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20191020 Joker and mammoth bone cufflinks

October 20, 2019

Yesterday evening I went to see Joker, the latest Batman film. The essence was the origins of Joker, which I feel demonstrated the essence of all our mental health issues.

Firstly, there was a good quote used, “when people say they have mental illness, people around them still expect them to behave normally.” I am sure this struck a chord with many in the audience, or at least those not too busy laughing at someone being mentally ill trying to cope with absence of support and understanding, without a lifeline, if you will.

To come to the latter point, understanding is rare for such cases because we can never truly know or feel, or comprehend what life is like for those whose only purpose of being, or reason for living, is to await their demise, either by their own hand, or through some other means. The story, as ever, is a tragic one, as it jumps from one motiveless struggle after another, at best seeking to find a connection or helper to get them through the day, whether this is done through fantasy or trust-based social services, or a close family member, while at worst retreating into running and hiding and acting out in order to be recognised through confrontation or through a “vain-glorious” exit.

As a result, the film touched me because every day I see myself and other people, each acting “normal” while being forced into their assigned roles of normal, which naturally cuts off the corners and misshapes people in order that society has a binding feature of conformity. The extent to which you are forced to conform and fit yourself into that box demonstrates the effort of will and the stresses you choose to place yourself under. Should the stress become too much to fit, then the fact that you do not quite fit will show through.

The Joker represented to me the never-ending struggle of society having to create a “normal” for those for whom any “normal” is an unattainable end.

On a more positive note, I believed I solved my own moral dilemma yesterday. I found online a shop which sold, amongst other items, mammoth bone cufflinks. Initially I felt that these would be perfect. They were ancient, at around 10,000 years old, and quite attractive as jewellery. However, before I could continue with my desire, my second thoughts kicked in and raised a rebuttal: would I wear hippo teeth, or tiger claws, regardless of the aesthetic?

The answer to this is a redounding no.

So what is different about the mammoth bone cufflinks?

I felt that while on the one hand the mammoths are extinct, and were not hunted to death, and the chronological distance between them and myself is many generations of humans great, there is the other hand. That is, mammoth bone was part of a living creature, just as a snail shell, or ammonite, and I would not wear those items because I feel that they are part of a carcass. Also, elephants, have great emotional intelligence, have their own society, remember their dead, and, as a result, deserve a dignity which I cannot carry out by wearing their bones as cufflinks. Further, my culture does not celebrate carrying around trophies of dead animals, and, as such, these particular cufflinks would not be a particular symbol for me; not of being human, not of being a hunter, or having overcome a difficulty to “win” them from the world.

Thus, my dilemma is resolved: do not wear animals.

This brings into focus an extension of this problem, which is that of my leather bag and watch strap. Here goes my reasoning, which, I am aware, is not quite as solid as I would like.

The leather in question from my bag and the watch strap is firstly farmed from domesticated cattle. As such the animals are not hunted and “wasted”, but rather wholly employed in their parts. The animals have purpose in death, if you will. Also, domesticated cattle are not comparable to elephants or other intelligent herd animals, as there is an absence of their own culture which is clearly present in whales, elephants, bison, and elk. Additionally, cattle are not endangered, as they are farmed in quantity. Finally, they are both functional for me, and not a decoration, as cufflinks would be. So while I would not wear mammoth bone cufflinks, I would wear ones of leather.

Thus is my justification for using a leather bag and leather watch strap.

CV stories

August 6, 2018

You cannot write a CV before you know who you are
The other day I was building a cover letter with a student, and as ever there was some difficulty in getting the stories out. This is understandable because usually we do not have to tell our stories because it is enough for our acquaintances and loved ones to say, “they are detail-oriented”. For a CV, it is just these stories, and the evidence which they contain of your efforts, which recruiters and your prospective managers wish to see. So, show, don’t tell, them who you are.
I am someone who has found numerous errors in cash flow statements which has saved the company over a million euros since I began working their six years ago.
Let other people decide whether they like you by showing them what you can do
The result of these stories is that you have shown what you can do for the prospective company, and you have done your best. If they don’t like your university degree, or work style, that is all right, and that is their choice. Stories are your best way in to show what you are capable of.

