I often find myself thinking how many big things are not going right globally: climate change, our management and respect of the environment, fervent nationalism and the resulting damage to democratic institutions.
I can make small steps on some of these things and show leadership to provide positive role-modelling and examples.
At the risk of sounding shallow there are some things that I think we might be in a golden era for. One of those is television.
Watching detectorists on Netflix this last week was an outstandingly enjoyable experience. So much so I watched the entire two series through twice.
But wait, there’s more. They’re not going to give you the warm fuzzies like detectorists but The Americans, Homeland, Ozark and my personal favourite that I’m waiting impatiently for the third series of, Occupied.
Detectorists involves shallow digging and has deep human truths in it, but Occupied gets uncomfortably close to the current nationalism, foreign interference and environmental challenges as you might wish for. I had to double check that it really was conceived before the last US presidential election. It was.
A real life M visited PwC recently. That’s all I can say really!
But there were a few things I was authorised to mention just to my readers here.
There were a lot of questions about technology and talk about the current geopolitical environment.
What I noticed were some familiar themes from this seasoned security professional, that struck both a leadership and fraud prevention chord with me.
Sir John spoke about training and knowing your people as key factors that underpin an organisation (or country)’s security. Quite basic things that you only notice you’ve overlooked them when something goes wrong.
He talked about focussing your security efforts on working out what is really valuable to your organisation, and then concentrating on protecting those assets.
Finally, he emphasised that security at an organisation begins with the leadership – it must be a strategic leadership responsibility – unless security of intellectual assets is taken seriously from the top – then it won’t receive the attention it needs.
Sir John Scarlett was asked about North Korea and its cyber attacks. Technology has been a great leveler for espionage, he said, and I know this to be the case for fraud too: small players in faraway places are just as likely to be a threat to your company as the local crooks.
He had some other messages about Russia, China, US, sharing of information between countries and 9/11, but in case that’s top secret I better save that for another day.
Sir John Scarlett, the former head of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) spoke at a breakfast function at PwC recently. M is the fictional head of MI6 from Ian Fleming’s James Bond. In the movie Skyfall, M is revealed to be short for Emma. Lieutenant Colonel Gareth Mallory takes over from M played by Dame Judi Dench at the end of the film, assumes the moniker M and reappears in Spectre.
If you’re like me you get your energy as the deadline approaches. Creativity kicks in and you do your best work under pressure. Every leadership programme or workshop I facilitate has people just like me in this respect. They are quite proud of what they can do in a short time frame and how much spare time they have for other things.
Dig a little deeper and most late starters have a level of stress that they know they could do without. Meeting work and other’s deadlines, finding no contingency time.
I (and others) try and trick me into leaving with enough time for appointments by putting in fake early starting times. It seldom works as I know. The other day I had a medical appointment. I arrived 15 minutes early thinking good, the fake entry worked. Turned out I was 45 minutes early as I’d faked my own fake time! So I settled into do some work and ten minutes later was called and was all done and out in another 10 minutes.
It was a surprisingly refreshing experience for me. There’s a good chance you’ll be thinking that this is normal. True for many people, but not for everyone.
You see them running into meetings late, functions at the last moment, joking at personal appointments about the traffic and so on.
If you get your energy and creativity from the deadline, I reckon hold on to that but look over the fence and for everything else find some calm and order in early arriving and getting started when you, deep down, know you should!
For an entertaining but ultimately very serious version of my epiphany try this Ted Talk. Even if you don’t think this is you, watch right to the end – it might be!
I posted my last blog “I just wanted to hug her” at 12.48pm on 15 March, after boarding a regular flight from Wellington back home to Auckland. It talked of the events of that morning, and I felt satisfied that we’d had a good event, and that I’d been able to blog so promptly.
The doors then closed and by the time the flight landed in Auckland over 40 innocent people had been murdered at the Al Noor Mosque, and as I mounted my motorcycle to head up Highway 20A to the city, several more people were killed at the Linwood Islamic Centre.
Just over the road and around the corner at Linwood Avenue Primary School in the early seventies our class wrote to the then prime minister, Norm Kirk, to suggest that we have a holiday on his birthday. I have no idea what inspired us to write the letter, but I do recall we received a gracious reply, thanking us for the suggestion. I’m not sure what he thanked us for actually, but with the benefit of hindsight, it must have been something about his leadership that we had noticed.
