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Month: November 2009

Poetry to remind us that withdrawing doesn’t solve rejection

Is is easy to retreat from life

Barack Obama said of his natural father – he had difficult life because he did not reach out to people.

When times are difficult, we tend to retreat from the world.  When we are unpopular in the playground, we pick up our toys and go home.  Then we really have no one to play with us.  Do you know that people who are lost in the bush or surrounded by fire actually hide from their rescuers?  When times are bad, we may be tempted to hide.

We may be rejected but it will help us little to go this way

“I am learning to abandon the world
before it can abandon me.
Already I have given up the moon
and snow, closing my shades
against the claims of white.
And the world has taken
my father, my friends.”
By Linda Pastan, a new poet for me.
When we are out of sorts with the world, we must ask ourselves how we can change the conversation and fall in love with life again.
When we are feeling bruised, we might also remember “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver.  “You do not have to walk on your knees for 100 miles through the desert . .  You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves . . Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh, and exciting ~ over and over announcing your place in the family of things”.
UPDATE:  I’ve just found this old post and link to a tremendous poem on living with fear
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Laws are to control governments, not us

Everything is allowed unless it is expressly prohibited

It is my understanding that this is the basis of English law.  We will do what we want unless it is not allowed and the law prohibiting the action has been passed by Parliament.

Having said that, Britain is full of laws.  There can be 10 or 20 road signs in 100 meters.  Not surprisingly, they contradict each other.  It is not unusual to have “slow” within seconds of 50 mph.

Something has gone wrong but it is my understanding that the law is there to protect us from the State, not to protect the State from us.

English people seem to have a different idea

I was surprised by a question on Any Questions (BBC Radio 4) today.  The questioner asked how we can have a Bill that requires the national debt to be paid off in 4 years.  “Who would we prosecute if it wasn’t done?”, she asked.

The audience and panel agreed this Bill was a silly idea.

But why?  It rightly limits the role of the State. The law should limit what the State is able to do to us.

And who should we prosecute if the Act were not followed?  Any citizen could seek an administrative order instructing an official to act in terms of the Act.  Should the official not comply with a judicial order, they would go to jail for contempt of court.

When did law become a matter of telling us what to do?

When did law in the UK become a matter of punishing citizens?

The law tells officials what they may or may not do.  It leaves us alone!  And if you don’t get it, please walk down to your local bridge and look at the inevitable plaque commemorating the Civil War.  We fought for this.  Why are we giving it up?

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Personas: A hack used by professionals to imagine people they don’t know well

Shooting in the dark ~ I don’t know these people!

I want you to imagine any situation in which you are preparing to work with someone who you don’t know well.

  • You are going to hire someone and you must write an advert
  • You are going for a job interview
  • You are taking a new class
  • You are going to a party and your host is relying on you to get the party going
  • You are scouting for new business and you are all but cold calling

Personas

In any of the situations, it really helps to write a persona.

We write down a little story of where the person has come from and where they are going to.  How many children do they have?  Who is their partner? What is their immediate concern?  What are the values that have guided their choice in the past?

Sometimes the persona just won’t flow

Once we start writing, sometimes we realize that our expectations don’t hang together.  We can’t make the story “come together.”

That  is the real core of our sense that we don’t ‘know’ people.  We must be able to imagine a coherent story to be comfortable.

Use a character builder

When I get stuck, I find a “character builder” online, fill out the questionnaires, and resolve in my mind all the little details I expect about the person.

The version that I use suggests a Myers-Briggs profile.   It is very good for settling on one persona.

Once I have a coherent picture of someone, then I can imagine what I am going to love about them, and also what I am not going to like.

Here is the key to resolving my ‘stuckness.’  What will I not like about the person? Where must my approach change to be reasonable?

Once I’ve got past this point, I can complete the scenario and write a few more, including scenarios of the person in the context of home, play and work.  Who else will be there and what are their personas?

Useful hack

I hope that’s useful: Use a character builder to help your write personas to understand people you don’t know well

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Are you like a zombie bank? Zombie life on borrowed time and money (Part Three)

Are you sleep walking through your life?