Just say no

June 11, 2018

The other day I was asked to put together the pieces of what someone may need in order that they can adequately refuse requests and maintain, or even raise, their status within the company. Here are the pieces I put together.

As a side note, the person will need more than wiki pages, but will have to work through these topics as activities. A mentor may be useful here.

1. Know your values so that you know yourself what is and is not important for you to do. Values is a big topic for me these days, almost as big as

2. Find out why you are doing or not doing something. This lays the foundation for

3. Setting expectations. So that you know and define your limits, and others are aware of what you can and cannot and will and will not do.

4. Prepare for the difficult conversation. That is, determine how you are going to persuade and build trust.

5. Manage your anxiety and use the jujitsu method for dealing with attacks in order for you to get what you want out of the encounter.

6. Use the three step feedback method to create opportunities from conflict, and finally

7. Revisit the difficult zone and keep a diary in order for you to plan and better prepare for next time.

Notes on The Rise of the Individual for Compensation

June 1, 2018

A

few days ago I wrote on LinkedIn a brief comment from a HR Executives.com article called What ‘Rise of the Individual’ Means for Compensation(http://hrexecutive.com/what-rise-of-the-individual-means-for-compensation/). This was part of the recent World At Work Total Rewards 2018 conference.

The comment was: it gives a new angle to training, considering the recipient of the training and how they fit into the company, rather than the ordering party (HR and line managers) and what they require from the individual.

Here I shall elaborate on my words as far as I can.

Usually HR and managers define the training needs with small input from the actual participant. However, with the rise of the individual, then it is the participant, in line with company goals, which define the training needs with HR and managers seeking to engage the participant, which puts HR and the managers somewhat in the backseat.

As a butterfly flits from flower to flower, drinking from the best flowers’ nectar and then, when the nectar has gone, moving on, so the “Rise of The Individual” means for companies that when the nectar has dried up and gone the butterflies will have left, or, if they have remained, will be looking outwards at other opportunities, rather than looking inwards to change the company so that the nectar returns.

As flowers have evolved to fit a particular drinker for its nectar, so must a company these days firstly decide what kind of employer for its rewards it would like to be, and then decide how that employee must “earn” those rewards, and finally decide what those rewards must be.

What kind of employer for its rewards it would like to be

For flower evolution it is the physical attributes of the pollinator which determine which creature gets its nectar reward, while for humans it is matching values which are the gateway to the company and its rewards.

Find your values

For each process and each decision your company makes there is a nod towards a particular value. Get to your values by asking why you do X as opposed to Y. These values are a reflection of who you and your company are, warts and all, and these are the sort of people you want.

Once you have your values, you can then select for these values at interview.

How that employee must “earn” those rewards

Working according to your values is natural, as it is the path of least resistance for a person. This is because your values are an implicit part of you, so “earning rewards” is a matter of course and will happen naturally. As the idea of rewards is something extra, or on top of what you would normally expect, then “earning” the extra ought to demand extra, and extra would be either going outside of your values, or committing to your values in a difficult situation. It is particularly these latter occasions which need documenting and holding up during appraisal times.

Decide what those rewards must be

Note that up to a certain point money does not affect work and its quality. Thus, values can come to our aid once more. As both the company and your employee share values to a great degree, a values assessment can determine which of your employee’s values shine out the strongest. The result of such an assessment is to reward the employee by allowing them to demonstrate that value in a part of the company which requires a more explicit use or demonstration of that value.

Further, it could well be that you have a value, or would like to experiment with a value, which is not on your “big values” list. Finding someone who has this “hidden” value and giving them the delivery project may well be the super-motivator you have been looking for. The downside to this is that there needs to be trust mechanisms in place to ensure all parties that there is not going to be any double crossing.

How can I help?

I can help with values training, that is train the company to acquire, recognise, and embody particular values.

How would it look?

For the company – what are your values? DISCOVER and SET UP a workable charter. Follow this up with building the charter into processes and systems; that is communicating the values through having appropriate processes in place which ensure those values are met.

