Ready To Work?

1998 just called, it wants you to hand over your personality

In 1998 I applied for a promotion at my place of work. During the interview I was asked for my home phone number, as well as my office number and mobile, so I could be easily contacted with the results of the interview. I was successful in my quest and my new boss phoned me at home to give me the news. I wasn’t in – so he left a voice mail. He confirmed I’d got the job, and in a rather confused tone, asked me to call him. I rang back and my new boss told me he wasn’t happy with my answer phone message, and I’d have to change it. The message was a short, cheesy tune I’d recorded using a keyboard for a simple backing track, with me singing over it. I can still remember it, word for word.

We’re not here to take your call
So leave a message cos we love you (love you) all

Such strong composition, it really should have been a hit. Hey ho. I was surprised by the request, and politely refused, this is my personal, home phone number after all. My new boss was adamant, so I lied and said I would change it. I worked for him for about two and a half years. He never called that number again, and because it was our home phone number, neither did any other colleagues or customers. A few months after the incident I did change the message, but only because I got fed up with so many people ringing just to hear the song! Though the memory of the song remains in my head, I got on with my life, and figured that people nowadays would see beyond little quirks like this, to the real person. As anyone who pops by here regularly will know, I’m often wrong…

2016 just called, it says the song remains the same

I recently spotted an advertisement by Barclays Bank about being ‘Ready To Work’. It’s basically a staged vox pop where a bunch of younger people are speaking to camera, talking about, and revealing their ’embarrassing’ email addresses.

The advert is one of a series. Here’s another, where the same group agonise over their social media profiles.

Maybe it’s just me, but this campaign feels distinctly at odds with the much talked about ideals of authenticity, vulnerability, (insert your preferred …icity here) which we are encouraged to embrace in the new world of work.

Seemingly, it doesn’t get much better once you’re offered the job. A quick Google for things to do on your first day at work yields the following gems:

  • Blend in, learn your coworkers’ names quickly.
  • Learn and make the tea round, it’ll make a great impression.
  • Be on time, come in early, stay a little later.
  • Stay positive! It can be daunting being the new person (especially if you’re getting bombarded with awful advice like this).

The conferences I attend and tune into are stuffed full of promises of an exciting future of freedom and wholeheartedness, of purpose and values. If the future of work is about these sometimes edgy, often exciting human interactions, then why do we persist in coercing the next generation of people to cover their tracks in this way? What’s authentic about that?

‘Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss’

Update. I had a request to rerecord the answerphone message. I prefer the original but here you go.

The Blink of the Eye of Life

The blink of the eye of life shutters faster than you think.

That idea you have. Use it or lose it.

If you’ve thought it, someone else has.

Nothing is original, steal with pride and be the best thief you can be.

I’m buzzing. I’m laughing. I’m connecting. I’m launching.

I’m loving. I’m walking. I’m listening. I’m selling.

How about you?

The blink of the eye of life shutters faster than you think.

Reflect all you want, you’re a long time dead.

photo credit

This is my 500th post here at Stop Doing Dumb Things. Thank you so much for being a part of the journey.

Barely Visible

I’ve been umming and ahhing about writing a post like this for a while, and I’ve never been sure how to start it, until I checked into a client office earlier in the week. It’s common place for the front desk to take a photo of guests for ID purposes, and the pic above is the ID photo that was on my pass. I expect and hope the one stored on the system looks clearer (otherwise what’s the point right?) and this odd picture tipped me into writing about the facilitation and consulting parts of my job.

Put very simply, I think a key indicator of a facilitator’s best work is when they are hardly noticed. I helped to run an event recently and afterwards one of the guests, Ian, came up to me and said, ‘I loved the way you facilitated today for us, it felt like it was all about us and unlike most facilitators, you didn’t try and insert yourself into the day at all. It wasn’t about you.’ Ian’s feedback is very kind, I appreciate it very much, and as a facilitator I’m disappointed that he felt this experience we shared was not normal.

The same goes for consultancy. The art of a great consultant (and I’m not one yet – though I’m trying and striving every day to be the best I can and to improve), is largely to show genuine interest and curiosity and belief in people, and awaken these things in others too with as light a touch as you can possibly manage. I find it helpful to ask myself and people I work with questions like, ‘What’s the least I can do today to make a positive impact?’ I believe Busyness is a curse, and yet there’s no substitute for effectiveness, which takes quiet practice, determination and hard work.

From my experience in corporate life this approach is also very tricky. A typical organisational hierarchy begets a certain amount of pressure to ‘make an impact’ and often this is interpreted as how much more impactful (is that a word?) you are when compared to your peers.Without care it can end up as a bit of a slugfest, and I don’t think a battle of egos is particularly helpful. Think about the best people you work with and for, and the chances are there’s something barely visible about them too. They’re thinking about you and them and how that interaction can deliver something useful for you, for the customer, for them too.

The weirdest bit about all of this is overcoming the natural uncertainty that if you come and go, somewhat ghost like, people won’t remember you. And if they don’t remember you, how can they ask you to do other things with them, how can they recommend you? It feels counter intuitive, and for sure there is a danger of taking this philosophy too far. I gave a talk for the CIPD at one of their conferences earlier in the year and omitted to tell the audience who I am and what I do. I’ve been ribbed about it ever since, quite right too. Barely visible and invisible are two completely different things.

You might like to think about what’s the least you can do today to make a positive impact? I hope so, and I hope to see you again, barely, very soon.