Tuesday, March 25, 2014

When Friction with Leadership Pays

The 2 key points to working with leadership

A leader acts like a grinding stone sharpener - you know that huge wheel of stone that you hold metal objects to and it sharpens them down to a fine edge? There's some that come with finger guards, some that are just one big round wheel and you have to know how to approach the bugger. Whether they have a bit of user friendliness, or are just old school gruff, there's no denying one thing about a grinding stone - it will destroy you if you don't leave it alone.

Point One: Get sharp, get effective, and then move on.

You see people who like to carry baggage and go back for more goes at the grinding stone - whether they perceive there's an injustice that's happened to them, or they're in a pride showdown - they just keep going back to the grind. It's like they perceive a debt needs to be paid, and they'll get repaid if they just butt against that grinding stone enough. Maybe in some delusional state they feel the stone will eventually make them sharp enough to destroy it.

Point Two: Rock always beats scissors.

So if you're taking on the leadership, well there's no problem on giving a little push back. You need some friction to create your edge. But if you're taking on the leadership yet again, as in, yet again, maybe start looking for your motivation. Because if you're out to destroy it, refer to point 2.





Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Image from http://thesmilecollective.com.au/paper-rock-scissors-super-samurai/

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Happy Death is the Worst Death of All

Have you ever heard of hypoxia? It's the starvation of oxygen from the body, you know, like when you'e at high altitude. My partner who is training to be a pilot had to do a test of how long he could function effectively without oxygen. He explained it to me as a "happy death" because despite the fact he was dying, he was perfectly happy.

Here's someone explaining it a little better:

'"Two whole minutes of my life had disappeared, simple as that," he says, throwing his hands into the air. "What was extraordinary was that I had no fear or concern or distress, just this massive self-belief. I believed I had beaten the system, but I had fooled myself." This is the crux of the issue. With hypoxia there is no raging against the dying of the light, more a friendly welcome.'





The scary thing about hypoxia is the blissful unawareness and therefore, unwillingness to fix the problem.

'"Flick the switch, Michael," orders Dr Ted Meeuwsen, acutely aware of how much Portillo's brain and other vital organs are being starved of oxygen. But the former politician, still capable of sight, sound and coherent speech, does not reconnect his oxygen supply. Meeuwsen tries again. "Put your oxygen mask back on or you will die," he says bluntly. Again Portillo ignores him as he continues the journey to the edge of his existence. A few seconds pass and then the scientists can wait no longer. Physiologist Hans Wittenberg, who has been monitoring his subject in an altitude chamber mimicking atmospheric conditions at 29,000ft, snatches Portillo's mask and clamps it back over his nose and mouth.'

We experience this personally, and in our workplace, when we obliviously continue down our merry path of everything being 'nice'. Being nice to our customers, being nice to our colleagues, having a nice atmosphere... it's so nice to be nice. But niceness is just another form of a happy death, when there's no movement towards sustainability like making a profit. Is it our job to be nice to customers, or to sell to them with intelligence? Is it our job to be nice to our colleagues, or to ensure the right decisions are being made?

And so it doesn't matter whether we scream "change now or die" to those that we're leading who are in a state of nicepoxia. They don't care! Why change when everything is so nice? Change only means one thing - that the niceties have to go. It means accountability and challenge.

Are you willing to do whatever it takes to survive? Are you up to the job of snapping people out of it? Can you be the grim reaper of their (or your) 'nice' lives? Can you deal with the fact that survival might mean a lot of unhappiness?

A 'happy death' is the worst death of all, because there's not even a fight for that valuable life - it's just an acceptance of the needless inevitability of it all. How freaking lame.




Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Passing the High Performance Buck Back

This guy would have saved so much time if he just asked the dog to try opening the door first...


If we really value our stars, we give them that opportunity to have a go, then we offer the support.

I don't think it matters what size your HR team is, or even if there is HR. The point of having a star is about giving them the space to create, launch and learn. Why develop a specific program for stars, when you don't even know if they need it? Why build the dog flap before they've tried to open the door? Anyone can spend a bit of one-on-one time and test a few doors. There's just simply no excuse for not nurturing stars, and don't accept it from your leaders. Fancy development programs, and big rewards add some glitter, but it's the opportunity to do something themselves that is the real content for stars. Any leader worth their salt can make that happen, and they don't need a learning team or even HR support for it

Do your leaders know that?


Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Career Planning is for Schmucks

The common method of career planning is to write your career goals for 5 years time, then to see what the differences are between your current situation and that vision, and planning on how you can bridge the gap between them.



But, I ask you in all honesty, how the fuck does one plan for 5 years time?!

