Monday, 24 January 2022

ARM ROUND THE SHOULDER OR BOOT UP THE BUM?

There’s increasing discussion about management style. In the past there was an arm-wrestling aggression and bullying in management depicted still in the “The Apprentice”. It seems to bring out the worst in everyone. It gets good ratings (over 4.5 million watch it) but it’s a bad advertisement for management.

How wealthy is Lord Alan Sugar?

 

In football, tough managers like Sir Alex Ferguson and now Pep Guardiola and J┼▒rgen Klopp are admired. Many want disciplinarians controlling the prima-donna footballers earning £20,000,000 a year. 

But it depends on the footballer whether it works. Some will respond to praise and encouragement, others to putdowns.  Contrast the tough, “call me Boss, son” approach with that of Gareth Southgate, England Manager, and Graham Potter, the Brighton Manager. Both gentler people, good at getting the best out of their players.

Some managers seem genial until you work for them. Sir John Hegarty – the founder of advertising agency BBH - always seems relaxed and charming but some of those who worked for him said he was unreasonably demanding.

Advertising legend Sir John Hegarty to be star turn at WSTA conference -  Harpers Wine & Spirit Trade News

Jeff Bezos – the spectacularly successful founder of Amazon – is allegedly a scornful and hard taskmaster with put-downs like “Are you lazy or just incompetent?”  The results of his company speak highly for this approach.  But could it be out of date? By the same token Steve Jobs was very successful but with little to applaud in the way he treated people. His successor Tim Cook who has a quieter more democratic style of management has lifted Apple to entirely new levels.

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Being a bully is completely unacceptable nowadays, yet in politics bullying has apparently become endemic. The Tory Whips Office has become increasingly intimidatory; politics is a nasty business. Ask the Democrat, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the U.S. representative for New York's 14th congressional district. She was recently reviled with shocking language by a Republican politician. 

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Bullying in business has negative effects. Talent can be squashed by snide dismissiveness. We can all recall moments when self-confidence and creativity flowed away like water out of a bath.

Management of people is a real skill too few people think about or learn. It’s about getting the best out of others and there isn’t a simple formula for that because few managers and few employees are the same. But when we read about the poor levels of productivity in the UK blame poor management of people. It’s not easy but great managers are usually great controllers of results, of numbers and of which levers to pull to achieve desired outcomes. 

It's interesting that sometimes it needs a hands-off approach when management needs to stop being in charge and to start to behave like absentee managers. One of the best managers in my life just let me get on with it. I wonder if the companies I know that did so well during the various Covid lockdowns benefitted from people being left alone to do their work rather than having someone breathing down their neck and putting them on some time consuming training programme. 

I also wonder if the restrictions of the past two years may not have changed our expectations of and our need for great management. What we need is a mixture of inspiration, integrity, enthusiasm, and energy.  Most of all we need to believe in and trust our managers. Abraham Lincoln said something interesting about what making a person a manager can do to them. 

His observations are wise and raise the question that we should consider about all managers. Their effectiveness may seem great but what of their influence in the longer term. What of their character?

Quotes about Good To Great (774 quotes)


Monday, 17 January 2022

GO ON. BRING ME EXCITEMENT.

OK, I’ve changed my mind. Now the time’s right for some excitement. A surprise. A bit of spontaneity. Perhaps a bit of danger. In cricket that series in Australia sums up how most of us feel: lethargic, disengaged, disappointing. Depressingly the effect of nearly two years of Covid has been to make many of us rather dull. 

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I had underestimated the importance and the effect of travel and adventure. I realised I was missing the frisson of excitement of being in an airport, the anticipation of airline food (isn’t that crazy when that food is generally dreadful?) and the thrill of taking off. I understood I had aged wearily and become a housebound Victor Meldrew (that geriatric misery of an antihero from a bygone BBC TV series.)

Yet the world is providing us with plenty of excitement and drama. At home we have the impending defenestration of a Prime Minister in the pantomime of British politics (“behind you Boris”.) The sort of thing you’d expect in Patagonia or Ecuador not the UK.  In France an election in April which Macron is determined to win. When he called our own Prime Minister “a clown” he showed the sort of restraint and insight a President needs. 

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In America the mid-terms are impending and as far as the world is concerned the contest will be dramatic and potentially tragic. It’s something we can’t keep our eyes off. In Australia, or as someone described it “the biggest prison in the world,” the politicians are playing their own version of tennis with Novak Djokovic or Mr Forgetful as he’s also known. 

