Point of View

Reading-Festival-2I spent the Bank holiday weekend at Reading Festival. Being well past the age when camping in overcrowded conditions with thousands of insomniac teenagers stopped being fun I now temper my festival experience by staying in a local hotel. Being a true Yorkshireman and appreciating the value of money (or being mean if you want to apply that reframe) I stayed in a basic bed and breakfast with my brother in law. He had booked it about 9 months in advance and called them to confirm all was well and there was on site parking. His text to me was typically cryptic.

Hi just checked B&B all booked in, check in from 1400.
No alcohol
No talking
No having fun
No music
ūüėČ

But it did set the scene for my first meeting with our hostess.

On the Thursday my daughter was keen to get going to secure a reasonable place to camp and after grinding through the traffic I arrived at the B&B at 13.30. I parked and leaving my bag in the car, in case , went into the B&B to see if I could check in or at least leave my car in the car park while I went for a stroll to the pub.  The Landlady greeted me with a gruff:

it’s 1.30. Another one who can’t tell the time.

I said I knew I was early and if the room was not ready I was happy to come back in an hour or so. The landlady said that the room was ready and I was welcome to come in.

I’ve had them here at 9.30. ¬†It clearly says 2pm. ¬†And checking out, asking if they can check out later. ¬†It says right here on the key fob 10.00. ¬†This weekend of all times. ¬†You get all sorts, especially this weekend

I took it from the tone that ‘all sorts’ was not seen as a desirable state of affairs. But wanting to help her achieve a higher state of being (OK wanting to wind her up a bit) I said “How lovely, it must be great to meet a different type of guest than the usual business travellers”.

Her expression suggested that it wasn’t great at all. ¬†She showed me to the rather tired room. ¬†Never has the word ‘adequate’ been so apt.

It will soon be getting busy.  The great unwashed arriving.

I said that it was already very busy and when I dropped my daughter off the town centre was at a near standstill.

I don’t call that¬†traffic. ¬†Soon it will be nose to tail all along here. ¬†That’s traffic. ¬†Every day it’s terrible it is.

“That does¬†make getting about awkward but it’s great for you having so many people pass by, no need to advertise! ¬†And great for the town too. ¬†If the town is¬†busy it must be good for your business.”

Apparently not.

Looks like another muddy one.  Last year the mud was terrible.  They walked it in everywhere they did.

“Well” I said, looking at the grubby decor “I am surprised as I was at the festival last year and don’t recall any rain. In any case, it doesn’t seem to have done any lasting damage. ¬†I guess a wet festival must be good for business as it makes people more likely to use a B&B¬†”

Forecast for rain, even snow.  That will be nice for that lot.

“Oh, the¬†forecast I saw is for it to be a bit chilly but mostly dry. ¬†Snow in August. ¬†That would give us all a tale to tell!”

The next morning over breakfast the landlady chatted with various guests about various guests.  Interesting as I wondered what she was saying about me.

I wonder if we’ll see those two girls? I doubt it. ¬†I bet they won’t surface.

“That saves you the trouble of cooking and the cost of the meal. ¬†All extra profit.”

That Indian girl’s dad rang at midnight last night to see if she was in. ¬†He booked her in here and paid for it.

“It’s wonderful to see a father¬†allowing his daughter the freedom and yet keeping a discrete check.”

One guest asked if the doors were locked at any time and was treated to a sarcastic refresh on how one of the keys opened the front  door and the other his room followed by threats of physical harm should anyone lose a key and require letting in late at night, further followed by a critique of the headline acts

Noisy rubbish. ¬†Dreadful thumping all night, no proper tunes. ¬†Hasn’t been an act worth seeing for years.

“The organisers have to move with the times. Most of the people sitting here paid a lot of money to watch these bands, 90,000 people will be watching tonight plus a large TV audience.”

I’d love to report that my repeated reframing changed her in some way. ¬†I doubt it did because she was rarely listening out for anything except a lull in the conversation into which she could inject her opinions. ¬†It wasn’t even annoying her so I gave up.

It did change me though.  I decided not to ask if my daughter could pop in mid morning to use the shower in my room and I decided to hide the fact that I spilled a large glass of red wine all over the bed.  I am sorry Рnot to the Landlady, the laundry would get it out anyway, but to my daughter who had to go a few days as one of the great unwashed.

At least it didn’t snow.

