Tuesday, 19 August 2014

I made a mistake today and I told the world.

You know that feeling when you think there's something you've forgotten, but don't know what it is? It's a niggly kind of feeling, but worrying the niggle does nothing to uncover the forgotten thing. Today my niggle was revealed: I had completely forgotten something very important in one of my projects.

I don't forget things very often (apart from bills I have to pay - and that's just because I'm busy and disorganised at home). At work, I'm super-organised. Working part time in many different places, including my own business, means that I have to be extremely organised and ready for everything well ahead of deadline.

Today I received a call from the secretariat of a conference where I'm putting flyers in the conference satchels to advertise. The satchels are being packed tomorrow on the Gold Coast and I have paid for 450 flyers to be placed in those satchels. I'm in Melbourne.

Firstly, I owned my mistake. I explored the possible options with the secretariat and then told my boss what the options were. My boss was excellent. We talked about where things stood, I proposed a solution, we made a decision and I went off to fix the problem.

Thanks to the digital age, I was able to easily find a local printer, email them the art work and have the flyers printed and delivered by 8:30 tomorrow morning to the place where the satchels are being packed. Phew!

Initially, I felt really stupid and was concerned that I had made such a mistake. I guess I also worried that I had let people down. Of course, everyone makes mistakes. I told myself this and then my little inner critic replied "but I don't". I shut that critic down. Of course I make mistakes. I just proved that today. Being open, honest and owning the error was the best thing I could do. This enabled collaboration on the solution my error had created and built trust. Yes! My boss will trust me more as a result of what happened today - not because I made a mistake, but because I didn't try to hide the error.

What do you do when you make a mistake?

What about the sign on this door? I notice it every day at my train station, but today I tried to understand what it means. I think someone made a mistake. What's the point of a door that no one is allowed to go through?

© 2014 divacultura

Monday, 18 August 2014

5:14pm to Laverton

The 5:14pm Laverton train was entertaining. The driver engaged with his cargo. As we pulled out of Flinders Street Station he greeted us and then said he wanted to acknowledge three very special groups of people travelling with us today.

"Firstly, I'd like to acknowledge all those people who gave up their seat to someone who really needed it. The second very special group I want to acknowledge is those who can actually hear what I'm saying. It means you haven't got your headphones on and turned up to eleven, which also means you're not driving everyone else nuts with [insert beat box sounds here] bleeding out of your headphones. And the third group I really want to acknowledge is those who are speaking on their mobile phone very softly. You're all outstanding people.

"I also wanted to let you know we are running a bit late, due to the tardy arrival of this train to Flinders Street. I'll do my best to make up time and get you home, as long as you're going anywhere on the Laverton Line, except South Kensington, where we're not stopping. If you're not going to any of these places, you're on the wrong train and I can't really help you! You should get off at the earliest opportunity."

As we pulled out of North Melbourne station, the train slowed right down. The driver was back.

"Good afternoon again, ladies and gentlemen. Very sorry to bother you again. I think the scenery we're now passing through is really worth having a look at - you know, under the freeway - lovely, the dirty old creek - it's so picturesque I decided to slow right down to give you a chance to take it in."

Some of us laughed.

He explained the train ahead of him was travelling very slowly, so he had no choice but to also drive slowly.

At various points, he also advertised a new bus service (the 901) running from Broadmeadows Station to the airport every 15 minutes and apologised for interrupting our reading.

I like this driver and hope he brings me home again soon.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Not if you're poor

Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey says that poor people don't have cars and if they do, they don't drive them much as justification for increases in the fuel excise.

I hope his press secretary is furious, but we've been lucky to gain insight into how our Treasurer thinks.

We've just learned that if you're "poor" in Australia, the Treasurer is working to keep you down, not lift you up. It seems that if Hockey is right and you're poor and don't have a car, his policies are not going to help you get a car or afford fuel if you do have a car. You are dismissed.

How about the poor people who live in outer suburbs or regional areas away from good public transport infrastructure? Life will get harder. Put this together with proposed job search requirements for people receiving unemployment benefits and the burden just got heavier.

