I wish I was a little egg ....

Way back in the Dark Ages (top years of primary school actually) I had a wonderful English teacher.  Her name was Mrs Howse and her lessons were a joy.  She had a way of making her point by making us laugh and sharing her wonder at the way language could help us understand different and often deeper concepts.  Obviously, I didn’t get that back then but I do so appreciate it now.  I have loved this magical little ditty ever since she taught it to us:

‘I wish I was a little egg

Way up in a tree

Sitting in my little nest

As rotten as could be.

I wish that you would come along

And stand beneath that tree

And I would up and burst myself

And cover thee with me.’

-          Anon

She used to recite the last couple of lines with absolute relish and we would howl with laughter every time so it really stuck.  Somehow in the middle of all this she would convey the truth – that we can’t always do what we would really like to do because it might have repercussions for us personally, however good it felt at the time.  She was a very wise woman.

There have been times in the last year when I have been forcibly reminded of this poem and its associated life lesson.  So, I offer it here in the hope that it will raise a smile and you find it useful as you go through your working day and then find yourself able to laugh at the provocations, not fall into the reaction trap.

In terms of professionalism or personal integrity, it’s hard to express that doing what you want to do at any moment has consequences, whether you have cause to react or not.  Every personal decision has repercussions and, if we react to provocation in a way that diminishes us, then we are forever changed – and not for the better.  If we make bad or wrong decisions, they can diminish us personally and in the eyes of those around us. So, when the provocation strikes – and it inevitably will – the best route is to try to take a deep breath and pause or count to 5 or whatever you do to give yourself that essential moment to think clearly about your next action.  You won’t regret it.  I still shudder when I think back to an incident many years ago, when I reacted angrily to extreme provocation in the workplace and I regret it to this day.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Over the years, I have searched in vain for the poem's author but have been unable to find one. Perhaps Mrs Howse wrote it herself or maybe you know differently.  If so, I'd love to hear from you. 

Why we all need support - especially CEOs

This month I’m returning to a subject that is as important as it gets for the ongoing welfare of non-profit organisations – how the leaders within this very varied sector are able to flourish as individuals while remaining in charge of the destiny of their organisations. 

It is almost impossible to pick up an article or book about successful leaders and entrepreneurs these days without finding a story or quote about how that individual derived enormous benefit from having a mentor at some stage of their career.  Mentoring has been going on for a very long time – famous relationships include Socrates and Plato, Aristotle and Alexander the Great, and more recently Freddie Laker and Richard Branson.  Indeed, government statistics show that 70% of small businesses whose leaders receive mentoring survive for five years or more, which is double the rate compared with non-mentored entrepreneurs and, in addition, they are 20% more likely to experience growth. 

We know that a CEO crisis line has just published data to say that it has received twice as many calls this year as last.  So, if it is true that the leaders within our sector are increasingly aware of the need to run their organisations as successful businesses while also being under incredible pressure from all sides, and if it’s also true that leaders of all kinds benefit from having a mentor, why do so very few Chief Executives, senior management or Board Chairs have mentors?

 

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But we already know that, don't we?

As the Paralympics begin this evening, there have already been many discussions and column inches devoted to the lessons to be learned from the Olympic and Paralympic Games.  In light of the incredible positivity surrounding the activities and efforts of the last few weeks, from sportsmen and volunteers alike, commentators are looking for the knock-on effect which could be applied in fields other than sport, especially the possibilities for business in emulating our medal winners. It would make perfect sense to point to the collective pursuit of excellence as the explanation for the successes on display.  Individual sportsmen working with and for each other and the team as a whole, creating success by solid effort and an unshakable belief in the quest to do better.  The contrast with the superficiality of some aspects of our culture could not be greater but is rarely thrown into such sharp relief.

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Reach out – I’ll be there

The title of this post is an old song title from the Four Tops.  It’s amazing how old song lyrics can get you thinking.  The song is all about support systems and asking for help when you need it and, hearing the song the other day, that thought collided with some statistics I heard a few days ago. You can’t possibly have missed the fact that it is only a few weeks to the holiday season and you are probably starting to think about what you might be giving to those around you as gifts – well you will be soon if you haven’t started just yet! There is one person, however, that most of us don’t include on our gift list and that is ourselves.

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LIVING BY THE GOLDEN RULES

Whether you are looking for a professional, a tradesman, or a particular service provider, the chances are that you will first ask friends and colleagues for recommendations.  The social networks are also full of requests for trusted advisors and ‘proven’ abilities on an endless range of subjects and specialisms. Why does this work?  Because we all believe that anyone with a decent reputation, someone who has delivered excellent service before, will do so again for us.  This person is therefore to be relied upon and will turn up when expected and give us the service we need.

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PROFESSIONALISM & POLITICS STILL DON’T MIX!

I am not a political animal and I promised myself that this election would not appear on these pages but sometimes you just have to admit that enough is enough.  The behaviour of  The Right Honourable Gordon Brown, MP, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (to give him his full title) demonstrates two professionalism issues very clearly and could not be ignored without a few comments. The first issue is, of course, standards in public life and levels of ‘Trustworthiness’.  This election has thrown up some horrible examples of individuals behaving in an unacceptable way and clearly having learned nothing from the public anger in the recent expenses debacle.  They have demonstrated contempt for the public they are supposed to serve and a belief in their own importance which appears to override any moral constraints which ought to be an integral part of the concept of public service and which seems to have eluded them altogether.  They are, in no particular order:

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True professionalism - Respect and trust

I was recently wandering around in the LinkedIn listings looking for someone’s email address and stumbled across the entry from an ex work colleague.  The entry had me rooted to my chair as the detail was claiming that this individual had been in a particular role for several years whereas I know that it had been occupied by someone else during that period.

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Professionalism at work in the holiday season

Just as I was settling down on the train yesterday for a nice relaxed ride home, I overheard the lady next to me say to her travelling companion ‘Did you know Christmas Day is three weeks tomorrow?’  Talk about panic stations!  Am I ready – I am not!  Have I done anything about anything – I have not!  This has all the makings of a Christmas Eve whirlwind  but I have pulled this particular rabbit out a hat before so I am not overly worried.  Not just yet anyway! Organisations, however, need to be just a little bit more prepared and, in difficult times, will hopefully have been a bit inventive this year on the thorny question of  WHAT  TO  DO ABOUT THE  CHRISTMAS  PARTY.  An interesting subset of that discussion will also have revolved around bonuses or rewards for a year of effort and, hopefully, successes.


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