  And, if so, under what conditions?  In homogenous groups, thrown into an unfamiliar, ‘soft skills’ improvement environment, with a punchy, external training provider, in some formula, hotel conference centre?  Really?

Before asking, ‘What are our L&D requirements this year?’, we must all consider the shocking possibility that the answer might be one, single, requirement, without which all the effort, struggle and investment are meaningless: to learn to learn, and to develop to develop.

More anon.

 

Subscribe to Laurence Coen’s blogs at:

http://www.itsagloriousday.co.uk/blog/

©2015 Glorious Day Limited.  All rights reserved.

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“The Inadvertent Saboteur” by Rouji Begum-Arnold

It is always a great experience when you have worked with and helped someone and they take the time to thank you in their own way.  Thank you for the lovely words Rouji!

 

 

“The Inadvertent Saboteur” by Rouji Begum-Arnold

”We have all come across Saboteurs in our lives, right from an early age when your little brother decides to use your shoe as a doorstop (innovative on his part!) to colleagues at work who take your prints to save them time leaving you to fix the printer problems.  But, we all have Saboteurs within ourselves too.  These come from our inner strengths that backfire when we are most under pressure.  For example if it was down to me Rome would be built in a day, as my Saboteur is “Rod of Iron Rouji”.  In the meantime there will be no people to populate my city as most of them have run off scarred, leaving me unsuccessful in my objective.  Yes, I have created a city but not one that anyone wants to live in.

So, as a Business Leader how do I become effective in progressing our business to its full potential right here, right now, whilst keeping my “Inadvertent Saboteur” in check?

Well – you go to this guy: http://www.itsagloriousday.co.uk/the-inadvertent-saboteur/

Unlike other courses where you come away forgetting about what strategy you agreed on let alone applying any of it to your business, this presenter, Laurence Coen, actually teases you into action straight away, and all done in the most blunt and charismatic way that anyone can talk to us Business Leaders!”

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/inadvertent-saboteur-rouji-begum-arnold-fcca

 

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Mindful the gap – how one, new word can change your life!

Speaking as someone who wants to continue to rush around with my headset on AND be more mindful, I have invented a new verb.

I urge you to stop reading now if you are in any way queasy about change, as this one is very ingenious, and there are certain things that will never look or sound the same to you again once it gets under your skin.

You still with me?  Right, here it comes: TO MINDFUL.

It means, ‘To be careful not to miss the limited profundity/wisdom/natural beauty opportunity that’s under your nose right now, but won’t be for much longer,’ which can be shortened to, ‘Timebound profundity alert!’  Or, ‘Passing wisdom window!’   Or, ‘Ephemeral natural beauty moment.’  You get the picture…

Start by using it to replace the verb, ‘to mind,’ as in, ‘to watch out for.’  For example, imagine how much more fulfilling it would be every time you got off the underground train, if the announcer said, ‘Mindful the gap!’

Or, how different an experience it would be for your tall friend as they go down the stairs of your basement to hear you say, ‘Mindful your head!’

Next, as you sense your growing familiarity and appreciation of this new approach to gaining mindfulness, you should try using your new verb to replace, ‘to mind,’ as in, ‘to dislike.’

So, for example, instead of saying, ‘I mind the way that you slurp your soup,’ to your messy eating co-worker, try, ‘I mindful your slurping.’  See, how that softens the blow and opens up new avenues of insight for both of you?  One might even go as far as to say that you can already feel yourself finding something to love in the sound and motion of the soup borne lip-wards as tiny particles on the air of each intense inhale.

Now, for the doorway into mastery: commence the frequent exchange of other verbs with, ‘to mindful.’ For example, ‘Could you just mindful me that market share data, please?’

And, when you are fully accomplished, you can replace both, ‘to mind,’ and other verbs in the same sentence with your new toy – if this isn’t enough to transport you into a heightened state of awareness, I don’t know what is: ‘Would you mindful mindfulling me a sandwich when you mindful past the bakery at lunchtime, please?’

You think I’m joking?  Well, more like having fun writing this, but there is some merit in the suggestion – try it for yourself and see!

Read more of Laurence Coen’s blogs at:

http://www.itsagloriousday.co.uk/blog/

©2015 Glorious Day Limited.  All rights reserved.

How to deal with them

Empathy is a black hole

That cartoon was a little bit of wish fulfilment fantasy for anyone who has given, given, given, only to see others take, take, take.

