Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Life love and leadership - lessons in balance and priority

I have recently embarked on a twelve month course of study at Waikato Management School, and am incredibly lucky to have been offered a scholarship for the whole programme. Following an inspiring introduction evening two weeks ago, I am now in the middle of the first four day 'residential', joining with 19 other leaders evenly split between the 'for profit' and 'for purpose' worlds.

I had some expectation that there would be lots of talk about leadership styles, group dynamics and practical ways to make me a better leader. The first exercise (undertaken a couple of months ago) included a LOT of self evaluation, and a 360 feedback which, although largely positive, had delivered back some (in my view) scorching criticism of my style (read: personality) and I am still smarting from it.  Demanding, impatient, unable to share, over burdened, untrustworthy, single minded and ambitious? Moi??? (ok so no one actually said that verbatim, but as my own worst critic, that's what I interpreted...) - and in fact there was even a session today on not being hard on oneself (point noted)

Anyhoo, the last two days have been delivered by an amazing man, Dr Peter Cammock who has somewhat rocked my world about what being a good leader is actually about.  In fact, there's been almost no discussion about leading OTHERS at all, and the first two days have had a strong focus on the inner self, leading oneself, and concepts like Flowpositive psychology, and understanding the real impact and implications of pessimism and optimism in relation to the question 'are you happy'.  There was lots of  talk about work life balance, and where the overlaps are, should be, and shouldn't be.  We've even done a fair bit of work on mindfulness and practised meditation.

I've been madly scribbling down notes, but also spending a lot of time just listening and letting the information wash (deluge!) over me, and as well as being valuable time out from normal life, I've also had to address a few things that have been niggling me, in relation to my work life. All good stuff!

I've worked out what motivates me (I love to connect people, and I like to be feeling like I'm making a difference), I have identified people who I admire and who have influenced me and why (a raft, but the common threads are their ability to inspire, and also at a personal level those who have given me freedom to be myself, without judging, and those who exude positivity).

I've been particularly struck by the concept of  hedonic adaptation - the idea that even when amazing things happen, eventually we return to the same levels of happiness that were there before the amazing thing - essentially that the highs and lows of life even out over the big picture, but also that this can be the curse of the easily bored - the high of the new can only make one happy for a certain length of time if one is not happy in the first place (current research suggests it can last up to about a year).  A good lesson if I'm thinking about getting bored in a job, or any other pursuit for that matter.

But what has really resonated with me is the idea of life 'opening up' when we are on the right path. All those things like mindfulness, and positive psychology and so on, really are about being settled in myself as a person, knowing who I am and what I want, before I can even consider anything else - essentially being my own leader before I lead anyone else.  I love the idea of a calling, finding a purpose, understanding my place in the world (also all part of to days discussion), and I was really intrigued by the idea that if we don't follow the path that is destined for us (the modern, business friendly term is emergence apparently) that this can explain why so often we never quite feel 'on track', or worse, life seems to be constantly trying to make things difficult for us.  There was discussion about whether every had a calling, and if so, do the distractions and obstructions mean we are not listening to that calling, or simply are not yet aware of it (which makes sense in view of when things just don't seem to be going well day in day out, but also goes some way to explaining those times when life is sweet. Although one wonders - when it goes from great to bad, is that because we got off course (either deliberately or not), or is it simply 'bad luck'? A post for another time perhaps.

All in all, I'm really enjoying the brain gym, the opportunity to meet new yet like minded people, and the pure pleasure of discussion, learning and questioning.  Its hard but its fun.
And finally, my favourite quote of the time so far , which is related to working on my strengths to make then stronger for 80% of the time, and not trying to over focus on, or eliminate my weaknesses (cos that's impossible):
You'll never be great by being barely adequate at what you're currently crap at. 
CELF leadership presenter Dr Peter Cammock.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A series of unfortunate events (where every cloud has a silver lining)

The day did not start well.  Or rather, the night before had not ended well, with one child vomiting, three basket loads of washing exploding on the couch, and the results of two kids 'marikon'ing their bedrooms still sitting in the office.