Well are you alive? Do you have pulse? At best, are you sleep walking through life? Are you wandering from one thing to another not particularly enthused by anything, maybe grumbling when you have a chance, spreading your vague dissatisfaction but wishing you weren’t?

Are you keeping company with people who are dull and dusty? Do you work in an industry or a company which is really a zombie? Slowly dying, but not aware of their slow decay and certainly not in the market for anything lively or exciting?

Deteriorating as slowly as possible is not a life. Denying that we are just deteriorating as slowly as possible is not a life either.

6 symptoms of stagnation and deteriorating as slowly as possible

John Olgbert listed 6 symptoms of a community that is “slowly deteriorating”, stagnating in self-satisfaction and lack of urgency.

1. “Phoning-it in”

We go through the motions. We take short-cuts. We do our second-best work in the belief that we are so good that 2nd best is good enough. When we are challenged, we even argue that no one will notice – and probably laugh.

Assessment: What task will take the longest this week – either in one go or when you do it repeatedly? Are we going to try a new way of doing it or are we going to use the same methods and words that we have recycled for years?

5 If you will add a completely fresh and flourishing look

3 If you are making an improvement

1 If you are following a script written by you or by any one else.

2. Cynicism

When other people do better than us, are we are jealous or envious or admiring and curious. Do we find some way to diminish the successes of others so that we don’t have to take any action ourselves, either to catch up, or to advance our own dreams?

Assessment: Who does what we do so much better than we do? What do they do that we would like to do just as well? Or are we able to dismiss our dreams readily with “don’t have time”, “not important”, “not my priority”? Of course not, :), that’s why we noticed in the first place.

5 I know someone who does a better job than I do and I watch what they do with curiosity

3 I am jealous of someone but I do try to find out how they do what they do

1 I don’t care!

3. Nostlagia

We spend more time describing what used to be and how good it was than talking about what we are doing now and the people we are with now.

Assessment: What were the best conversations that we had during the week. How many were about the past and how many are about now!

5 Our enjoyable conversations about now exceed enjoyable conversations about other times, other places and other people by 5:1

3 Our enjoyable conversations about now exceed enjoyable conversations about other times, other places and other people by 3:1

1 Our enjoyable conversations about now exceed enjoyable conversations about other times, other places and other people by 2:1 or less

4. Few volunteer

We don’t volunteer to lead and no one else does either! Fewer and fewer people want to be part of this game!

Assessment: How many young people are banging on you door to be taken on as an apprentice? How many tasks did you volunteer to do with a spring in your step knowing that this is a community that you really want to be part of?

5 We have more good volunteers for leadership positions and they volunteer without cajoling

3 We have enough good volunteers for leadership positions but we have to put some effort into attracting them and rewarding them

1 We have not been able to find enough people to take on leadership positions

5. Dull tasks don’t get done

The little things that make the difference don’t get done and feel like drudgery.

Assessment: Do you spend all day chasing people to do what no one wants to do?

5 Everything is shipshape here and I wonder how and when all this work gets done

3 Work gets done but I do have to make a list and double check

1 There are small tasks everywhere that are yet to be completed

6. Self-importance

Even though the celebration is over and we are in a new race with new people and new priorities, we are still introducing ourselves as winners of the last race.

Assessment: We are rightly proud of what we achieve and so is every one else. Everyone admires us and we rarely hear any negative feedback. Of course, everything is perfect around here 🙂

5 We are alive to differences in opinions and interests and when we agree to differ we do so respectfully expecting to join forces on other projects

3 We do have goal but we expect to be respected by our rivals

1 Rivals? What rivals?

Rate your life and your involvement with our community and company!

I’ve used this to rate the various places I have worked. It provides a good summary of when we should be thinking of “recrafting” our jobs. A rating less than 25 and we should we listening to Dr Rao on Googletalk (YouTube) and doing some career housekeeping!

Of course, if you have rated 18 or below, you will be feeling so energy less, you will click away and look for another diversion.   Do you yourself a big favor and right this minute, right a short summary of your day, figure out what you could do better.  Then right away, write down Why you did so well. Do that now.  Recover your life.  Fall back in love with life again.  Even if it seems the most impossible thing to do.  Begin.

