“Face the door” said Bert Lang. Bert was my Dutch boss when, many years ago, I took on a management role on a chemical plant in Holland. I’d never had my own office before. Somewhat intimidated by the whole experience, I had my desk facing the wall. “Face the door, own the room, take control” said Bert, and he was right.
Over the years my wife Liz and I have been privileged to join several groups “helping” (really?!) to build small houses in Ethiopia. It works like this. We turn up, along with twelve or so other international volunteers who have never met before, we have a leader, and we work alongside the local tradesmen and villagers in helping to build houses.
I got a speeding ticket recently. Since you ask, 57 mph on a 50 mph stretch of a “smart motorway”. I took my punishment like a man (see below) and went on one of those Driving Awareness Courses that are an alternative to three points on your driving licence. Mine was a Motorway Awareness Course.
Excuse me? Run that past me again. I’d just taken on this new job. And here’s one of my team telling me that “we all hate” another manager in the team.
I’m guessing most of us have heard of the “elevator pitch”. Done well, it’s a “compelling narrative”. But here’s the thing. Lots of us don’t have them.
I walked in the park with a client today. I do most of my coaching this way. We put on some boots and weather-appropriate clothing, and we get outside.
So I’m sitting in my favourite café/bookshop and I observe this. There’s a lady on her phone, very earnest, sitting down and making her point. Really making her point. And then she finishes. Must be the other person’s turn then. You’d think.
Picture this. The Doctor is about to open the door to the terminally ill patient. She has had a frantic day. Her daughter has been taken ill at school. Her husband is away. Finances are stretched at home so she is working long hours. And this is not the first such patient she has visited today. So she puts her hand on the door handle and prepares to go in.
Long ago and far away I worked with this French guy. We’ll call him Pierre. And it wasn’t working. I found Pierre aggressive, unhelpful and devious. Is it possible that he found me difficult as well? What, me?! Well, yes, probably. What to do?
Leonard Cohen, the singer songwriter who died last year, has a great line in his song “Anthem”: “There’s a crack in everything; that’s where the light gets in”. In the fourteen years that I’ve been doing executive coaching, one thing I have learned is to look for the crack.
Albert Einstein is frequently quoted as saying that “reality is an illusion”. So what’s the reality? Is one of us right and one of us wrong? Is the answer a bit of both? Or is there no such thing as reality?
So the scene is rural Ethiopia, and I’m chatting with a small girl. She’s dressed in probably her only clothes. No shoes. Remarkably smart watch, and I’m looking at it.
Four questions was all it took to learn the story of a stranger on the bus. And my world expanded a bit.
I hate having my photo taken. I know I am not alone in this. But wait. There is hope.
I made a mistake with a client contract last year. Well nearly. Actually I listened to others who told me I’d got it wrong. The key word here is “listened”.
I ran a business once that I wanted to be pizza, but it was fish and chips. I wanted it to do things it couldn’t do. But it could do other things really well. So that’s what we did, and we did it sustainably well for a long time. We were in fish and chips. Not pizza
My initial impression was now completely replaced by something quite different. I had jumped to a conclusion. Put somebody in a box. And I had been wrong.
We spend all our lives talking with people who don’t speak our language, in a communications style sense. So we need to be able to understand our style, and learn to read that of others and make the adjustment.
My wife Liz was away last week. I coped. Men do you know. But her first question on returning caught me out. “Did you water my plants?” You have plants?!
The elapsed time between me banging my head and swearing is probably less than a second. Swearing is for me therefore what psychologists would call an “automatic response”. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about swearing. I just get on with it.