Not all black and white

When Mum and Dad were married, the end of WWII was just seven years earlier. That’s like it had ended at the end of 2011, looking back from now. Or, if we look at the Armistice for WWI, the 100th year of which we commemorated yesterday, that was thirty-four years prior, say 1984 from today’s lens.

Photographs from that era were all black and white and the first one included in this blog is the “meet the parents” trip taken outside 125 Queen Street, Auckland.  Until recently this was the Bank of New Zealand building, the bank that Mum and Dad have been with for all that time! (although I’m pretty sure Mum has some funds hidden away elsewhere).  The photograph was taken by a street photographer and collected from the store an hour or so later on payment of a small fee.

Mum and Dad 1952.jpgIt’s tempting to look at a long marriage as a specific time period and consider it a great achievement (which it is), or a good effort (perhaps like a prison sentence – “hey it’s more than David Bain did and he was innocent!”), or assume what is there today is what was there all along.

Here’s the wedding day  – them on the right with one of Dad’s brothers as best man with the bridesmaid.

Mum and Dad Wedding

Unlike the photographs it’s not all black and white. Mum and Dad are quite colourful actually – check out the recent photograph below. They’re parents, grandparents, great grandparents, brother and sister, uncle, aunty, cousin and friends to many.

So on this day it’s a celebration of a couple who have lived together as an example of love, persistence, humour, faith and actually, the most important thing of all: just doing good. Some of that even washed onto me!

Nice. Congratulations. You’re a legendary couple.

Stephen

ps 66 years!

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Grab it!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about micro-moments. Those moments in leadership when we have to make a call or react to circumstances. When our EQ is truly put to test. And our leadership defined by others. Harsh, but true.

But there are other micro moments too. Those moments when to do nothing might not be noticed, but to do something could make a big difference to others and our leadership. When we need to grab the moment. I’ll call this the Leadership Grab (kind of grabs me!).

We had some of these moments on the Authentic Leadership Programme today when the participants sat with senior leaders in a series of leadership conversations. Rich and empowering stuff for all concerned. There were Leadership Grabs up on offer.

I’m pretty sure I’ll have one or two on offer later this week when I facilitate an internal session on leadership and culture. Even so, I’m doing some planning.

iStock-640287942.jpgBut what to do to prepare for the unexpected Leadership Grab? I’ll be trying as best I can to use some wise leadership and tools that go with it – my ethical compass, appreciative inquiry, stories, coaching and vision – and ignoring the ordinary voice in the head that tries to tell me to not step forward.

It needn’t and shouldn’t be loud or confronting. Just an authentic act of leadership delivered calmly and firmly to empower others and grow yourself.

Will you be ready for your next Leadership Grab?

Stephen

 

Would you do that?

We visited the Erebus memorial at Waikumete Cemetery yesterday on the Authentic Leadership Programme. Then we travelled back to Waitakere Estate through the beautiful Scenic Drive and watched a powerful movie of corporate greed and fraud.

Our natural instincts are that we wouldn’t get involved in that sort of activity – we wouldn’t cover up the mishandling of the flight path that might have caused a plane crash – we wouldn’t sacrifice our values and integrity for money, would we?

We’d hope not. But circumstances can make people do things that they wouldn’t think they are capable of. I know, I’ve seen it in multiple fraud cases over the years. When I was at the Serious Fraud Office, most of the people we prosecuted didn’t start out as crooks. But a combinations of circumstances (pressure or greed), opportunity (no one can see) and justification (I deserve it or it’s mine) can turn ordinary, honest men and women into criminals.

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So what to do about it? I think of my values as my valuables – I try not to leave them lying around, I protect them and I know where they are at all times. Of course there’s a lot more to it but that’s a good start.

We should also pay attention to our lies. Sound confronting? Wise leaders are intentionally clear about their communication and don’t use weasel words that allow for mis-interpretation.

As I write this the leaders on the Programme are recording those five ethical considerations that they won’t allow to be compromised. Then they’re drafting a legacy.