What follows is the not entirely unrelated story of Sceptica and Empathic, friends, colleagues, rivals and opposites.  I hope you enjoy it…

 

 

Sceptica and Empathic decided to set themselves a light-hearted challenge to work out once and for all whose style was more effective: they would both organise a party, and the winner would be the one who performed best against a pre-determined metric.  They couldn’t agree on a single, definitive metric, however, so they went into the challenge with two metrics, one suggested by each of them.

 

Sceptica was reluctant to go first, so Empathic, fully understanding his friend’s position, took the plunge and set about organising a date for the party that best suited everyone’s needs, whilst engaging in a fairly in-depth consultation exercise as to what the theme for the party should be.  Six months later, exasperated, Empathic told everyone to, “Just come as you are, this Saturday night.”  Full of goodwill towards Empathic, loads of people showed up and had a great time.  The party was judged to have been a huge success afterwards by friends and co-workers alike, but no one was quite sure if the theme had been Eighties Glam or Victorian Parents.  As for Empathic, he was exhausted from the stress of the party’s long, drawn out organisation, and the emotional fatigue caused by his involvement in several, drink-fuelled heart to hearts during the party itself.

 

Still unsure about going ahead, but loyal to her friend and the bargain they had struck, Sceptica now commenced upon the organisation of her own party.  Always lacking conviction however, she only managed to get a few people along, and Sceptica’s party was an altogether more muted affair than Empathic’s overcrowded, emotion fest had been.  There was no doubt or uncertainty over the dress code however, since Sceptica unequivocally declared herself against fancy dress in all its forms from the outset.  “I don’t see the point,” was both the beginning and the end of her argument on this matter.

 

The two friends got together shortly after Sceptica’s party to decide who the winner was.  Empathic won hands down on his chosen metric of number of guests in attendance.  Sceptica, meanwhile, came home a clear victor on her chosen metric of time spent organising per guest attending.

 

They sat there in silence for a moment as the truth dawned that there was no winner – or, as Empathic preferred to say, that they had both won.

 

Then, causing Empathic to smile inside at his friend’s turns of phrase, Sceptica said, “What’s wrong with me is that I can strengthen a plan, because I can see all the reasons why it won’t work, but I can also kill potential with too much reality.  What’s wrong with you is that you bring people with you, but progress is always too slow, and the toll it takes on you is too great.  But what if we organised a party together?  I’ll lead the planning, but you can tell me when I’m ensuring mediocre outcomes with my why this or that will never work scenarios.  And you lead the implementation, but I’ll tell you when you’re getting sucked too far into other people’s dramas.  If that works, then we can organise something else together, but you can do the planning with my support, and I’ll lead the implementation with you at my side.”

 

Empathic loved his colleague’s suggestion, and they shook on the new deal.  More importantly, Empathic realised that this model could significantly reduce the strain he was feeling at work from getting too involved with the feelings and needs of others.

 

When Sceptica got promoted ahead of Empathic a few months later, Empathic was the first to congratulate his friend, and couldn’t believe it when he heard Sceptica’s acceptance speech.  Here’s what she said…

 

“You know, I’ve learnt something very important in the last few months.  Maybe the same is true of all opposites, but my specific realisation is that the deeper purpose of scepticism and empathy is to make each other work.  Scepticism, unchecked, is a black hole into which a team’s full power and potential can disappear, never to be seen again.  But empathy is a black hole too, into which many a well-intentioned manager has fallen, never to return.  The best way to make empathy fly is to form an alliance with scepticism.  And the best way to make scepticism fly…”

 

At this point, Sceptica seemed to hesitate, before stopping altogether.  Then she smiled, picked up a plastic cup from the water cooler, and proposed a toast to her friend, and inspiration, Empathic.

 

 

Read more of Laurence Coen’s blogs at:

http://www.itsagloriousday.co.uk/blog/

©2015 Glorious Day Limited.  All rights reserved.

albert-einstein-everybody-is-a-genius-but-if-you-judge-a-fish-by-its-ability-to

The perils of fish judging

Would you play your goal keeper at centre forward and then complain that they don’t score?

So, why do you complain when the visionary people in your team are unreliable?  When the analytical ones struggle to demonstrate emotional intelligence?  When the organised ones try to control you?  Seriously, what were you expecting?

Of course, you can’t tolerate a total absence of reliability, however visionary your visionary types.

And you wouldn’t be able to function if your analytical ones have no emotional intelligence whatsoever.  Nor if the organised types turn out to be obsessive control freaks.

So, reserve your judgement when it comes to the shadow side of your people’s strengths – every strength comes at a price, and whether or not that price is worth paying depends on how often you see the strength in action.  Focus too much on improving the shadow side, and you’ll cast yourself in the unpopular role of the referee trying to adjudicate over tree climbing competitions for fish.