Someone said to me today that because our prime minister wore a scarf while mourning with the Muslim community these last two weeks, she feels differently about Muslim women. It’s made quite a difference, she said, something she said she can’t clearly articulate but it’s been very healing for her. And she hasn’t been a fan of the prime minister at all.
I can’t remember what we saw in Norm Kirk, but my impression of him was a great leader, who sought change for good.
Leadership is about bringing people together for a common purpose.
To me the scarf was as simple as that. Powerful.
When Mary spoke at our PwC Fraud Academy event this morning she shared her personal experiences of “blowing the whistle” on her boss some years back. What struck me and others in the room was the very real and powerful effects on her.
At one level she simply did the right thing, having found evidence of invoicing fraud. But it was much more than this. The sense of disbelief – could my boss have really done this? The agony of not knowing who to trust. The suspicion that others might be involved. And the fear. Fear of consequences for herself – “maybe people will think I’m involved” – or at least culpable for not having picked it up, and the fear of what her boss might do.
As it turned out, after her boss was confronted by senior management she was confronted by him: “What have you done? They’re accusing me of all manner of things“.
Nasty stuff and not things we hope we’ll ever face in the workplace.
Leaders will typically prepare for crisis events: spring into action for natural disasters and man-made events. Preparing ourselves for confronting the worst aspects of the human condition requires drawing on our innermost resources and life experiences.
Mary left and we wrapped up the session with a few words about the importance of transparent and visible whistleblower services.
As our audience left one woman came up to me and asked me to ensure that we properly thanked Mary for her bravery “I just wanted to hug her” she said.
Sometime in the next five or six years there’ll be a tipping point. Electric cars will be like CDs after records or Netflix after DVDs. Suddenly you’ll realise the old is out and the new doesn’t feel new, it’s just normal. I expect I’ll own an electric car one day soon. I quite look forward to it, however, I think I’ve left it too late to be an early adopter as I was with my E-bike (which I’ve reintroduced myself to lately – so good!).
In an episode of Comedians in Cars getting Coffee Jerry Seinfeld declares “How you can not notice and appreciate cars is beyond my comprehension“. He’s driving a 1965 Porsche 356 in green. One from his own collection by the sound of it. Next episode he’s driving an Alfa Romeo Giulia Super, circa 1970. He said it was a “barn find” in Italy. Both vehicles beautifully restored. A Fiat 600 Multipla followed. So cute!
Anyway, so when we’re all driving electric cars, will we be allowed to have an old sort of car? Probably yes, and hopefully on the road too – especially for weekend trips.
So I wonder if it’s time to get a future classic or two for those road trips in the weekend when petrol stations are as rare as car charging stations – plenty around but they’re not obvious unless you are looking – and most cars are much the same (or even more so).
It’ll be a different world, and many significant global challenges face the planet in the immediate future. Who hasn’t got a bit of anxiety about what’s in front of us? But you have to believe that there will be time and space for things that provide contentment.
I’m counting on a weekend road trip in a classic.
p.s. they’re Alfa Romeo Giulia Super cars in the header photograph
After a year on the market my house finally sold before Christmas. After so many open homes – always keeping the house pristine – deals that didn’t go through and new advertising promotions, the prospect of a sale became all consuming.
There was contentment on reaching a deal, even some happiness, but when the time came to prepare to move this month, dread set in. How could I leave my home of 12 years? After all, I have lived there longer than any other house in my life. I had made it perfect for me.
A colleague of many years left last week, the day before my move, to pursue his own journey last week. He made a big decision to disrupt for the future.
When he left it was an opportunity to reflect on the value of relationships and the often unspoken meaning that comes with valuable relationships at work.
Leaving my home has been a necessary disruption to make way for my future housing plans.
Tonight while I was showing the new owners all the little things they should know, two little girls appeared at the front door. Neighbours with farewell drawings. So sweet. Their way of letting me know that they valued our friendship.
Nothing new and really meaningful can happen without disruption and for me a bit of pain. But it’s a good thing. A great clean out, a new neighbourhood and proving I really do know how that complicated A/V system goes together!
So for me, a silver lining although I do wonder what it’s like to be completely content in the present state. Does that bring similar joy in the end?
In the end, whatever works. And stay tuned for my new beginnings on the home front.
Happy new year.