5 years ago, I just returned from France. I hadn't graduated from Uni. I hadn't met my partner yet. I hadn't lived in Singapore. I hadn't started drinking gin. I hadn't ever really seen a game of Rugby. I hadn't worked a full time job. I never purchased a luxury item. I had never tasted Thai street food in Thailand. I hadn't fallen in love with Batik fabric. I hadn't started writing and connecting online with a crazy bunch of HR folk.

5 years ago, I joined in a model UN conference, just because HR should be interested in politics, and I dunno, maybe I always secretly wanted to study International something. I was Mexico, because, I dunno, I don't really know enough politics to be a serious model UN player - but I'm a good partier - it seemed to suit me well. I met Canada, she has become one of my very closest friends. We went out to a club with France or something - I don't remember, he was just a bit creepy and I'm pretty certain gay. But whatever, he hitted on me like crazy and I ended up ringing up a friend I met in (actual) France who happened to study at the same Uni as me in Australia. And he happened to bring along his housemate, who once saw me throw a huge tantrum out the front of a pub at 2am in the morning because my friend wouldn't hurry up - he was not impressed by me. But that night, we got talking and something just clicked.

And a few months later, I basically clinged on to him for life moved in. Then we moved to Singapore for 3 years, and I met with his family, and lived with them for a while too. Then we applied for his Australian Permanent Residency, and a year later he got it. And then we actually moved to Australia, and for a second time, packed up our whole lives, said goodbye to our friends, and arrived to family (mine this time), no job, and not much savings.

So here I am, 5 years later, with life experiences I could never have planned. I wasn't even that interested in South East Asia, and now my life is intricately linked with it. I wasn't much of a writer, but now I feel bound to it, like it's oxygen for my choking brain. I wasn't much of an adult yet and the experiences that have formed the start of my adulthood have been completely out of my ability to create. It all just happened.

And that's why I say the question we need to ask ourselves is not, "where do I want to be in 5 years?" We just simply will not, can not, and should not know. The question we need to be asking ourselves is "how can I open my life up to the next big thing?" Is it paying off debt to allow some financial freedom when the next opportunity arrives? Is it honing in on some skill that feels part of your fabric, that makes you you? Is it really nailing that part of your job that takes you to the next level of capability? Is it solidifying relationships that will support you during your next risky venture? Is it getting in a program of recovery to finally move on from a way of life that's keeping you in bad habits? How can you open your life up to the next big thing?

Talk to anyone with an absolutely amazing career - the journey enriched their work, and they could only take the journey because they were able to say "yes". Not some huge, life altering yes that tore them away from their children. I'm talking about a series of little yesses, because they were open to a series of events to occur, and then, you know, it all just happened. Life happened, and a career was strung together in the meantime.

Seriously, 5 year career plans are for schmucks. Developing whole lives (i.e. relationships, finances, spirituality, health, passions, work) is for the people going places.

My holiday in Singapore, that turned into 3 years.


Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

It's not 50 Black/50 White. It's 1 Black/98 Grey/1 White.

My last post was about passion not belonging in the workplace - I mean, sure, there are times where it's good to bring your passion to work, but I don't think it's a great emotional tide to be riding everyday.

Anyway, the response was interesting, and it ended up in a person (who I'm totally cool with, and just inspired me a bit) commenting something like:

"I'm happy for your passion for passionless workplaces."

Ummm....



Yeah no. It's the absolute easiest way to blow a small meeting of the minds, into an epic rage fest. 

It all comes down to this: taking someone's statement, then declaring they then must believe the absolute opposite of that, is akin to.... a bitch slap.




It goes like:
A - "I don't think Australia's current government is doing a very good job."
B - "That's nice, you want the opposition to run this country."
A - "I DIDN'T say that!!!"

What could have been a really interesting conversation for both sides, is shut down as 'person A' gets defensive, flustered and guarded that whatever they say will be completely misconstrued. 

The solution is in the grey - whether it's a black or white statement, always interpret it in greys.



The wonderful, wonderful greys that offer us compassion, patience and tolerance.

But the tricky thing is, this kind of shock-jock altercation is the currency of Social Media. If you want to be out there participating, you're going to be meeting this all the time. And this is my solution - participate, receive the statement, then wait. If they really want to  understand your opinion, they'll ask for clarification. If they're just out there being a bit testy, save your typing. There aren't enough tweets/facebook updates/emails to SCREAM TYPE that one out. You'll just do your head in, and they'll just keep merrily doing what they're doing 'cos that's just the way they roll. My blessings to them, may they enjoy the type of interaction it returns - some people just really got off on scream typing.

In the meantime, I'll enjoy paddling in the greys, and am sure most of you enjoy those shallows too. I'll see you there!