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Are you like a zombie bank? Zombie life on borrowed time and money (Part Two)

Decline, deterioration, loss & reversal are part of life

What did President Bush do the day after he left the White House? What do US Presidents do the day after they leave the White House? What does an Olympic Champion do the day after winning a gold medal? What do we do the day after climbing Mount Everest?

Coping with the sudden gap of purpose & connection is a tough task

Well, we come down the mountain again and actually the descent is more dangerous than the assent. But at least when we are coming down a mountain, we are physically busy. In normal affairs, the sudden removal of busyness, status, purpose, connections and toys, is devastating. The loss of a job, the loss of ‘pole position’, just plain getting older is a loss at so many levels – not least, our sense of identify. How do we cope with it?

Deteriorating as slowly as possible often becomes a shadow mission

John Orteg, describing church leadership in the States, used a good phrase. Deteriorating as slowly as possible is often our shadow mission. We’ve lost our purpose and we are hanging onto old ways. Stagnation makes us bitter and it is awful to watch in others. We oscillate from pity to contempt.

Sadly, some people don’t even have to lose a job or come to the end of an exciting project, to slip into “deteriorating as slowly as possible.” They sleepwalk through life in deadly early retirement, going through the motions and not even terribly aware that they are slipping away.

To fall in love with life again

Dylan Thomas wrote a poem for his father who was growing blind “rage, rage against the dying of the light.”  Professor Kay Jamieson’s husband gave her this encouragement on his deathbed: “You will fall in love with life again.”

Hope has little to do with external success. It has everything to do with loving life

None of us can live without hope and a sense that growth in is possible. But sometimes we confuse hope with trappings of success.

Hope does not mean controlling outcomes. Hope does not mean having status, control and perquisites of our past life (though we may miss them dreadfully).

Hope is a growth in our spirit. It is a sense that what we are doing now is an important task that only we can do for our communities at this time and in this place. It is sense that life will blossom in new ways taking us by surprise and delighting us.

Psychologists help people fall back in love with life again

When we have suffered a hard jolt, psychologists play an important role in helping us find our life’s purpose again.  So do good religious ministers, good teachers and respected mentors.  Even the smallest child can help us find our way again.

Sadly, though, we have had successful lives, or just live in rich countries or work in successful countries, we can begin to drift.  Before long, we are sleep walking. We are not in love with life any more.  We have become zombies, without hope – without the sense that life will still surprise us.

Are you living a zombie life :  I’ve put John Orteg’s Symptoms of Deterioating as Slowly as Possible in Part Three.

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Are you like a zombie bank? Zombie life on borrowed time and money (Part One)

My Saturday mornings are zombie time and this week I have been pondering zombie-lives

How do you spend your Saturday mornings? Some people race around. I find that the best review programmes tend to be on radio and TV on Saturday mornings and I like to let the world wash over me, get up late, and spend some time reflecting on how the week went before I go out to do the shopping and join friends for a meal.

During the week I tend to push observations that are not particularly practical to the back of my mind. In my Saturday morning time, I pull them to the front and tidy them up – make sense of them.

This week I kept brushing up against full-scale denials

In quite unrelated incidents I remembered and noticed a peculiar habit that some people have ~ that we must all have ~ of denying reality.

Of course, it is absurd to think we ever have a completely accurate grasp of the world around us. And we know that there is nothing more delightful and shocking than the view of the world from a completely different perspective. But sometimes we actively deny reality.

Mother of an abused child syndrome

  • I once lived and worked with people who had what I called “mother of the abused child look.” Whenever anything difficult came up, they looked past your left ear.

No one else lives here syndrome

  • I lived previously in a place with quite shocking art. It had no depth perception and the background was often blurred. The background certainly never had people in it except as a silhouette on the horizon.

We are invented the moon, we really did

  • I’ve known communities who live a perfectly Walter Mitty life. They have quite grandiose ideas about their contribution to the world matched only by shocking squalor of their physical circumstances and sparseness of their professional knowledge.