Sweep around and in China there’s incredulity at the news about a lady of theirs. MI5 sent out an alert and picture of the woman named Christine Lee on Thursday alleging she was "involved in political interference activities" in the United Kingdom on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party. Barry Gardner, a Labour Shadow Minister, was allegedly paid £400,000 by Ms Lee over the past years. A spy in plain sight…bizarre. 

Minister promises inquiry into Chinese 'agent' with links to Labour MP |  News | The Times

We are spectators of non-stop high drama and life changing events. But it’s making us even more stressed and depressed. 

Yet on Saturday I read about a 19-year-old who’s just broken the record for being the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe. Her name is Zara Rutherford, she took 5 months to do it and she accomplished it in a Microlight. What an adventure. What enterprise. How refreshing.

This Teenager is Aiming to Be The Youngest Woman to Circle the Globe Solo -  The New York Times


We have been fed a diet of rules, restrictions, health scares and statistics which has turned many of us into scaredy cats and bores. What a catastrophic cocktail. I met a bright young person who lives nearby waiting to cross the road on Saturday. We talked about how strange the world was. She told me she was supposed to be going to a local comedy club but that she’d probably give it a miss - “too many people crammed together laughing” she explained. I told her to go. I wouldn’t have done that two weeks ago.  

It's time to change the way we behave and look at things in a variety of ways. We need to:

  • Get busy

  • Get talking on the phone to several friends or better still face to face

  • Go to one event next week – gallery, cinema, theatre

  • Go for a long walk

  • Go out to a restaurant

28,545 Busy Restaurant Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock

And then plan a series of “adventures” like going to places you’ve never been before.

Check your adrenalin levels, happiness index and sense of energy. Excitement and the thrill of the unknown are needed. Kerpow!!!



Monday, 10 January 2022

I AM RIGHT AND YOU ARE WRONG

Written in 2009 Edward De Bono’s book is based on the idea that most of our everyday decision-making tends to be confrontational. Whether in large meetings, one-to-one or even in our own heads, opposite viewpoints are angrily pitted against each other.

I Am Right, You Are Wrong By Edward de Bono

 

Ultimately contestants seem to think there must be a winner and a loser. The title of the book has always appealed to me in describing our adversarial world. Better still, though, is Groucho Marx in Horse Feathers when he sang:

“Your proposition may be good

But let’s have one thing understood

Whatever it is I’m against it.”


Republican Convention: Angry Tone Defies the Norm | Time


In America we currently see the rancorous opposition of Republican and Democrat so livid that some talk about the possibility of Civil War. Or in the Ukraine where Putin is in in a stand-off that could lead to war between Russia and NATO. Or in Taiwan, a smouldering touch paper with China. Or the vaccine passport supporters versus the anti-vaxxers.  Sheer naked rage is demonstrated there as Novak Djokovic (serial winner of the Australian Open Tennis Tournament) is held in detention in an apparently decrepit, immigrant hotel in Melbourne because the Australian Government believe he’s breached entry rules into their heavily locked-down country. His father in Serbia said what was happening to Novak resembles, no less, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.


Novak Djokovic to suffer rankings misery if catastrophic Australian Open  drama continues | Tennis | Sport | Express.co.uk


When it comes to Premier Football, fans believe blood is thicker than water and vaccination is less important than football skill. One in six of Premier League footballers aren’t vaccinated apparently. As one fan might have put it:


“He’s an anti-vaxxer…but he’s our anti-vaxxer”


So, what the hell’s gone wrong?                                                                                                                   


Well, nothing much that hasn’t existed before. The problem is us. Human beings. Abrasive, combative and ambitious. But one thing has changed. Technology. This enables us to be more of everything and faster. And “more of” includes being nastier to others.


Historically when the going gets tough we hunker down and become protective of what we have. And so, we’re all becoming more nationalistic and tribal. We are building walls not opening doors.


But the absence of hope is right at the centre of many problems. Last year there were an estimated 70 million refugees fleeing from hopeless war-torn homes heading towards wealthy countries and hope. 


Federal Authorities Unveil New Strike Force to Fight Gun Trafficking in  Chicago, 4 Other Cities – NBC Chicago

     

In Chicago where there are high levels of poverty, fatalities from gunfights in 2021 were nearly 800. Where there’s no credible prospect of things getting better people fight.

