My Grandmother, may she rest in peace, had a saying: “If everybody liked the same thing, everybody would have fancied your Grandad!”
I mention this only because I’m struck by the continuing belief that in order to be a great leader you must treat all your people the same – and a fear that if you don’t you’ll be castigated in the name of equality.
This was brought sharply into focus for me recently whilst watching a training session where the group was asked if it was ever acceptable to discriminate in the workplace. After a slightly awkward silence the group responded dutifully that it was not – only to be told by (the fantastic) Chrissi McCarthy, of Constructing Equality, who was leading the session that, not only is it okay, but that they’re already doing it…
The shock was palpable…clearly this was some kind of mistake. This was a group of seasoned professionals with many years’ experience and a great deal of success under their belts. We wouldn’t – we couldn’t – possibly discriminate…except that we do. As professionals we are paid to make discernements and differentiations all the time.
This article was inspired by the famous quote “I never lose. I either win or learn.” Nelson Mandela.
Have you ever faced a situation in which you wanted something so much and it didn’t materialize? How did you deal with it?
A couple of years ago, I peered up with HR on a hiring process where we interviewed more or less 20 candidates. We aligned on a number of questions in order to take the best out of the interviews and one of them was for the candidate to describe the time when he/she has had to deal with a setback or disappointment in work life.
There was a wide range of response and examples on what they identified as ‘seatback’. How they dealt with that and the outcome. I will obviously not disclose any specific story but revisiting my notes to produce this article, I found many examples that what was seen as setback was probably an opportunity disguised as temporary failure.
It was a simple but purposeful question with the hidden objective to identify candidates’ ability to cope with seatback and show drive and resilience. Whatever is the source of the seatback, important is how we handle it. When facing a difficult situation, you can choose how to respond to it.
I just woke up and start packing my stuff for the day. Take out my bike and check the lights. It is very foggy this morning. I Start my bike ride, take a deep breath and take one minute of silence to enjoy the scent of positivity in the air. I clear my mind. I thank God for being alive and strong enough to ride to work once again this morning. I thank Him for having a job to go to this morning. I thank Him that I have two children to support so I have enough motivation to work hard and excel in what I do. I thank Him for my brothers and their continuous support. I thank Him for my friends who care for me, making me realize that there is an abundance of kind people in this world. I give thanks to Him for my colleagues who boost my competitive spirit, teamwork and make my workplace fun. I thank Him for my boss who doesn’t let me relax, always challenging me to do better every day. I give thanks to Him for my team who gives me the opportunity every day to serve them as a leader. I give thanks to Him for the cold breeze on my face as I continue riding feeling alive and full of love at this moment. Then I thank Him for my amazing life and my wonderful day ahead.
Having spent a fair amount of time over the last couple of weeks in the air I’d like to ask you a question: how many times when you fly on a plane do you ask yourself, “might this be my last flight?” I know for me it’s at least four. Not including turbulence. Now I’d like you ask yourself how many times you ask the same question when you get behind the wheel of your car, or for those of you who don’t drive, when you sit alongside someone who is? Virtually never?
I drive a car far more than I fly, and while I know the statistics say that I’m far more likely to die in the car than the plane, logic and rational thought make no difference. No matter how many times I fly I still have the thought, this might be it. It’s illogical, it’s pointless and yet I can’t help it.
Let’s talk about work ethics. We live in an ever changing dynamic world where words like improvement, profit, market share, EBIT and success are sometimes more common than shopping lists and people’s names. Everyone wants to lead without having a clear definition of what it takes to become a leader. I have been listening a lot lately to talks about understanding the millennials and talent retention and I agree that we need to be more flexible going forward. However, there are some rules that even if we change them in the way we explain them and drive for the teams by in, we must not change the basic essence of them. As leaders, we have a responsibility of coaching young executives in order to leave our legacy as part of their professional growth.
A favourite word of a US-based friend and business associated is “flummoxed”. I rather like the word myself. If you are as old as I am, you may recall a Monty Python sketch in which they attributed the characteristic of “woodiness” to certain words. The was a positive appellation. Flummoxed is a woody word.
I am flummoxed with what I see going on around me. Although I am a Liverpudlian by birth, I will avoid our natural inclination to ignore the golden rule not to speak about politics and religion. I am not going to slam-dunk popularism, nationalism or any other contemporary “-ism”, which suffix immediately makes a word “tinny” (see http://montypython.50webs.com/scripts/Series_4/23.htm).