Two different people, two different places
Through a one way window with two different faces
Agreements are not reached, faces are forgotten
The other person’s shoes, you’ve not got in

Stubborn minded enclosed to your own world
Wake up and see someone else’s morals
What right to you
Might be true

It’s a different point of view to you
You cannot see things that are different to me
And I can’t understand why you cannot see
The things that I cannot see

I see what you don’t see
I see what you don’t see
Turn around and the shadows are all around me

Two different people, two different places
Through a one way window with two different faces
Agreements are not reached, faces are forgotten
The other person’s shoes, you’ve not got in

Point of View – Blink 182

Dog new tricks

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

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But you can.  Easily. Without  even meaning to sometimes.  I have the very literal proof.  My geriatric labrador, jake, is, mainly, a well behaved creature.  For thirteen and a half years he has had the same food every day.  He rarely gets fed treats from the table or has doggy treats outside of his meals.   Therefore, unlike many pets, he was  never overweight and rarely showed too much interest in our food (well Рfor a labrador).

Sadly he has been off his food recently. ¬†So we have been trying to tempt him with all sorts of tidbits. ¬†Suddenly he get’s toast crusts, plates of vegetables, scrambled eggs, cheese – anything to stop his falling weight. ¬†And within the space of a few weeks he now ‘begs’ at the table at every meal. ¬†He pesters for scraps whatever it is we are eating. ¬†And of course we indulge him because, well to be honest we all know where this has to end.

I did wonder what would happen if the vet suddenly found the miracle cure for arthritis, liver disease, and ageing in dogs. ¬†How long would it take to re-establish the ‘no scrounging’ behaviour? ¬†I suspect that given the amount of reinforcement he has had recently (weetabix, followed by toast crusts and milky tea for breakfast today instead of dried dog food for example) it might be quite a task.

Reflecting on this there are a number of lessons:

  • Old dogs readily learn – so¬†what’s my excuse?
  • It’s easy¬†to create new patterns of behaviour¬†– so be very careful with the behaviours you reinforce, or even just tolerate.
  • And, of course, there’s no harm in indulging an old dog. ¬†life really is too short.

I wish I had not woke up today
Everyone mistakes the things you say
Take the simple truth and
Twist it all around
Make it sound important
Make it seem profound

Dog New Tricks – Garbage

Warning Sign

This week the main road through our small town has been closed for resurfacing. For a couple of weeks before large electronic signs were in place telling everyone that this would happen and diversions were put in place.

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We are lucky enough to live in the countryside so many of the alternative routes are very narrow and with a lot of quarrying locally we also have a lot of heavy trucks.  The diversions were therefore very long  but well signed with the traffic supposedly being diverted over 10 miles away from the actual closure.

Fortunately we live right at the end of the works and so could exit (in one direction only) from our cul- de-sac. ¬†I’ve had to make numerous trips and I’ve been amazed at the number of drivers ignoring all the signs then getting angry when being turned back. ¬†On my return home I usually have a little convoy follow me past all the closure and diversion signs and into my street¬†past¬†four signs showing that it is a no through road, only to be disappointed when it turns out that I didn’t know a secret route – merely my way home. ¬†My record is three cars, a van and an agricultural feed lorry, that took quite a while to untangle themselves on the residential roads.

How often in our lives do we ignore all the warning signs and continue on, hoping that all the evidence is wrong, that something will turn up or that because others are on the same path they must know something we don’t?

Taking a different route, even if clearly signed, can be hard.  But reversing out of a dead end is harder still.

 

Just another warning sign that failed to show.
Looking for reason why, I knew we’d never know.
And every time it leads us here, we’re high and dry.
Show me these years of hope won’t die.

I never knew a warning sign could hide and fade.
Looking for a new road out and I’ve got a life to save.
But now I don’t feel you here by my side.
Show me these years of hope won’t die.

Scars on 45

Getting better all the time

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Over the weekend I found myself in an unfamiliar small town.  Happily wandering around I came across an old fashioned bicycle shop that had some very modern looking machines in the window.  I wandered in and fell into conversation with the owner.    Having worked our way up and down the ranges that might be in my budget he took me over to a stunning looking carbon fibre sculpture.  Weighing in at 6kg it sported the very latest lightweight technology.  Stiff, yet flexible it is designed to allow smooth power transfer from the rider whilst insulating the rider from the worst of the road vibrations.

And the crowning glory?  Electronic gears.  Ultra lightweight gears that change rapidly and smoothly at the, very gentle, push of a button.  For the professional (or wealthy) rider there is no more holding a lever down until, after a bit of grinding and crunching, the gear is selected.  Just a gentle click.

This technology is available to anyone, in a little old fashioned bike shop near them (for the price of a small car admittedly).