 

It would be nice to think we were all kind and reasonable. But we aren’t. Not only that but the ability to see things from all points of view is disappearing. If I don’t like what you say I can cancel or ghost you. In the last century and further back if we couldn’t agree with each other, we debated or fought a war or a duel. 


It’s 2022. We thought that diplomacy would work. We thought the age of the gun or knife was past. We were deluded. 


Given this why on earth should I remain hopeful?


Because humanity can be smart.  We can change, we can be leaders, we can listen better. It might be difficult listening to extreme Republican Americans, anti- vaxxers, people who are racist, misogynistic or whatever “-ism” they may have. But we shall never understand why so many people support what they say and believe unless we listen. 


None of us is wholly right or wholly wrong. But so long as we think that we are right, and they are wrong we are doomed to a future where rapprochement is impossible, and violence becomes inevitable.

Monday, 3 January 2022

LOOK FORWARDS, LOOK UP AND LOOK OUT

It’s not unusual to spend this strange time between Christmas and New Year reflecting and resolving to do better. It’s been variously called Chrimbo Limbo, Food Week and, more darkly, the Void. I think it’s a time to reset our world and lift ourselves up.

Overeating? Try Limiting Your Food Choices

We need to have things to look forward to. Diaries last year found themselves emptied of appointments and events. HOGO (the hassle of going out) took over. We need to plan for exciting things to do in 2022.

We need to look up not down and we need to learn more…to look up stuff…refresh our tired brains.

But finally look out. We are probably going to be Covid cursed for a while yet. This can’t make us become germophobic hermits. We need to be energetic not supine. But we also need to watch out and avoid infection especially those who like me, and many great wines, are somewhat aged. Avoid the fearless and foolish and parties (even political parties? Yes, obviously those.) 

Top 5 Cringeworthy Wedding Moments & How To Avoid Them | Dad dancing,  Wedding moments, In this moment

But do not be frightened. Covid is not the Back Death, but it will surely keep on reappearing with new variants. We must cope because we have lives to live. So, let’s live them.

Some thoughts looking forward.

There’s never been a better time to concentrate, meaning to stop diluting our energies and talent. Let’s reduce that sauce that makes whatever we do special. Having a diverse portfolio of brands or activities is exhausting so start to get rid of the less rewarding ones. For my part the first month of my year is going to be devoted to tidying up and stopping unnecessary activity. This is not a time to diversify; it’s a time to focus. It’s a time to do less better.

Note to self, do less, better. Hi, my name is Tom and I'm a yes-oholic… |  by tom britton | Startup Grind | Medium

Mindfulness remains in vogue. When done or taught well it’s proved to be enormously beneficial but applied lazily to daily life it seems distracting and more like mindlessness. Increasingly I find the need to simplify. If we had less on our minds and were able to relax better, we might be happier and we’d be more useful.

When did you last laugh, really laugh? 

Does laughter hold the key to human consciousness? | Aeon Essays

Maureen Lipman, Ricky Gervais, Billy Connolly and others have been recently lamenting the death of comedy. What utter tosh. However restrictive the greater social awareness we may seem to have through BLM, Women’s Rights, LBGT and what is called the woke philosophy, comedy will always thrive but will generally steer clear of some of the less funny areas. Beware comedians who think rape, cruelty or racism is funny. But also avoid puritans. Life’s too short. Interestingly the OED defines the original meaning of “woke” thus: -

“well-informed, up-to-date”

Yes, that made me think too. It’s since been appropriated by puritan youth to describe their attachment to various causes.

On a day-to-day basis I’ve come to realise that almost every initiative has unintended consequences. Working from home has obvious benefits, less time wasted on commuting, safer in avoiding human contact and a greater focus on the tasks that need doing. But it also subtracts social intercourse from our daily lives. We are losing the abrasive benefits of discourse. Those ghastly meetings around a table which we now mostly avoid (but a meeting on Zoom is not the same thing at all) orientated us even as we resisted groupthink. They allowed us to absorb what all our colleagues felt as well as thought. Zoom and Teams are  pretty much without feeling.

Priorities Committee Statements - Portsmouth CCG

If we do nothing else this year, we all need to talk more, listen better, meet more,  become sociable and less remote. Friendships and communal interaction suffered in 2020 and 2021. We need to bring hugs and laughter back into our lives. And one other thing. We need to be positive. Just start everyday saying “this is going to be a good one”. Make lists of things to do and do them. Nothing will make you feel better than actually getting things done.

