Just a Friday thought… Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing?
The day I tapped a partition wall with a hammer to find out if the plaster was sound. It wasn’t. One minute, beautiful bedroom, next two tons of dust.
Pouring petrol on a smouldering bonfire – the result, a small explosion and no eyebrows.
Nudging a small, immaculately dressed son as he stood by the garden pond two minutes before we were due to go out to a smart family occasion. Need I say more?
Lost in a Swedish forest and asking the blind man I met for directions.
Believing a CRM system might work first time.
The list goes on. Those sages quick to point out how they could see what was going to happen and, as the Harry Enfield character so eloquently stated; ‘You didn’t want to do it like that’ have all missed the point. Things happen, it’s all part of life’s rich experience. Most importantly, we learn. To get to the next level you have to learn from those things that didn’t go entirely according to plan.
Hindsight is indeed a wonderful thing because it creates opportunity for improvement. Even now my son will not stand between me and open water. He’s learnt. Have I?
Nearly 3000 years ago, the Greek philosopher Homer wrote in ‘The Iliad’ that ‘to speak his thoughts is every freeman’s right’. Now established in English case law since 1999 is that freedom of speech could not be limited to the inoffensive but extended also to ‘the irritating, the contentious, the eccentric, the heretical, the unwelcome, and the provocative, as long as such speech did not tend to provoke violence’. Brilliant. Or is it?
In organisations can we really allow our people the opportunity to say what they want? To air their views in public whenever they want? If we did, it could be disastrous. We might find people turning up to work with a small plastic box which, when flipped over, is a perfect one-person stage upon which they can stand and address anyone that cares to listen. Clive, the handyman stands on his toolbox and publicly decries those that have blocked his toilets for the third time this week. Mary in accounts puts up her stage in the corner of the shop floor and rants at all those who seem unable to fill out an expenses claim form on time. Barry in IT… sends an e mail picture of himself standing on a box with a message under it, usually with some Star Wars reference.
Is this too frightening?
Let’s consider the benefits. Everyone in your organisation would feel that they can have their opinions heard by anyone that cares to listen. This means you can bring all those gripes and grumbles out into the open where they can be addressed. It would spark debate over the issues which are important to people. There is obviously the right to reply, agreeing with the orator or suggesting improvements or actions. This could be a very powerful vehicle for change. Don’t forget you can say anything from your platform – why not thank someone for their great work, praise achievement or applaud improvement?
I know of one MD who does just this. He heads out regularly around his factories with his box from which to carry out impromptu discussions with anyone who happens to be able to listen. People join in the debates and have a lot of fun. Direct, personal, face to face dialogue between the leader and the masses.
There is just one historical precedent that you need to be aware of before you rush off and buy your rostrum. Socrates, arguably the father of philosophy, enjoyed this type of oratory and debate in the forum of Athens. After many years of his antics he was poisoned to death. Now that’s what I call heckling!
A great story from my friend Mark Greenop.
As a child growing up in the Cumbrian coastal town of Workington he was often dispatched to the local grocery store for bread, cheese and the like. The shop was run by a kindly lady called Amy Daglish who gave 24 hour service, 365 days a year. This was remarkable because she was the only person who worked there. Apparently you could call anytime day or night and Amy would be delighted to serve even if you had got her out of bed to do so. Whenever she made a sale she would say ‘I thank you’, in fact she said this all the time in response to any request. Her kindness and selflessness made revered throughout the town.
When acknowledgements are heartfelt, genuine expressions it is so meaningful. Unlike the ‘have a nice day’ which is so tarnished that even when you really mean it from the bottom of your heart the person hearing it perceives it as drivel. My lads had a ski instructor that praised them with a ‘good job’. From her it was the ultimate praise, when I tried it, well, I was met with derision.
Amy had it right. She had developed her own, unique, meaningful acknowledgement which when she used it it had the right effect. These can’t be scripted by the corporate customer services department. It’s like trying on shoes, you’ve got to find the style that suits you and that fits. Even then, they need to be worn in until you’ve got them just perfect. ‘Suits you, Sir’ is what we’re aiming at rather than a ‘Bothered?’ when it comes to this small yet so important parting comment.
Now that I’ve pointed this out you’ll all be self conscious about your ‘parting saying’. Actually, you probably haven’t even noticed what you do. Now is the time to take note, try a few out to find one that you feel comfortable with and then perfect it.