I was brought up having drummed into me

if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it

Whether this was simply to stop me taking perfectly good things apart and turning them into non-working things with a few leftover parts or from some other motive isn’t clear. ¬†It seems to be perfectly sensible advice. ¬†Don’t tinker around with things that are working, you might damage them. ¬†Don’t waste your time on the things that are in decent shape, put your focus elsewhere. ¬†And if nothing is broken presumably you can pull up a chair and put your feet up, take it easy. ¬†No point in sweating over¬†stuff that is working just fine.

Of course it is hard to tell if something is not working optimally if you have nothing to judge it by. ¬†As a youth I was very happy if I could actually get my bike to engage all the gears it was meant to, never mind speed or quality of the change. ¬†It wasn’t until I understood that there was a better way that I saw things as ‘broken’. ¬†The innovators amongst us have nothing more than curiosity. ¬†They wonder if there is a better way. ¬†And they tinker, not always knowing where the improvements lie. ¬†They make things smoother, lighter, better. ¬†And eventually after much incremental improvement we end up with the Shimano Di2 gears.

We have a choice, we can congratulate ourselves that all is well and take it easy, until someone else shows us the better way.  Then, if we are still in business, we can copy their innovation and try to catch up.  Meanwhile they have likely moved on again.  Or we can look for continuous improvement and breakthrough innovations.

All of this seems so obvious and I started asking myself why incremental change is so difficult when the benefits are clear.

In practice it feels very dangerous to tinker.  Especially with your people.  There are so many interconnected elements that it feels like a big bowl of spaghetti, if you pull one piece others move in unpredictable ways.  It feels safer to do nothing.

As individuals we are all familiar with the concept that expanding our self awareness is the starting point of self improvement, but in businesses this seems to be less accepted. What a manager needs is a way of understanding the spaghetti bowl. ¬†There are many tools out there that can be used to diagnose issues with a business and it’s people. ¬†So why aren’t they used more?

The diagnostic tools can be quite costly, spending precious budget¬†to identify an issue that no one is aware of and that may not exist is awkward. ¬†They can also be quite¬†specific, leading to the concern that if your only tool is a hammer all your problems look like nails. ¬†They can also¬†raise expectations – if a manager or the HR department carry out say an engagement survey they raise the expectation that issues identified¬†will be fixed. ¬†Therefore budget needs to be found not only to run the diagnostic but to fix the as yet unknown issues. ¬†What if it transpires that the workforce feel that the culture is ‘wrong’ and yet there is no appetite to change it? ¬†What if the pay system is broken and their are no funds to improve things? What if…? ¬†Better not to know about problems you can’t fix, eh?

A friend of mine has developed a simple and currently free diagnostic that aims to cut through some of this for businesses. ¬†It asks a series of straightforward questions and produces a score on eight categories related to engagement and performance of a team. ¬†Completely web based it can be deployed to a single team, a department, a business unit or a whole organisation. ¬†It’s a lovely simple tool that shines a light on areas that are stopping the business reach it’s full potential. ¬†The very fact that the categories ‘overlap’ highlights the ‘interconnectedness’ of things. ¬†Because of it’s low key nature and broad scope, expectations can be managed – indeed I am considering using it as a form of feedback for some of the executives I coach.

Carrying out a simple broad diagnostic such as this raises awareness of areas that do need attention, they may not be broken but they would benefit from some improvement or innovation.  Armed with a generalised picture the manager can focus her efforts and limited resources on the areas that will make most difference.

If anyone would like to try the Team Dynamic diagnostic please get in touch or click here to take a look, who knows where it might lead.

It’s getting better all the time
(Better, better, better)
It’s getting better all the time
(Better, better, better)
Getting so much better all the time

LENNON, JOHN WINSTON / MCCARTNEY, PAUL JAMES

 

 

 

New Beginning

Last night I was very honoured to be invited to a former colleague and dear friend’s retirement party. ¬†We recalled my first day at the company she was retiring from, when she¬†met me at the door to direct me to a car park, walked me to my desk and made me feel welcome and part of the team from the off.

Driving home I reflected on my own feelings.  I admit to feeling a little melancholic.

Beginnings and endings are times of transition, uncertainty and can be messy. We can feel anxiety, rejection, curiosity, excitement, anticipation, fear, sometimes anger and loss.

Endings tend not to be so eagerly anticipated as beginnings.  They might happen unexpectedly, but even when we are able to plan we tend to be less willing to look forward to an ending.  I often allow things to fade away rather than mark the end.  This results in a lack of closure which is not always satisfactory.

The thing is both beginnings and endings we have already experienced heavily influence how we anticipate and experience future events. Personally I have experienced some great beginnings and so look forward to them.  I have also experienced some difficult endings and so avoid them.  This also probably explains my slightly downbeat mood.