The world around us is becoming more dangerous, more polarised, more bad tempered and less predictable. Now is not the time to be a soothsayer; all the analysts and futurologists are floundering. However, we do need to understand the tensions which will shape our world.

We need clever people, diplomats, great managers, calm minds, and long-term thinkers. Issues that will impact on us are going to be technological advances especially in Artificial Intelligence, the rich/poor divide, the growing number of old people who are staying alert and are getting more involved, pollution and climate change and the stress of declining national importance (tough for the USA, UK, and EU all of whom are losing share in this changing world.)

What an adventure we face. One like this:-

“Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming – WOW – What a Ride!” (Hunter S. Thompson)

Don’t be angry, don’t be frightened but do think and do stay involved. Maybe I’ve been wrong about social media which I’ve sometimes dismissed rather lightly because more of us can have our say and share our thoughts than ever before. Let’s just be thoughtful, good natured and courteous when we do so. That’s going to become the new “woke” way of doing things.

In 2022 I’m going to reclaim that word because it’s time we all woke up.


Thursday, 23 December 2021

HAVE AN EVEN HAPPIER CHRISTMAS THE USUAL

 The Christmas story seldom changes. Presents. Crackers. Santa. Carols. Christmas cards and the greatest story ever told. Shops and ‘Toys-of-the Year’ come and go but there’s an annual constant in our lives. Anticipation, celebration, decoration and fun.


Another constant is the illusion that this year it’ll snow. But there’ve been only 10 white Christmases in the south of England since 1960 (admittedly 26 in the chilly north). But we can hope one day it’ll look like this.


But when it does, we’ll all be having fun on the ice like the Dutch were doing in this Breughel painting of 1565. He manages to make cold look so appealing. But so cold!        



Or having a wonderful dinner like these Edwardian grandees, people like you, I imagine, rich, successful, out of your minds… by the way, beware that chap on the bottom right who seems to have had several too many already.


But best of all is that wide eyed anticipation and excitement of children everywhere at Christmas and the thrill of all those unchanging Christmas decorations. The joy of those children and their delicious expectations are heartwarming.

Have a happy and, yes, a heartwarming Christmas and an enjoyable New Year full of nice surprises. It’s time for optimism.

Richard and Kate

Monday, 20 December 2021

THE HARSH WIND OF WINTER

No. Not the weather. Rather it was the rowdy debate in the House of Commons and, specifically, the torrents of unseasonal, ill humour that we saw from the government backbenches. We have become used to it over time but something snapped on December 14th. People I know who have always voted conservative were aghast at the vituperation and sheer nastiness and declared they couldn’t vote conservative again. Was it because of the parties, the Boris buffoonery, sleaze or resistance to government policies on health?

Coronavirus: Tory rebel Desmond Swayne in stern warning to PM as lockdown  begins | Politics | News | Express.co.uk

None of these. It was the performance of backbenchers like Sir Desmond Swayne that made many feel they could have nothing to do with people like this.

I quote his remarks at some length because they were so distressing to many:-  

"On a typical winter’s day, between 200 and 350 people will die of flu. Do we hide behind our masks? Do we lurk at home, working from home? Do we demand that people provide their bona fides before going to a venue? Do we require people to be vaccinated as a condition of keeping their jobs?

Do we take seriously some of the extraordinary extrapolations that we have been given, particularly given the previous record? The fact is that those are things that might take place, and we have to balance them against the known costs and damage to enterprise, economy and society.

Desmond Swayne proves himself to be the Muhammad Ali of stupid – the  stupidest of all time | The Independent

In the end, it comes down to a matter of opinion—a matter of our prejudice. Typically, we are capable of organising our lives and making those decisions for ourselves. We decide what our risk appetite is and what we are or are not prepared to encounter. Notwithstanding the carnage on our roads, which is certainly killing more people than covid at the moment, some of us still decide to drive. It is a matter of opinion.

It comes down to letting loose the dogs of war—getting the fear factor into it and getting the officials, the members of SAGE, Independent SAGE and SPI-M and all those who speak in their private capacity out there twisting the fear lever……

The Government, having administered this Ministry of fear, are absolutely complicit with their officials and organisations who have designed and delivered it. In doing so, they have abandoned any principle of social democracy or liberal democracy, absolutely beyond anything that we have endured in recent living memory, in the history of this pandemic. As a consequence, having abandoned what might have been their ideology, they are rudderless and so much more at risk of the opinions and predictions of the advisers to whom they are in hock."