Management theory encourages us to homogenise our team – so that everyone is merely competent at everything.  Enlightened managers, on the other hand, know that this is a recipe for frustration and under performance.  Enlightened managers, on the other hand, delegate in favour of an individual’s temperamental preferences, whilst offering support with an eye to that individual’s shadow side.

In short, enlightened managers love their people for their strengths, and view their weaknesses affectionately and supportively in light of this.

Unless the weakness in question is an unwillingness, or an inability, to learn.  In which case, at least as far as I’m concerned, judge away.  Complain loudly, and often.  This is the only unforgiveable one.

Read more of Laurence Coen’s blogs at:

http://www.itsagloriousday.co.uk/blog/

©2015 Glorious Day Limited.  All rights reserved.

The Perfection Paradigm

The Perfection Paradigm

 

Inadvertent cultural sabotage occurs when an otherwise positive aspect of a company’s culture legitimises poor followership at moments of change.  How could this be useful to you?  If you can identify the precise way in which your cultural strengths dig in to preserve the status quo, you stand a much better chance of working with those strengths to introduce new ways of working successfully.

 

‘Perfection Paradigm’ organisational cultures have taken the virtue of being smart and well prepared too far, to the point where it’s better to pretend to know an answer, or to look like you have something under control, rather than to admit to not knowing, or that a project is struggling.

In such cultures, it really does feel deeply unacceptable to say, “I don’t know,” to declare that some project or deal isn’t advancing to plan, to admit that that someone else might know better, or, heaven forbid, to utter the words, “I may have made a mistake.”

In business as usual situations, where projects are likely to be under control, answers known, and mistakes small, the positive impact of ‘Perfection Paradigm’ cultures on business performance is normally perceived to outweigh the negative aspects.

However, in business as usual at times of extreme pressure, or in any change situation, where, by definition, more is unknown, things are less under control, and mistakes more likely, ‘Perfection Paradigm’ cultures tend to encourage the curation and dissemination of staggering amounts of bullshit.  Bullshit has many downsides in the workplace that you don’t need me to remind you of, the one that’s relevant here is its detrimental impact on honesty, the rocket fuel of positive change.

The full list of unintended casualties of a backfiring ‘Perfection Paradigm’ culture is: objective evaluation (all projects are always going well), transparency (whatever is not going well needs to be hidden), and learning from mistakes (no one, in such cultures, ever makes any.)

 

The concept of inadvertent cultural sabotage underpins Glorious Day’s unique approach (The Inadvertent Saboteur®) to delivering culture change without the drama and cost you’d expect.  ‘Perfection Paradigm’ is just one example – we have identified more than thirty over the years, and a specific solution for each.

©2015 Glorious Day Limited.  All rights reserved.

School for advanced egg sucking

The Grannies’ School for Advanced Egg Sucking

When you are teaching granny to suck eggs, as the expression goes, do you really know what you’re talking about?

I mean, do you know what it really means to suck eggs, or why granny does it?

I didn’t, and, unable to tolerate my own hypocrisy any longer, I looked it up.

Apparently, it describes a practice in less fortunate times where a person would prick a hole in both ends of an egg, and then suck out its contents so as to preserve the shell.

What for, exactly, isn’t entirely clear, but perhaps it was to break it into tiny pieces to walk on, in the hope of adding further colour to the language of future generations?

It all got me wondering what us business types would attend an Advanced Egg Sucking seminar to learn. 

Here are my initial suggestions, please feel free to add, and, if any of them are any good, I promise to organise a webinar on the subject:

  1. How to receive suggestions for improvement (on obvious stuff) without getting offended.
  2. How to laugh uncontrollably (as opposed to keeping a straight face) when you, or one of your colleagues, is patently talking shit.
  3. How to throw open the doors of your mind to the possibility of improvement, as an unconditional, impulse response whenever you hear the following words in close proximity: ‘granny’, ‘egg’ and ‘suck.’ Lest, at a later date, it’s the obvious stuff that makes you choke.
handinpocket

Recruiter reports on the Inadvertent Saboteur aboard the Arcadia

Thanks to DeeDee Doke for her accurate reporting of the presentation that I made to a group of HR Directors and IT Directors, plus business owners from the personal investment management industry, as part of the Richmond Events conference aboard the Arcadia a couple of weeks ago.  Here is DeeDee’s article….

http://www.recruiter.co.uk/news/2015/05/let-go-of-your-inner-saboteur-to-move-on/