For the new joiner – learn what their values are, and then find which of their values are most appropriate and beneficial to the company. Also, they discover which of their values, and so their actions, are going to clash with the organisation and remedy, note, and red flag such areas and make remedial action or pre-emptive action.

Conclusion

At each stage of this process to recognise and reward employees there are opportunities to learn about yourself and to grow in directions outside of your comfort zone and into new ways of seeing the world and thinking about your world. If, indeed, it is true that the individual for compensation has arisen, then managing your values are your best way in.

Notes on The Rise of the Individual for Compensation

June 1, 2018

A

few days ago I wrote on LinkedIn a brief comment from a HR Executives.com article called What ‘Rise of the Individual’ Means for Compensation(http://hrexecutive.com/what-rise-of-the-individual-means-for-compensation/). This was part of the recent World At Work Total Rewards 2018 conference.

The comment was: it gives a new angle to training, considering the recipient of the training and how they fit into the company, rather than the ordering party (HR and line managers) and what they require from the individual.

Here I shall elaborate on my words as far as I can.

Usually HR and managers define the training needs with small input from the actual participant. However, with the rise of the individual, then it is the participant, in line with company goals, which define the training needs with HR and managers seeking to engage the participant, which puts HR and the managers somewhat in the backseat.

As a butterfly flits from flower to flower, drinking from the best flowers’ nectar and then, when the nectar has gone, moving on, so the “Rise of The Individual” means for companies that when the nectar has dried up and gone the butterflies will have left, or, if they have remained, will be looking outwards at other opportunities, rather than looking inwards to change the company so that the nectar returns.

As flowers have evolved to fit a particular drinker for its nectar, so must a company these days firstly decide what kind of employer for its rewards it would like to be, and then decide how that employee must “earn” those rewards, and finally decide what those rewards must be.

What kind of employer for its rewards it would like to be

For flower evolution it is the physical attributes of the pollinator which determine which creature gets its nectar reward, while for humans it is matching values which are the gateway to the company and its rewards.

Find your values

For each process and each decision your company makes there is a nod towards a particular value. Get to your values by asking why you do X as opposed to Y. These values are a reflection of who you and your company are, warts and all, and these are the sort of people you want.

Once you have your values, you can then select for these values at interview.

How that employee must “earn” those rewards

Working according to your values is natural, as it is the path of least resistance for a person. This is because your values are an implicit part of you, so “earning rewards” is a matter of course and will happen naturally. As the idea of rewards is something extra, or on top of what you would normally expect, then “earning” the extra ought to demand extra, and extra would be either going outside of your values, or committing to your values in a difficult situation. It is particularly these latter occasions which need documenting and holding up during appraisal times.

Decide what those rewards must be

Note that up to a certain point money does not affect work and its quality. Thus, values can come to our aid once more. As both the company and your employee share values to a great degree, a values assessment can determine which of your employee’s values shine out the strongest. The result of such an assessment is to reward the employee by allowing them to demonstrate that value in a part of the company which requires a more explicit use or demonstration of that value.

Further, it could well be that you have a value, or would like to experiment with a value, which is not on your “big values” list. Finding someone who has this “hidden” value and giving them the delivery project may well be the super-motivator you have been looking for. The downside to this is that there needs to be trust mechanisms in place to ensure all parties that there is not going to be any double crossing.

How can I help?

I can help with values training, that is train the company to acquire, recognise, and embody particular values.

How would it look?

For the company – what are your values? DISCOVER and SET UP a workable charter. Follow this up with building the charter into processes and systems; that is communicating the values through having appropriate processes in place which ensure those values are met.

For the new joiner – learn what their values are, and then find which of their values are most appropriate and beneficial to the company. Also, they discover which of their values, and so their actions, are going to clash with the organisation and remedy, note, and red flag such areas and make remedial action or pre-emptive action.

Conclusion

At each stage of this process to recognise and reward employees there are opportunities to learn about yourself and to grow in directions outside of your comfort zone and into new ways of seeing the world and thinking about your world. If, indeed, it is true that the individual for compensation has arisen, then managing your values are your best way in.

