In the last few weeks I’ve been ruminating a lot on what makes a leader, what inspires people to come to work, why they do what they do. More and more I see managers around me, not leaders. There is only one way to lead, and it’s as simple and elegant, yet probably the hardest at the same time: you lead by example.
In my current team I have constantly seen team members leave the country to spend time with their family abroad, taking their laptop with them and worked remotely. Everyone has complete trust in that person to do their job wherever they may be. Whilst my company aren’t doing anything ground-breaking in my point of view, I know there are many, many companies (I think the technical term is a “fu**tonne” of companies) that do not have that trust. I find this bewildering. Additionally, a friend recently commented that in the numerous companies she has worked for, not once has she been told to go home and rest or work from home when she had a cold. This seems utterly non-sensical! Every doctor in the known universe, and a vast majority in the unknown universe, prescribes two things for a cold: rest and lots of fluids. None of them prescribe work or spreading your germs around the office.
I understand that sometimes work just needs to be completed. An imminent deadline, perhaps. Barring that, the only way that a person can return to their full, productive capacity is by resting. If they come to work, not only are they not resting (unless resting is their job, like a sloth, which sounds terrific!) but the are likely to spread their cold to other team members, meaning that more people will get sick, resulting in further loss of productivity. All of a sudden you have an epidemic, with no one being able to work at their full capacity. It makes human and business sense to send your sick home to recover. So, as winter approaches in the northern hemisphere, make sure those with colds and flu don’t spread their germs at the office - that’s not what the season of giving is about! Press your manager to adopt some flexibility . . . you know, make them spend time with their families, that’s the punishment they deserve!
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Have an awesome week, take care of yourself!
Quote to think on . . .
“Our roles as leaders is to create cultures where people give all they have, simply for the reason that they love where they the work” Simon Sinek, Leaders Eat Last.
Book I'm reading . . .
God is Not Great (How religion Poisons Everything) by Christopher Hitchens
It’s been a long time (about eleven hours) during Richard Banson’s Business Stripped Bare audiobook that we hit on the good stuff. There was a lot of tawdry bits about cassette singles in the 80’s being £1.84 and the tactics of BA against Virgin Airways, but finally in Chapter 7 hit on philanthropy, battling for a cause greater than yourself. To quote a Greek proverb, a society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they will never see. In this final chapter Branson talks of his real passions: battling climate change; meeting Melinda and Bill Gates; stopping AIDS; his friendship with Madiba, Nelson Mandela; and the start of The Elders, a group of extraordinary independent global leaders working together for peace and human rights. You can find out more about them here but to quote the ex-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan:
On the weekend I read the inspiring story of Anh Do, an Australian comedian that escaped from the atrocities of Vietnam along with most of his family thanks to the bravery of his parents. Throughout the book there is reference to a simply terrific quotation by his father, ‘there’s only two times in life, there’s now, and there’s too late.’ With climate change looking to disrupt our way of life, with politicians actively already disrupting it, perhaps V for Vendetta is becoming more appealing.
To credit Branson, he introduced me to this lovely tale from Loren C Eisely which is setting off fireworks of thoughts, making a difference no matter how small. Have an amazing week!
One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a girl picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the girl, he asked, “What are you doing?” The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.” The man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!”
After listening politely, the girl bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, she said… “I made a difference for that one.”
I love retreating to the country, a little solace, verdance and sunshine, yet there’s a special place in hell for Australia’s flies. I can understand one of these bastard insects searching for moisture from beads of sweat, snatching a cool libation, yet delving into the ears, really? Why are they so obsessed with ears? Not just near the ears, that annoying buzz flitting around and making the hair on your neck rise to attention and your spine squiggle like an eel, but deep into the ear canal. Last evening, one flew head on straight in and out again (the same ear, not out the other side), creating a god-awful din as it went, effectively playing the drums as it thrashed around in there. Then there’s the corner of the eyes, flies capitalising on the tears of frustration, and then there’s the nose! Not just under the nose, at the philtrum, or landing on the tip of the nose, but into the nose, searching right up in the naval cavity for entertainment. What can possibly be so enticing that any insect would think, ‘that looks interesting, gonna get my feet wet up there! Ohhhh yesss, here I come!’ And if it isn’t the flies . . .
A few weeks ago, my friend that owns the property where I’m currently staying sent me a picture of a snake. Now, I don’t know much about snakes, other than Australia has a significant number of nasties. This one in particular was curled around itself and looked all kinds of dangerous. It was in fact a red-bellied black. Although extremely venomous, this metre-long beastie endemic to Australia isn’t aggressive unless provoked, which to me pretty much describes anything in the universe. The gorilla was perfectly placid until he ripped the arm’s off the man for hiding a banana. In this case, they managed to relocate the snake, pacifying it with a broom and a pillowcase . . . I don’t know, I wasn’t there, but I’m assured by my friend this was standard protocol. Last time I’d stayed at the house, I woke up one morning to see a huntsman crawl out of the bed I was sleeping in. Now, these don’t bite humans, often – well, they don’t bite me, because I’m about ten feet away usually – but are scarily large enough to put one into a coma of fright. Call me crazy, but I think I’ll take the flies.
