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

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


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.

2014-05-23 09.56.03

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

Time for Action


I’ve been noticing a lot of ¬†articles, blog posts and tweets recently about taking action. ¬†Possibly there are more such posts doing the rounds at the moment. ¬†I think it is more likely that I am simply noticing them more. ¬†Just like when you choose a new car in an unusual colour and you start seeing them everywhere, I am seeing calls to action.

A coaching client this week left me very frustrated at his lack of action.  He knows what he wants and he knows he has to act and still he does nothing.  Session after session. Then I found myself feeling the same emotions with a friend and with my family.  Whenever I find myself feeling such a strong reaction on separate occasions I ask myself whether I am simply seeing a reflection of myself.  What we react most to in others is often what we consciously or unconsciously see as our own shortcomings.

It isn’t anything major but there are a number of things I have found reasons to delay. ¬†I have great reasons to delay of course – other things to do, waiting for other things to be in place, needing more clarity, needing inspiration, seeing what happens with this other stuff.

I am three quarters of the way through one piece of work and really just have the tidying up to do. ¬†I just have two documents to produce, I know what the end result has to look like and I don’t see it as being difficult. ¬†I can even see the way to start. ¬†What I am struggling with is the bits in the middle. ¬†I want to know the detail of the entire piece before I start. ¬†That seems to be quite common, not just for me but for everyone. ¬†Before we start out we want not just a plan but a detailed plan of each and every step.

That makes sense, doesn’t it?

Last night I picked my daughter up after her dance class.  As usual it was late evening and this session was held in a small village out of town.  The route home was along quiet, unlit, twisting country roads.  With a cloudy sky it was very dark and the car headlights threw out a small cone of light into which we sped.

I knew where I was going but outside that small cone of light all was darkness. ¬†At no time could I see more than a few hundred metres ahead and yet as expected we arrived home with no drama. ¬†I didn’t insist on the entire route being clearly lit and made visible from my start point before driving off.

That would be stupid, right?

Not having a plan is planning to fail and not taking action is daydreaming.

It feels like this is the time for action.

Standing in the shadows,
Where the in-crowd meet
We’re all dressed up for the evening
We hate the punk elite (who are the punk elite?)
So take me to your leader
Because its time you realised…

That this is the time
This is the time for action (time for action)
This is the time to be seen (time to be seen)
This is the time for action
Time to be seen

Dave Cairns (Secret Affair)

P.S. ¬†I’m not perfect – I wrote this instead of the piece I was really meant to write…

Flexibility means not having to bend over backwards


Stephen Deans¬†has now resigned his role at the Ineos petrochemical plant on Grangemouth and will not seek re-election to his role at the Trade union Unite. ¬†It isn’t surprising that the employer saw him as the enemy and with the full power of hindsight the workers feel that he should pay the price for taking them to the brink.

Ineos runs a large petrochemical plant and refinery at Grangemouth in Scotland. ¬†They argued that costs had to be cut to make the petrochemical plant viable. ¬†And without the petrochemicals side of the business the refinery isn’t competitive and so was at risk of closure. ¬†To make the savings some fundamental changes to the Terms and Conditions of employees were being demanded and the Union Unite were unsurprisingly strongly against this.

Now we could debate the rights and wrongs of this case at great length.  Depending on your viewpoint either:

  • The fat cat employers used bullying tactics and threats to cow the workers into submission and their threats of a total closure was tantamount to blackmailing the Government.; Or
  • The militant Unionists used this as a platform to spout their ill informed dogma with little or no regard for the livelihoods of their members and communities and no recognition of economic realities

In the end Ineos announced closure of the entire site and within 24 hours the Unions accepted all of the proposed changes. Having lost on all counts the workers celebrated getting their jobs back.  No doubt it will take a lot of effort and time to rebuild trust on both sides.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the way this battle was fought (and battle it surely was) it feels that we could have avoided the brinkmanship if both parties had been willing to see the confrontation through the others’ eyes and from a third party perspective. ¬† This was an extreme case but how many times do we get ourselves stuck in a negotiation (be it with the kids about bedtime or the boss about a project) and are there any steps we can take to stop the little things escalating and creating an issue that will live on after the immediate problem is resolved?

Certainly trying to see things from another perspective always helps to create balance and avoid disputes arising – this can be a great role for a coach or mentor.

Once we get into negotiation there are simple things we can do that help in all cases; let’s see how Unite and Ineos measure up:

  1. Have a clear view of the desired outcome (I think both Unite and Ineos were clear on this)
  2. Develop as many options as possible and  avoid a fixed position by agreeing the upper and lower limits of the range of acceptable outcomes (I suspect that Management would have given a little away but Unite had limited flexibility)
  3. Identify potential areas of agreement (hard to say how they did on this but given their entrenched positions I’d say they failed to agree on even the basic point that the Plant was worth saving)
  4. Identify areas to be resolved and plan how to discuss them (Ineos did seem to want to talk but Unite wanted to demonstrate outside the homes of the Directors)
  5. Determine what your best alternative to an agreement is. (Management were clear on this that if they did not agree they’d walk away from Grangemouth, Unite clearly hadn’t got a plan B – unless it was abject surrender)

No surprises that I score this heavily in favour of the Company who would feel that they ‘won’. ¬†This amply demonstrates the Law of Requisite Variety: In any system those with the greatest flexibility of behaviour will control the system.

Try these steps out in your next negotiation, get a friend or colleague ¬†(or an external Coach) to help you see the bigger picture and generate ideas. ¬†You’ll increasingly find win win scenarios popping up all over and you’ll know when to back down graciously, avoiding pointless acrimony.

If only Unite had shown more flexibility they might well have had a better result and Stephen Deans would still have a job.