Denial in the big bad West

In the big bad West of the developed world, there is another phenomena. This is not necessarily an individual phenomena, I might add. We all do the things I describe, so it is a cultural phenomena – a collective way that we experience our collective life and express our collective purpose.

As it happens, as it does, a good description of this phenomenon arrived in my Google Alerts in a post on leadership from by John Ortberg, whom I don’t know, but I take it from the details is a Christian minister in the USA. Sadly there is no comment box to leave a note appreciating his work. It you are running an Alert on yourself, thank you.

Deteriorate as slowly as possible

John makes the point that many people seem to live by a motto “Deteriorate as slowly as possible.”

When you have been big, rich and powerful, inevitably there is some decline ~ at least in bigness, richness and power.  Inevitably when you live in a country that is big, rich and powerful, then you have, say, a 66% chance of not really being big, rich or powerful yourself and you live in the reflected glory of people who make your country big, rich and powerful.

The flip side of success then is deterioration. That is is just reality.  It is not a psychological phenomenon.

It becomes sad, it becomes a denial or reality, when we aren’t aware of our deterioration, or we are stuck in deterioration ~ moaning, complaining and whinging such as the English are prone to do. Deterioration is part of our life. It has to be as the shadow of success.  But we must live well within it.

How should we deal with deterioration?

How should we deal with deterioration? Gracefully? That is one option. Gluttonously – that is another option – I know someone who said she enjoyed living in decadent societies. But why not exuberantly? Why can’t we enjoy the morphing and regeneration that is a natural part of life as a snake changing its skin? Why can’t we celebrate the cyclical shriving? Why can’t we celebrate newcomers and mourn the departure of old ways in dignity?

I’ll list John Orteg’s questions for recognising communities who are deteriorating in an unhealthy way in Part Three: Questions to Recognise Cultural Deterioration and What To Do About IT

Part Two: Deny Deterioration at the Cost of Your Love of Life

Part Three: 6 Symptoms of Deteriorating as Slowly as Possible

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Did you think President Obama was tweeting? Himself?

So President Obama has never used Twitter?

Last week, President Obama told Chinese students that he had never used Twitter. Shock! Who sent all those tweets under his name?

I tweet

I am a Tweeter. I enjoy tweeting because I work alone and in a small town. Twitter keeps me in touch with the world beyond my daily existence. It is also a handy diary. I often go back to me tweets to look up something that turned out to be more important than I thought at the time.

But I don’t think everyone must tweet

But I don’t think everyone should tweet just because tweeting is there. I’ve find it strange for example if a surgeon was tweeting. I hope surgeons are concentrating. To tweet about a patient who is unconscious could hardly be done with their consent!

Some people should not tweet, particularly when they are working

I don’t want pilots tweeting while they land a plane. And as a university lecturer, I wouldn’t tweet details about the quality of exam scripts – not because they are private – but because announcing the results is the prerogative of the Registrar. Only the official registry can announce a result.

I don’t expect a President to tweet

Here in lies why President Obama shouldn’t tweet. We voted for Obama, true (or rather Americans did). But we didn’t vote for Obama to do whatever he wants whenever he wants.

We voted him to work within a system and when we voted we assumed that he would be working within a system.

Just as I might ask a pilot to fly a plane, I haven’t asked him to fly any plane. This is a package – you and that plane. Obama and a set of institutions. He becomes part of the institution and it is the institution that is tweeting just as it is the “plane” talking to airtraffic control.

Public office changes the rules

Public office cramps our style! When we accept public office, as President, surgeon, pilot or university lecturer, then we accept that our behaviour is no longer private. And we comport ourselves accordingly. We will say no more on Twitter than we would in the pub. And people are more interested in what our institution does then us personally, it is better not to tweet. Let there be an official tweeter!

Let official tweeters work!

Of course, that means people in high office are not part of the river of information that is available to me and you. Let the official tweeters brief them then! Just as they do about what is being said in newspapers and on the streets.

It is no biggie. But not understanding our institutional role is a biggie. We shouldn’t be in the job if we don’t understand the constraints on our personal lives.