November has become quite an important month for two significant events: Remembrance Day, also known as Armistice Day; and secondly for Movember, growing a silly moustache for a very important cause. But I’ve probably been asked more this year than ever within this multi-cultural, youthful society in which we live, what the hell both are about.
This year my mum, in getting back into knitting after making a shit-tonne (think that’s the technical term) of small owls to help raise funds for the local owl sanctuary that they also sponsor, has also knitted a few poppies to raise money for the British Legion. For those that aren’t familiar with Remembrance Day, it takes place on 11th November each year, with two minutes of silence at 11am. In the UK, all radio programs stop and play nothing but air for the duration. The date signifies the signing of the armistice for the First World War, guns finally ceasing at the eleventh day on the eleventh month on the eleventh hour in 1918. As for the poppy, these are the flowers growing in Flanders Fields, Belgium, where some of the bloodiest battles took place. The slogan in Australia is, ‘Lest We Forget’, and the poppy is worn to honour those that gave their lives so that we can live. Fortunately for me, both my Grandfather and Great-Grandfather fought in and survived the second world war and first world war respectively.
As for Movember, this is the third year I’ve taken part. If you’re new to Movember, it’s a leading men’s health charity, funding more than 1,250 men’s health projects around the world, challenging the status quo, shaking up men’s health research and transforming the way health services reach and support men. Some knock your socks off statistics - globally, every minute, a man dies by suicide. Our fathers, brothers, sons and friends. In Australia, 75% of suicides are men. That’s balmy! We simply don’t speak about our problems enough. If you’d like to contribute to a great cause, it’ll only take a mo-ment, please check out the donation page here. It’s not all about the mo-ney, but any funds you choose to donate for Movember go towards research in prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention.
What I’m reading: I’ve just finished Simon Sinek’s Leaders Eat Last, and have picked up God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens and The Rum Diary by Hunter S Thompson. I’m flirting with Dickens’ David Copperfield but just can’t quite muster the enthusiasm for Dickens!
What I’m listening to: Virgin’s Richard Branson’s Business Laid Bare on audiobook at 150% speed (hark at me!) and some Lamb of God to spice up my morning when I’m tired.
No one needs to feel like a blancmange in suit. Or just a blancmange, really (useless and wobbly - ask the English rugby team, arf!). Two half-hour sessions at the gym a week have done me the world of good – regardless of outward improvement, I feel better. It’s hard to lead by example when you don’t feel like you can, and this mental and physical strengthening has helped bring out my psychological sunshine. This week, I was even feeling positive about a two-day workshop.
There are few times I have been optimistic at workshops: organisers fail to prepare adequately; ideal outcomes are ethereal; and we fumble through presentations hoping for the apocalypse. Or a tea break. Post session, everyone agrees that the core message could have been attained in two hours. Oh, and if you can kindly catch up on two-days of missed work in your spare time, that’d be brilliant. Yet as I approached this session focusing on Culture Uplift, I was extremely positive: the company hired professionals to run it and hand-chose it’s attendees. Additionally, the people that opened the address had power within the organisation to effect changes. They had invested, and so had I.
So . . . what the hell is culture, anyway? In an indigenous awareness session years ago, we were asked exactly that: music; art; stories; history; language; food; family; customs; religion all came up. I think it’s what binds us together as social animals, which may relate to that basic hormonal needs of serotonin (well-being and happiness) and oxytocin (feeling of love or social bonding). We fundamentally need to form a cohesive bond of implicit trust and togetherness. Without that within your workplace or personal life, you’re dead in the water.
The workshop included knowledge from Carolyn Taylor, a new name to me, and her tome Walk The Talk (now added to the reading list) and referenced one of my favourite speakers, Simon Sinek. In this case, it prompted me to steal back a book I bought as a gift, Together is Better. A small book of optimism and leadership, it’s an absolute cracker. I also purchased another of his, Leaders Eat Last, and am half-way through. The trick to these books is that they are so accessible: nothing in them is new, per say. We’ve just become so estranged to what good looks like, we think being led by profit mongering bastards is the norm. It can be better.
It’s an extremely difficult task to improve culture when you’ve just let go of thousands of people in huge batches of redundancies, although a might bloody harder doing it before you let them go one would imagine. But I admire the effort and purpose. As with the gym, leadership and cultural muscles take time to build, so it will be an interesting journey. I got sunshine in my pocket, people!
Writing and writing...