In fact 1,460 people died in road fatalities in the UK 2020. 147,000 people have died of Covid so far. That’s about 5 times the number who typically die of flu.

Coffin - Wikipedia

Fear? Yes, most people are frightened and it seems more people support recent Government measures and accept it’s their social  responsibility to protect others as well as themselves. Unmasked people on buses are the exception now. Large indoor gatherings are being generally avoided. 

A real shame' if enforcement needed against Aucklanders not wearing masks  on public transport, Chris Hipkins says | Stuff.co.nz

Should we not welcome debate? Of course we should. But as Sir Desmond, himself admits “typically we are capable of organising our lives” but typically we also find it helpful to have scientific advice. 

If we look at Europe we find most countries take a much tougher attitude to lockdowns and personal restrictions than we do in the UK.

This may not make this the most convivial Christmas ever but “typically” we are pretty good at making the best of things. So let’s do that now.

The Christmas lights displays you can see without leaving your car - Hull  Live

Monday, 13 December 2021

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS?

Throughout my life the nation’s mood seemed to lighten in the build-up to Christmas and for a few days afterwards and it wasn’t Christmas parties that created this bonhomie. It was a combination of the ending of one year and starting another; a year which started with hope and wonder. The lead-up to Christmas was one of good humour and community. It was silly season in the media and silly spending on presents. There were always a few Grinches and Scrooges around but as  the quote in the Gospel of St John says:

“In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer

Especially at Christmas. 

“Be of good cheer” sounds old fashioned but those words reek of Christmas. But Christmas 2021 which started weakly has collapsed in a complete mess. 

Politics first. Donald Savoie said in the Guardian “Politics has lost its soul”. He then said image had replaced policy and that:


“The problem is that the economic and political interests of the political, intellectual and economic elites are heard at the expense of the broader community.”

I have a problem with this. 

Donald wrote this piece in 2011 and now it’s got much, much worse.  And will probably get even worse. We can blame much of this on the Billy Bunterish antics of the current Prime Minister but the problem is more deep seated than those provoked by this cavalier misfit. 

Things Can Only Get Worse? by John O'Farrell | Waterstones

 

Billy Bunter at Butlins - Cartoon Gallery

From top to bottom the political system is rotten. There are so few grown-ups around– perhaps a few - but with the departure of Angela Merkel as German leader Nicola Sturgeon seems the leader with the most gravitas. 

We don’t pay our MPs enough, although we could sort that by having fewer of them, but the real issue is quality, integrity, intelligence and their breadth of real world experience. Most of us have no one we could vote for. Should it be Priti Patel or Angela Rayner? Crumbs, that’s such a hard choice. As things stand abstentions will be the winning vote at the next election.

The fact that the current furore is about Christmas Parties says it all. Those who broke the rules are fools and that’s what hurts most. Why should we be governed by fools?

Secondly the pandemic….again. Sick of it as we may be, we have to face probable truths (no, we don’t categorically know how serious an illness Omicron will be). However at least 60 Tory MPs seem happy to risk its being a minor thing as they vote against increased precautions this week (anyway it’s their constituents in their smaller homes and in their poorly paid jobs who are most at risk). Prudence was a word much loved by conservatives once. No longer.


Kentucky tornadoes: up to 100 feared dead in historic US storms | Tornadoes  | The Guardian

Thirdly climate and catastrophe. Over the weekend the small town of Mayfield, Kentucky was flattened by one of the worst tornados ever. At least 70 people were killed. The tornado was preceded by weird extremes of temperature. Commentators described the pulverising of ornate Christmas decorations in this town. Happy Christmas? No, not there, poor souls.

And in the Ukraine it isn’t sledges we’ll be looking out for next Saturday. 

A military tank driving on a dirt road

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Despite this (hard but try) let’s be of good cheer and be nice to our family and friends (remember being nice?) Let’s stop listening to the ghastly news and infuriating social media – guys, haven’t you got anything better to do than rail and grumble?

Keep safe, keep calm, have a relaxing time and heed the words of the briefing in the 1980s TV series Hill Street Blues

“Hey…let’s be careful out there.”