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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Thursday's Magic Moment

As someone who spends their time working to support others in their personal and professional development, I am always thrilled to hear that people have found working with me both helpful and useful. Verbal and written feedback is always gratefully received and I value it highly but yesterday something very special happened.  It was the first time that I have ever seen physical evidence that affirms the value of what I do and what I had written. One of the attendees at my afternoon workshop entered the room and, while she was settling herself down,  took various items out of her bag as she was looking for a pen which had clearly sunk to the bottom.  One of the items which appeared was the most dog-eared copy of my book that I have ever seen.   She told me that she dips into it every day and that it is incredibly useful to her.

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R.E.D. and G.O.L.D. – an auspicious focus for the coming Year of the Dragon

Tomorrow sees the start of the Chinese Year of the Dragon, believed to be the most auspicious year in the calendar, with red and gold as the auspicious colours for the New Year.  They are also great shorthand to think about how we approach the coming year and what it may hold for us, both at work and in our personal lives.

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PAYING IT FORWARD OR GIVING SOMETHING BACK

"The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself. "- Oscar Wilde

As the increasing longevity of the population means that the government continues to struggle with the question of where to peg the age at which we might all receive our bus passes, I recently attended the festivities surrounding the retirement of a long-serving colleague.  Listening to the stories relating her personal history to patterns and methods of working which have long ceased to be relevant in a modern environment, it occurred to me that, over time, her capacity to adapt had been severely tested but that, in amongst the other elements of her day to day tasks, she had found the time to train and assist those around her.

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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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Professionalism attributes - Somewhere over the rainbow

We are all very familiar with the classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz – on our screens again over the holidays - and especially the most enduring song from the film ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’, sung by Judy Garland.  In the years since the film first appeared it has become accepted as the ‘standard’ version, now full of memories and association for many people.  Although lots of other singers have since offered their own versions, no-one ever really made a dent in Judy Garland’s ‘ownership’ of the song.

Then, in the late ‘90s, a new version appeared and did something really surprising.   It was a fabulous new version, beautiful in its own right and utterly different from the original.

TRULY   MEMORABLE

I can clearly remember the first time I heard it. I was listening to my car radio and, even though I arrived at my destination while it was playing, I had to stay in my seat until the end of the song because I wanted to hear all of it.  Then I waited for the name of the singer because I knew that I would want to hear it again - Eva Cassidy.  Next step was to go and buy it for myself and, unsurprisingly, I liked everything else that the singer had to offer and am still listening to it all these years later.

Why am I telling you this?  Hearing the song again the other day triggered the memory of my feelings of surprise and delight at discovering this new way of looking at something I was so familiar with.  The content was the same but the delivery was new and unexpected.  I also realised that I did not have to decide whether it was an improvement on the older version but that I had quickly accepted that the two versions could exist side by side.

DIFFICULT  BUT  NOT  IMPOSSIBLE

How had the singer achieved this?  She had found a new and intensely personal way of looking at something familiar and had made me, the listener, appreciate the content afresh.  She triggered an extraordinary reaction in me and a great many other people who also heard the song that day.

I have huge admiration for the singer, having the courage to take something so familiar and do something truly different with it.  A huge gamble that could have backfired badly but she made it uniquely hers with no detriment to what went before - just completely different.

POSSIBILITIES

At work and in our everyday lives we all allow ourselves to continue doing what we have always done before without questioning it – it’s easy that way.  Have you ever wondered whether easy is not always best?  Now would be a good time to apply a fresh pair of eyes to what you have been doing for a while, giving it a good shake and seeing if perhaps there might be another way – perhaps better, definitely different, maybe leading you to other changes.  Change for its own sake is not always the best route but it can occasionally lead to improvement, even just by relieving the tedium of unending repetition.

Use the key attributes of professionalism of integrity and the search for excellence.    Have the courage not just to do the right thing for you but also look beyond the ordinary and the mundane, beyond entrenched attitudes to find something better, something newer and, by upsetting the status quo, perhaps produce something for the benefit of everyone.  Give yourself permission to dream and you might just find your rainbow!

“If we all did the things we are capable of doing we would literally astound ourselves” – Thomas Edison

True professionalism - Read more, read often

We are all subject to fairly staggering amounts of information each day, coming at us from an ever increasing range of sources.  Have you ever considered how much of this ‘stuff’ you actually read and ingest, finding relevance for how you live or work, or storing it away for further use later? The mixed drivers of intellectual curiosity and the need to remain up to date for professional and CPD purposes should be enough to make you apportion a significant percentage of your time to reading as widely and as frequently as possible.

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