Some Thoughts about Speccing

April 24, 2018

Making a choice can be extremely difficult at times. To help, people makes lists of the pros and cons, the costs and benefits, or other criteria or sets to place the options in. another method is to specify what it is you actually would like to do, to be, or to have, at the end of the decision. Another word for this is speccing, or specifying your needs. This from a dictionary: “the range allows buyers to spec their truck to their needs”. I am sure we are all aware that this is also a sales ploy. Take shoes. You buy the pair of shoes you would like, and then the sales assistant adds on polish, a brush, and a spare pair of laces for you, even though this was not on the “spec”, yet they are reasonable and logical extensions of the purchase.

The trouble with speccing is that you may either miss something, or end up defining something which has more nice-to-haves rather than absolute essentials. The result of this would be overpricing and even ending up with something you did not intend or really want. One poster wrote that the trouble with not having any experience of a particular solution “[it] always ends up with a higher end product, more cost, higher expectations, and so on.”

Of course, if you know exactly what you want, then there is no choice or option to create or custom build, and so naming your wishes is a simple matter.

The real problem with speccing is that there is often too much choice and freedom of movement, so, the grass being greener on the other side of the fence, you tend to look outside of what you may already have, and certainly further than what you actually need. What’s more, with a detailed description of design criteria for a piece of work you can easily get function or feature creep.

So what is to be done? Yes, have some criteria. You may need a personal assistant. You may require that they speak many languages, are able to answer the phone and put appointments in your calendar for you. Recently I was choosing a replacement tablet for my old Galaxy Note 10.1, which was excellent and did everything as I wanted and had irreparably broken. The further I delved into this search, the more mired in unwanted elements I became as the nice to haves and if this then thats bled into what I really wanted. This led to confusion and insecurity and discontent about any decision. In order to cut through this mire, this is what I did.

  1. Describe the core functions I would like the tablet to perform (that I can write with a stylus on it during my lessons.
  2. Draw the line regarding financial cost and specifications (that it must cost less than EUR 400, and must not be a 2-in-1 or convertible laptop hybrid. Only the tablet.
  3. Understand that many features would not be necessary and what features there were would help (such as automatic stylus integration and palm rejection), not ultimately hinder the use of the tablet.

This made the act of choosing a lot easier and more focused. Here is a more work-a-day example. A few years ago I was asked to find a language qualification for the staff of the company I was working at. After some research, and even an interview with a salesperson, I still found those who had commissioned this quite noncommittal on price and availability. I shall follow the three steps above.

The core functions The examination should be recognised by other offices in the regions, not necessarily by the clients.
The cost The financial cost was set at very low overall, while taking staff out of work for study leave, and the fact that the examination should be closely linked to their work meant that an external examination was out of the picture.
What is necessary, what is unnecessary Based on the comments for the previous two criteria, I found that an examination was not necessary, but rather a continuation of the language support with closer job integration would closer fit the needs. Hence there was no examination.

 

Constructing a Difficult Message

April 23, 2018

Sometimes you would like to send a message which is difficult to identify. It is not easy and not enough to start with the easy beginning of the why which could well be a more difficult to write, “I am writing to cancel our long-term partnership.”

 

The best way for me in these difficult times is to start in the middle and build up your “onion” layer by layer. An advantage with this is that you are focussed on each part of the message, the apology, the reason, the word choice, all without rambling and losing track. Here is an example.

 

I first write this

 

I would like to cancel our partnership.

 

Then I add some kind words

 

It is with regret that I would like to cancel our partnership.

 

Then I could give a reason by adding more.

This is due to a change in my circumstances.

 

So the whole so far, reads

 

It is with regret that I would like to cancel our partnership. This is due to a change in my circumstances.

 

This, then, is essentially the message. Now all it needs is a top and a tail.

 

So now the message reads

 

Dear Joan,

I am writing with some unfortunate news.

It is with regret that I would like to cancel our partnership. This is due to a change in my circumstances.