(This post is dedicated to Mr Dave Chappelle, the comedian who I just totally adore and is coming to tiny ol' Adelaide - but sold out before the tickets went public. I'm keeping the dream alive of seeing him perform one day!)


Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Passion Doesn't Belong at Your Job

"Passion: A strong and barely controllable emotion"

Why the hell do we want to bring this to our workplace? 

Passion is good, it's fundamental to life and feeling alive. It gives us motivation and excitement. It's an inspirational state to be in. And it's precious and fundamental and something for us to protect, like a little flame in our hearts to be sheltered from external winds.

Workplaces are murky pits of politics, ever changing priorities and agendas. Conflicting personalities, profitability and just generally unhealthy people in power - it all amounts to one thing: we are totally dispensable. What we are passionate about, and driving hard, can be as easily cut from the strategy as we can from the team.

So why bring passion, and allow our emotions to cloud the real gravity of the situation? Why allow our beautiful lust for life to be tainted by channelling our passions towards a corporate agenda that will ask us to turn off our passion like a tap, just because the leadership has changed?

Work demands ethics, accountability and pride, and that's a good and fine thing to bring to the table every single day. It reinforces our discipline, and is the perfect storm that creates respectability, credibility and influence. Bringing that is challenging and consuming enough for our feeble human state.

Treasure your passions - it's what gives us purpose when all else is rejecting us.



I simply adore this song, and it's the easiest reminder of all, how wonderful passion can be when it's put in the right place.


Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

How to Lose the Fear of Having Good Ideas

Creativity and inspiration – we basically agree it's a good thing, but we often do so little with it. There’s a lot of fear that comes with having so many ideas and possibilities inside us, because when we have to move it from inside to outside, we have to place it into judgement. That judgement might not even be from the public arena, but just from ourselves (when we realise what we’ve actually been thinking & facepalm). Whatever our personal root for the fear is, it’s stopping us from getting to those really awesome ideas that only we could ever think of. Only our own mind will be a culmination of life experiences, skills, and attitudes at a single time and place. No idea is original – I agree – but every brain is individual. Only you can think a certain thought, see a solution from a certain angle, and bring your energy from a certain understanding.

So how do we get to those ideas?

By treating our brain like a lemon tree. A lemon tree in the right climate will have a piece of fruit ready to pick every.single.day.of.the.year. And the tree puts everything it’s got into making that fruit. The more lemons you pick, the more lemons the tree will grow! If the lemons aren’t picked, they’ll sit on the tree slowly drying out or going mouldy. Eventually they’ll fall off, but the tree isn’t stimulated to grow more while it waits for that old mouldy lemon to fall off. So a lemon tree only really responds when there is someone there to actually pick that fruit!


Now, like ideas from one mind, not all lemons will be good from the same tree.  Imagine you are like most Australian suburban dwellers, and there’s a lemon tree in your backyard ready for you to pick from:

  • Some are diseased, some are affected by the environmental conditions, some will be attacked by pests – pick them and destroy them! The quicker they are dealt with, the more resources that can be spent on the already good or new.
  • Some are huge, abnormal, and overwhelming – pick them and juice them for all they’re worth. They might not be perfectly formed, but they can certainly be used. The guts are fine; it was the packaging that didn’t work.
  • Some are a little too green, a little too small, a little just not right – let them grow. They’ll get to where you want. And if, for some reason, when you go to pick them, nothing turned our right - never mind. There are always more!
  • Some are growing in the hardest to reach places, surrounded by thorns (yup, lemon trees are thorny buggers), hanging over your neighbour’s fence. If you need it, work for it. If you don’t, let it go.
  • Some are perfect. Beautiful. Glowing. Ready. You know exactly what to do with those.



You display them in bowls. You add them to your water. You add them to your cooking. You give them away to friends and family. You use them to clean your house. You use them to kill bad odour. You put them in your gin and tonic!

You use them! There’s no preciousness or protectiveness about them. They’re a resource to be used, to share, to trust in the abundance of.

Trust in the abundance of your creativity and inspiration. Let go of the preciousness of your ideas. More will come, every single day. They’ll suck, they’ll change your life, and they’ll annoy the hell out of you. But they won’t ever stop coming. The only thing that will slow them down is by letting them stick around too long without doing anything with them.

And you can do all of this in the most simplest of ways: get your ideas down onto paper. If you don’t have a notebook, get one today! (Seriously, go find a tattered school exercise book until you figure out the right size and design for you.) There will be excuses and awkwardness and blank pages. But that’s ok! Whatever you do, be good to yourself and start picking those lemons.




Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.
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