Authenticity means me & my job

And sometimes that means I will be silent

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Belbin’s team roles: know yours and value others

Too much energy for one person

I’m an energetic person with an eye for opportunity and slightly neurotic streak.  It’s is not surprising that my main roles come out at

  • Shaper – is what being done important and is what important being done!
  • Completer/Finisher  – have all the important details been attended to and will we finish on time?
  • Resource/Investigator -who should we and could we know and what can we do that we couldn’t do yesterday?

Exuberant, enthusiast, loyal and kind – that’s how people describe me.

Everything has a flip side

But not necessarily tactful.  Unlike Britons described by BBC yesterday, I can’t lie ‘for toffee’.  I’m also the type that departs the beaten track and climbs over a challenging course just for the hell of it.

When I was younger, I knew that I wasn’t a ‘hale fellow, well met” sort of person.  Everyone who had taken a short cut or conned anyone or been faintly dull felt ‘criticized’ by my preferences.  I knew that I didn’t have a sharp grasp of fashion but I thought I wasn’t a ‘people’ person.

We surround ourselves with opposites to balance our preferences

By the time, I was an active student leader at University, I was wise enough to include a gregarious, easy-going person on every one of my teams.  I would think up the ideas and run them past my ‘people’ person to make sure they would be well received.

The names of roles and their pros and cons are formalized in the ‘Belbin’

It was only much later, as I encountered the Belbin (and taught the Belbin) that I realized my instincts were spot on.  I had brought in ‘team players’ to balance me.

And it was only then that I understood that all team players show characteristic weaknesses.  I had observed that but I didn’t know it was predictable.

Teamplayers don’t get down to work very easily.   They might not even do their share of work. And they are dreadful negotiators. They think they are wonderful but they tend to give everything away.  For the life of them, they cannot hold the line.  To say ‘no’ might make them unpopular and they can’t stand that.

Disadvantages or not – I want opposites on my team

But I still want a team player on my team.  They keep the peace.  They don’t complain.  They are careful with other people’s feelings.

Team players are essential in every office

In one place that I worked, we had a long corridor and my office was about one-third of the way down from reception.  When our receptionist went away, I would hear the noise gradually increase.  Once I even slammed my own filing cabinet drawer shut, thinking as I did just how unpleasantly noisy our office was!  Then I caught myself.  Pleasantness and unpleasantness is contagious.  Without our team player, tempers were rising and little incidents of bad temper were being sparked like bush fires after a long drought.  Amazingly, in a team, who should know better, people were often unkind to our team player and complained she wasted time chatting.  No, she didn’t. She was the lubricant that kept the office turning.

I want a team player and I don’t even mind if they do less work than everyone else.  I can do thinking – I will anyway.  I can double check their work – I will anyway!  I can do the unpleasant chores.  It doesn’t bother me.  I’ll even be firm with them and tell them I will do the negotiating because they are no darn good at it!

But I want them there.  They keep us sane.

Do you know the team roles you prefer playing and will always choose when you can?

The Belbin test can be googled but it is heavily copyrighted.  You aren’t likely to find a full copy on the web.  I think I will put up some old lecture notes on Slideshare for you and I’ll use the occasion to check out Prezi.  So book mark this post and come back in a few days to see if it is done.

I strongly recommend you ‘name’ your preferred roles and explore the upsides and downsides of our own style.  Moreover, check out the roles played by people who annoy you.  You will see why you need them so badly!

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Management is developing people through work

Management in the 21st century

He died under a cloud but Agha Hasan Abedi said something sensible:

The conventional definition of management is getting work done through people, but real management is developing people through work.

Do you agree?

Real management is understanding how people will grow through our work so that our collective value grows and we all benefit.

 


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1001 things we learn from live performers

#1  my career is a journey to find my people

A good performer jumps on stage, looks out at the audience, and thinks, “Here I am!”
A great performer jumps on stage, looks out at the audience, and thinks, “There you are!”

Steve Rapson from Art of the Solo Performer
contributed by DW from Connecticut, USA

and for #2 thru #1001 visit Music Thoughts

 

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