All the best for the future.

 

As it stands I could send this and it would be alright. However, I would like to polish it yet further. Let’s see what else can be done. And at this strange I may even alter the central idea’s wording.

 

Dear Joan

I am very sorry to be the bearer of some difficult and unfortunate news.

It is with regret that I would like to terminate our longstanding partnership. This is due to a combination of a decline in clients and our proposed move to Distanttown.

This decision has been made particularly difficult by our excellent working relationship, and I have learned a lot during our time together

All the best for the future.

 

In this almost final version I have added my feelings about the decision while making the reasons less personal and mysterious, and more tangible. Doing this also offers a way to keep the partnership: more clients and do not relocate. In a future edit I will also change the closure because “All the best for the future” in this context sounds too much like, “No hard feelings, eh?”

 

I would not put any particular admin into such a message (other meetings, documents to pass around) because I want only to focus on the difficult emotional aspects, not the prosaic to do list.

 

As a result, by starting with the central idea and building around it I was able to construct a difficult message which still has all the ingredients of the simple version of why, information, and action.

Trust two-day seminar

April 11, 2018

 

Here is a two-day seminar: Trust course 2 days’ seminar 2018

 

Who is this course for?

This course is for those who in a business context need to build trust and work with trust issues with coworkers and customers alike.  

At the end of this seminar the participants can use a variety of skills to build trust in a variety of work-related contexts. The seminar is based on the four dimensions of trust, with business-focussed skills associated with each dimension taking half a day each.

What are the four dimensions of trust?

The four dimensions of trust are safely expressing thoughts, being consistent, being credible, and listening deeply and acting appropriately.

At the end of the course you can

  • Give developmental feedback to further a conversation
  • Set expectations
  • Resolve a conflict in a critical conversation
  • Use questions to actively listen
  • Persuade
  • Ask for help and advice without appearing weak

If you are interested, then drop me a line.

Project manager communication course 2018

February 4, 2018

Here is the outline to a course I delivered to great success to a project manager who had many communication troubles leading to great stress and loss of confidence. In working through this course the project manager was able to regain confidence and improve the quality of their next project.

Contact me for further information. Project manager communication course 2018

After the end?

January 25, 2018

Two of my most popular, that is clicked-on, posts are how to end a client relationship, and writing a strongly-worded email. Following up on these afterwards is useful in order to double check that you have done the right thing, although not always necessary, is a way to avoid guilt or other negative feelings which may impair your future actions.

But how best to do this?

First of all, how well did you handle the process? And for you what worked, and what did not work? And hence what are you going to do next time which is the same and different?

To find out what worked and what did not, one approach is to ask yourself what the ideal outcome would have been and compare it to the actual outcome. I realise that this is an elementary gap analysis approach, but in cases where emotions could impede clarity, then this is a simple and yet effective means.

Case in point: after some engagements have ended their final session, and after the invoice has been raised, I set up a follow up conversation. This is usually a telephone call, but it may well be face-to-face. In the culture where I work I often stress that this is free of charge and aims at my improvement, rather than it being chargeable furtherance of the previous participant’s development.
During this I explore the effectiveness of the work we have done and what I should do differently, I find out what was liked and not liked, and what premenant developmental chages have taken hold.

What was miscommunicated?
I also endeavour to discover where miscommunication occoured and what I should do differently next time in order to rectify the case. For instance, once, a long time ago, I failed say how long, or how many sessions were expected for the participant. This led to the participant feeling cheated out of too short a stint. After illuminating the effect and success of this shorter version and showing how a longer course was needless in their context, the participant was satifsfied. Hence, by including the proposed course length at the beginning, there are fewer surprises.

Make a note of your planned closure for next time
This could be a check list for a follow-up interview, or a reminder to inform those around you what you have done and why. Remember to couch any reasoning in business-friendly terms, rather than emotion-laden blame.

In conclusion, this is how I ensure that the strongly-worded email has had its effect and the relationship which has ended has not left any aftershocks or ill effects, which leaves me to relax about the situation and get on with the futrue of my professional life.