I am pleased to report that this was not in any way a traumatic ending.  Although I sense a feeling of loss this ending was properly marked, recognised and given closure.  In fact retirement can be seen as a new beginning.  In this case one in which the buzz of corporate life is exchanged for much more pleasurable duties as a Grandparent.

And I realised that even the traumatic endings of my past were, with 20:20 hindsight, new beginnings.  New beginnings that had lead to great things.

So thanks Jen for being a great PA, for being a friend and for helping me to recognise a beautiful truth about endings.

The whole world’s broke and it ain’t worth fixing
It’s time to start all over, make a new beginning
There’s too much pain, too much suffering
Let’s resolve to start all over make a new beginning

Now don’t get me wrong I love life and living
But when you wake up and look around at everything that’s going down
All wrong
You see we need to change it now, this world with too few happy endings
We can resolve to start all over make a new beginning

Tracy Chapman New Beginning

Get on with your short life

There’s a huge amount being written at the moment about positivity. ¬†And there seems to be a rising backlash against this.

The critique goes that it may well be possible to cultivate an attitude of acceptance.  It is indeed what it is.  Acceptance may take away the negative emotions but it does not change the situation for the better.

Certainly we can choose our mood and we can choose to be happy.  We can picture a future in which we are successful and feel very positive about ourselves.  Happily sitting and positively hoping for something to turn up may feel good but it is not going to create success.

Surely a dose of reality, a little suffering, acts as the motivation to take the necessary and possibly unpleasant steps to actually change things.

It is not possible to think yourself successful and people should ‘get real’.

I agree with the logic but not the conclusion. ¬†A happy fool watching daytime TV dreaming of ‘making it big’ is not my idea of positivity.

My view of positivity says that accepting that ‘it is what it is’ takes away unnecessary suffering. ¬†The issue still exists but we can stop the futility of worrying about it. ¬†Thus in a calmer state we can seek to address the issue and if it is something we cannot change, we can move on.

My view of positivity says that if you accept that you are the cause of everything that happens to you, you become much calmer, more likely to make changes and are more agreeable to be with. If you choose your mood and choose happiness you are much more likely to engage positively with others.

If you have a positive goal you are much more likely to take action.  By putting images of future success in our timeline we are asking our unconscious mind to find ways to achieve the goal.

The key certainly is taking action. And I prefer to get on with my short life with a smile on my face rather than a grimace of pain.

You keep saying that one day things could
Be fabulous,
If only you had the right shoes, new
Clothes, the dream team doing your hair.
Why do you have to waste time on your
Waistline when you could be having
Dinner with me?
Will you really be the winner
If you’re thinner?
How can I make you see?

Get on with your short life,
Get on with this sweet precious time,
You know you’re only dreaming
So why don’t you wake up and get on
With your short life

You keep praying that some day things
Will be different
If you only had the right lips, killer hips,
A sun kissed permanent tan
But does it really matter if you’re fatter
Than everybody else on the screen
It’s more important to be truthful than just
Youthful on the cover of some magazine

Get on with your short life,
Get on with this sweet precious time,
You know you’re only dreaming
So why don’t you wake up and get on with
Your short life 

Brian Kennedy

The Garden

In the northern hemisphere yesterday was officially the first day of spring.  In my part of the world to was also a bright and sunny day, if a little cold.  I took a stroll around my garden and started a few odd jobs.  A little leaf collecting, dead heading, cutting back.

Daffodils Daffodil Narcissus

I ought to tackle some jobs now, despite it being a bit cold. ¬†Those little weeds lift out easily now and if left will spread and get deep rooted so even if they are removed they might regrow. ¬†It is easier to get to things and see what help they might need before everything bursts into leaf. A little work now will save a lot of effort later and it’s always easier to look after something that is in good shape. ¬†All those jobs that I had no time for in summer and then were too big in autumn would be much easier if tackled now.

I pottered in the sunshine and declared I needed a plan rather than taking a random approach. ¬†And a second opinion would be useful – is that bamboo¬†a useful screen?¬†Or is it¬†really too tall and heavy, stopping natural light? It’s amazing how some things that you have carefully cultivated become problems as they overshadow some of the smaller more delicate plants. You get used to them, hardly noticing their growth if you see them daily. ¬†A fresh pair of eyes or at least someone to challenge you can¬†help you¬†see things in a new light.

My Grandad used to be a bit of a gardner and he always said that gardening taught you a lot about life.  I never really understood him.  As usual he was right.

Seems like a great time to work on more than just the garden.

The measure of a life is a measure of love and respect 
So hard to earn, so easily burned 
The measure of a life is a measure of love and respect 
So hard to earn, so easily burned 
In the fullness of time 
A garden to nurture and protect

Rush – The Garden