$510.50 is the maximum fortnightly Newstart Allowance payment for a single person with no dependents. I guess that qualifies you as "poor" if you have no other resources. And don't forget if you're under 30 years old, the Abbott Government proposes no financial support for you for six months if you're not "earning or learning". I suppose if you have no income at all, you'd be considered poor.

People driving cars aren't the only people paying fuel excise. How about the trucks that deliver our food and other goods and services? These increased costs will surely flow on to the community where poor people live and need to eat and clothe themselves and send their kids to school.

Regardless of the underpinning policy merits of taxing petrol, it's awful to hear such contempt being displayed to people who are struggling. I don't expect to agree with much that the Abbott Goverment says or does, but I do expect the people who have been elected to govern, do so for ALL people, not just the rich.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Team work - 12 pianists and one piano!

I just watched this video of a performance as part of the TEDMED series. Twelve people play one piece on one piano. The music is interesting and we get to hear the full range of the piano being fully explored.

I watched it again and it struck me that this is a great example of a high performing team. Each member has a part to play. They are expert in the part they play. No one tries to take over someone else's part. They have to work physically closely together without distraction. They look delighted to be working together. We don't see the hours of preparation, both individual and team, that would have been required to achieve the performance we see in the film. We also don't see the debrief afterwards where there would be celebration of success and perhaps some private conversation about errors made. Perhaps they would also plan for their next piece of work.

I'm sure there is a leader. At times I think I spotted one, only to think I saw someone else. I believe this is how it is in a truly high performing team - all members shoulder responsibility and accountability for the performance of the team.

Isn't that a team you'd like to be part of?

Monday, 11 August 2014

Leadership lessons - Shifting the boss/worker paradigm

A few weeks ago I was in the company of some former colleagues from my days as a union official. There were some people I was genuinely delighted to see. Years had passed and there were many questions about how I was now spending my time. I responded with passion and enthusiasm about the variety of things I'm working on, including leadership development for some big organisations. I was struck by the number of people who asked me outright, "Have you moved to the other side?"

The first time I was struck by the boldness of the question and could only manage a "no". After a few times, I started to react to the question with its inherent judgement and lack of curiosity. I pushed back.

"Why is leadership development perceived as being on the other side? What is the "other side" anyway?"

The answers were simplistic echoes of old class wars: you're supporting the bosses instead of the workers.

It was old-fashioned, limited thinking. I thought about the number of union members I'd talked to who had fallen victim to unskilled bosses and thought how much better it is for everyone if leaders in business are skilled in the business of leading their people. My response was met with a shrug.

People with locked in positions about workplace politics aren't limited to people working for trade unions.  In a recent conversation with senior leaders we were discussing what is within our control and considering where we focus our attention and energy. The group nodded and acknowledged the wisdom of understanding this. Then a member of the group said they hated the fact that they knew their team members would go "straight to the union" after particular conversations with them. I could see their frustration and feel the temperature in the group increase as others agreed.

I asked what bothered this leader about the actions of their people. They told me they had no control over how messages were conveyed to the union. I asked whether the team members were doing something wrong in talking to their union. The group agreed that there was nothing wrong with this. The frustration remained.

"What would happen if you acknowledged, out loud, the conversations that they would have with their union?" Uncomfortable shuffling ensued.

"What would happen if you facilitated that conversation somehow?" Angry eyes looked at me.

"After you speak to your team, how can you control who they speak to next? What they say?"

Further frustration boiled over: "We can't!" "We just have to accept it!" came the responses.


Imagine what might happen if the focus changed. Instead of directing energy in a negative way towards a futile goal (ie stopping people talking to each other), consider the power of accepting what is not within your control and instead directing energy in a positive way, for example facilitating or nurturing a relationship, starting a conversation.

It fascinates me that the people who are in the relationship of employer and union are often misguided about the nature of that relationship. Many probably would disagree with the concept that a relationship even exists. Even sworn enemies have a relationship with each other.

Where do you put your energy? Is it within your control? What would happen if you shifted your focus?