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. 

New ways to spot old problems (or what a baguette tells us about professionalism)

Some people think professionalism is a very obscure subject.  What does it mean, why is it relevant, how can it help my career?

By far the best way to understand its value and meaning is to take a look at how people behave in a variety of circumstances, both at work and in their personal lives, and to reflect on whether their behaviours lead us to make some assumptions about them.  Are they people you would trust, would they be likely to complete work on time, would they consider others' feelings in a difficult situation?

Consider the following real-life scenario;

Two colleagues decide to take their lunch break together after working together all morning.  Following a swift discussion about the dismal weather they decide to go to the local coffee shop as it is quite close by.  One guy buys a filled baguette but no drink while the other has coffee and a sandwich.  They sit facing each other at a table with four seats.  Baguette guy wolfs his lunch down in a very few bites while the other guy takes his time with his sandwich and leisurely waits for his coffee to cool down.  Not a word has been exchanged.  As soon as he has finished eating, baguette guy gets out his iPhone and proceeds to work on his messages without looking up or interrupting himself or acknowledging the other guy's presence in any way.  15 minutes go by.  Coffee guy is now looking around and indulging in a spot of people watching as if sitting at the table on his own.  When he finishes his lunch he also gets out his phone, glances at it briefly and puts it away.  They leave together, discussing work issues.

What do you make of this scene?  If they were colleagues of yours or you were their boss then what conclusions might you draw about the behaviour of each and what, if anything, might you be tempted to do as a result of what you have seen?

Case studies and stories from real-life give us some eye-opening information to work with as a means to unpack the huge variety of characteristics and attitudes which combine in each and every one of us.  Are you displaying as many professionalism characteristics as you think you are? 

Would your organisation benefit from discussing these important areas together?  

Give me a call if you want to talk about your conclusions from the scenario above or any other professionalism issue, I'd love to hear from you.

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 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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So funny but so sad!

When I found this picture recently my first instinct, like yours no doubt, was to laugh uproariously.  It is hilarious.  However, it only takes a split second to then realise that it is one of the saddest and most damning indictments of laziness and total lack of professionalism that I have ever seen.  We definitely have a very long way to go to make professionalism everyone’s preferred option.  But then we’d lose gems like this!  Talk about caught between a rock and a hard place.

 

The hidden cost of meetings? “Consider this” (2)

“A committee is a cul-de-sac down which ideas are lured and then quietly strangled “ (Sir Barnett Cocks)

It’s Monday morning and you probably looked at your diary or calendar last night to see what the coming week looks like. Did you smile and predict that this is going to be a productive week, you have some things planned but you also have some clear space which will allow you leeway for following up exciting ideas or resolving urgent issues. Or did your heart sink because the week ahead is full of recurrent weekly, monthly, quarterly meetings which only happen because the need for them is long lost in the mists of time or it’s always been done this way?

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Fairer access - Time to bite the bullet

Congratulations to Alan Milburn on opening up a laudable cross-sectoral discussion about what our childrens’ futures could be.His newly published report (Unleashing Aspiration - The Final Report of the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions) provides some important statistics about current and historical routes into the professions and offers a large number of conclusions and recommendations.

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It's everywhere!

I have to make a confession – I really don’t like tennis. When the adverts for the grunting fraternity start up then it’s time for me to duck for cover and dig out those books I’ve been waiting to read. But anyone can be wrong and I don’t mind admitting that I have had an epiphany. Nothing to do with the game itself, you understand, but the behaviour of the players and their attitude to the umpires and officials.

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