But I digress.  8.30 am and, first unfortunate event, said child still sick in bed.  My diary full for the day, all meetings, all out of the office, cheekily coupled with some report writing and at least a dozen emails that had somehow gone from 'not important not urgent' to 'beyond important and ridiculously urgent' in the space of a weekend.

The morning sped by as I answered emails and checked on sick child every twenty minutes, snuck in a couple (more) loads of washing, ran the dishwasher and conducted phone calls via the ear piece that cunningly disguised the noises that said I was working from home. (first silver lining, the work from home-ability of my job)

Midday. 1 pm.  Something had to give.  Woke sick child (SC)and coaxed her into the car.  What to do first?  Perhaps some drop offs - that might work because then SC could wait in the car whilst I double parked it.  Result!  And now the supermarket.  Out of cat food (last nights other unfortunate event...) She decides to come in with me.

The car had been a bit...shall we say...sluggish on the way to town.  Made a mental note that it was 6 weeks overdue for a service and this was important to ensure it stayed within warranty.

Quick trip round the supermarket and back to the car.  Second unfortunate event - the key is stuck in the ignition!  Did I have a flat battery? (Quite possible as there is no warning beeper on the lights, as I have discovered to my peril on at least 5 other occasions including the unfortunate incident that involved a Waiheke ferry and Auckland5  oclock traffic but I digress).  No, battery is fine.  I ring the local Chery dealer - explain where I am and what's going on.  They've never heard of such a thing, and more, they are no longer the Chery dealer - its an outfit in Hamilton.  But, because I am a good customer they'll send someone out for a quick look.

Second silver lining - a lovely man turns up within 5 minutes, at no cost to me, to look at my car.
Unfortunately he can't fix it so I ring the new dealer in Hamilton.  Fabulously nice service from a young man on the phone, until he clarifies the make and model of the car and tells me, actually no, they aren't the dealers of these at all.

I ring the national office, and eventually, through a series of more fortunate events end up talking to a guy on his mobile who just happens to be in the next office to the National Service Manager (both unfortunate and silvery as I learn that yes, my car is still under warranty, but no, there is no local dealer and the car will have to be towed to Taupo for fixing - at their cost...unfortunate silver?).
IN the middle of this a friend walks past the car, and offers to take SC home with her (silver!)
The guy on the phone gives me a number to call, and within 20 minutes - long enough for me to shoot up the road for a flat white in a takeaway cup - the local Roadside Assist man turns up, who (silver!) knows me and is based in a workshop just around the corner.

He hot wires the car (that's better than silver isn't it...) and we get to the workshop, even though i miss the entrance twice and have to drive right round Te Awamutu with google maps incorrectly directing me.

Don't worry he says, just tell me who to call at Chery head office and I'll sort it for you. (silver!)
I trot off, happily laden down with groceries, briefcase, laptop, kids car seat, and all the other flotsam i had retrieved from the car which appears to be headed for Taupo.  Oops I'm wearing high heeled boots (unfortunate).  There's a sunny seat I can rest on (silver).  But I'm in Te Awamutu, and it's a long walk home (unfortunate).

My dinosaur kindly offers me his other car to use (platinum, it's a Porsche) but remembers it is currently in getting work done on it at a workshop 15 km away and not warranted.  Could this day get any worse!!!!

A quick call to an obliging mechanic, and another to someone I remembered will be driving by my house from Te Awamutu to get home very soon, and I'm sorted.

Arrive to a ready 944, two kids fed and ready for pickup, and a helpfully quick dinner ready for throwing in the pan.

Yes a series of most unfortunate events, but also a LOT of silver linings, and I am, again, bowled over by the kindness of strangers.

And the best news.  The marvelous AA/mechanic, has managed to not only fix the car, saving it a trip to Taupo, but he's put a beeper on my lights.  Gold.