I don’t want to make excuses but when you lead an organisation it is so hard to ‘hear’ the important information that gets sent your way. Some people get hundreds of e mails, with everyone in the organisation adding you to a ‘cc’ list often to cover their backs rather than taking responsibility for their own actions. Then there’s the endless stream of meetings and the casual conversations in corridors adding to the noise.
On the other side there are co-workers with great ideas and boundless enthusiasm who are frustrated because no one seems to be listening to them. Depending on their mindset we hear the following: (1 is a sign of engagement – 4 show they are completely disengaged)
- ‘We pass on our ideas’
- ‘We told them this would happen’
- ‘They don’t listen to us’
- ‘If they bothered to ask us we could have prevented this’
Unfortunately, we sometimes come across ‘the high and mighty’ leader. This type can reside anywhere in an organisation, not necessarily at the top. They somehow obtain a title to go on their name badge, this gives them status. At this point, their hearing becomes affected by the extra weight imbued by their seniority. I’m always wary around people who have a name badge extension to accommodate the extra lettering needed to proclaim their rank. Perhaps we need to do some research to prove the negative coloration between job title length and the ability to hear what colleagues are saying. I believe this starts to happen at about four words.
This is nicely illustrated by an untrue but widely repeated story from an ‘alleged’ transcript of an actual radio conversation between a US naval ship and Canadian maritime contact off the coast of Newfoundland in October 1995.
Americans: Please divert your course 15 degrees North to avoid a collision.
Canadians: Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees South to avoid collision.
Americans: This is the captain of a US navy ship; I say again divert your course.
Canadians: No. I say again, you divert YOUR course.
Americans: THIS IS THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS LINCOLN, THE SECOND LARGEST SHIP IN THE UNITED STATES’ ATLANTIC FLEET. WE ARE ACCOMPANIED BY THREE DESTROYERS, THREE CRUISERS AND NUMEROUS SUPPORT VESSELS. (A pretty big job title you have to admit). I DEMAND THAT YOU CHANGE YOUR COURSE 15 DEGREES NORTH, THAT’S ONE FIVE DEGREES NORTH, OR COUNTER-MEASURES WILL BE UNDERTAKEN TO ENSURE THE SAFETY OF THIS SHIP.
Canadians: We are a lighthouse; your call.
Are you an aircraft carrier or a lighthouse?
The Friday Blog is an eclectic mix of interesting ideas with no particular theme and is intended as a bit of fun.
Waiters (a cover all descriptor for anyone serving table at a restaurant).
The concept that waiters should not be noticed takes away one of the best parts of any dining experience. I have to confess at this point that I don’t have servants at home so my only chance I have of living the life of the super rich is when I visit a restaurant. This means the waiter becomes Jeeves to my Wooster. Eating out becomes dining out. I have a restaurant experience rather than a fuel stop.
It is important to get into the mindset of a ‘Chap’ that has a servant at this point. I have created a set of criteria upon which to judge staff. You should of course decide on your own since you will naturally have different requirements to myself. The following are merely for reference and should not be adopted as a national standard, with certification, an annual award ceremony, and opportunity to be nominated for a Hall of Fame. That would not be appropriate. This is highly personal since this is my waiter and not everyone else’s (at least when they are waiting my table). You may consider some of these criteria to be unnecessary or unfair in which case I refer you to my previous statement.
Score each criterion between 1 and 10
- Degree of Frenchness ( 1 no Frenchness – 10 French)
- Polished shoes (1 has never used polish – 10 shiny)
- Waiterisms ( 1 mechanic – 10 Array of flourishes)
- Solomnier ( 1 Gushing – 10 Serious and Professional)
- Sommelier ( 1 Struggles with a cork – 10 sniffs the cork once extracted from the bottle) Placing the bottle between the knees and pulling the cork , with sound effects gets double points.
- Eyebrow manipulation ( 1 no use of the eye brows – 10 uses the eye brows in communication)
- Bowing ( 1 small head nods – 10 proper dipping down with arm flourish)
- Acknowledgement ( 1 regards me as a commodity – 10 Treats me as a full VIP guest)
- Address ( 1 grunts – 10 Always calls me ‘Sir’)
- Door ( 1 No exit strategy – 10 Opens the door to show me out)
The score is turned into a percentage and is used to determine the tip which must always be in cash and placed in the hand of my waiter as a sign of appreciation and respect.
The game can be adapted for use in other circumstances like with your gardener, groom or bus driver! Enjoy.