One goes with the other.

Stephen

Adult supervision

We don’t usually hear leadership referred to as adult supervision.

But the level of leadership some in leadership positions have reduced themselves to requires others to exert supervision. Like an adult does for a child.

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I guess we should be grateful that in the most powerful democracy we have some adults!

Stephen

Lifted up by Uncle Stan

On his 80th birthday in 2009 Uncle Stan played an impressive violin piece for the guests.  It was an uplifting experience. Somebody made a recording and we heard and watched it again at his funeral service last week.

Uncle Stan was one of a kind. Forever youthful in his outlook: learning, reading, discussing and playing and enjoying music all his life. He took brave steps in the seventies, changing his family’s immediate projectory and took his own course through life in many ways. He gained great respect and love.

Growing up we all had music in our family, but for some of us – especially me – it was a chore and although I still have my violin it’s not been out of its case for many years. But for Uncle Stan it was a life-long passion through orchestra, solos and sharing it with us all, just as he did at his 80th.

I was struck by the uplifting I felt at his funeral. I wondered whether this was right. Should I feel good at a funeral? Looking around on the day, I don’t think I was the only one. Of course there is grief – especially by his immediately family of course – but joy too.

Uncles Stan uplifted us at his funeral. That’s a feat of leadership.

Stephen

 

A Wahine memory

The Lyttelton to Wellington ferry was an important step in holidays to Auckland. As a boy,  the start of the annual trek to Auckland and Stanmore Bay involved a trip through the Lyttelton Tunnel to the ferry. The Lyttelton Tunnel was an exciting entrée to the adventure – so modern and glistening – and you had to pay the toll which made it very special.

iStock-177155389.jpgDriving aboard the ferry was just awesome (actually I confess it still feels just as good on the Cook Strait Ferry), and the ferry was an adventure to behold. I remember one particular trip we had a large cabin for all nine of us with various alcoves and maybe even a bedroom or two. And early morning being awoken by the tea ladies – large I recall in white uniforms – with trolleys of tea and plain milk biscuits. A cup of milk with a biscuit on the side for me.

As a youngster I never quite understood how we went to bed and woke up in Wellington. But you knew you were getting close because you could hear the men removing the chains and ropes that held the cars in place. And the high-rises of Wellington! It was great.

I remembered ships called Maori, Rangatira and Wahine. In researching for this blog I discovered that there were two ships each of those names plus one called Hinemoa that serviced the route over the years. The first Wahine was shipwrecked in 1951 carrying troops to the Korean War.

On 10 April 1968 we were huddled around the radio in the lounge in Prebbleton listening to the devastation as tropical cyclone Giselle hit a southerly front, creating the weather conditions that shipwrecked the Wahine. We had planned to travel on the ferry the same day as the ill-fated Wahine (although not on the Wahine) but had changed the booking to travel the next day, 10 April. It was a very serious feeling that day in the lounge listening to the news, which for us concluded in Mum and Dad deciding we weren’t travelling north that day.  We travelled a couple of days later, presumably past the wreck of the Wahine, although I have no recollection of that. The seriousness of the disaster was not clear to me as a young boy.

Tragically, fifty-one people died that day and two more later, from injuries they suffered.  They were folk just like us, on their own adventures. Lessons were learned and changes made to how ships are built and operated. The New Zealand Court of Inquiry found that errors of judgment had been made, but that the weather was difficult and dangerous. No-one was held personally accountable.

The service stopped in 1974. It was a great shame although the Interislander Service was great too, and still is.

The story isn’t complete for me without reference to the reasons for our travels north – visiting Grandma (and before he died in 1967, Grandpa too) – and all the Auckland relatives on Mum’s side.

I’ve no idea how Grandma coped with all of us in her flat in Sandringham although the bach at Stanmore Bay was probably easier for her. She gets the last word as the great Wahine of those adventures, standing by her front door as we backed out “Lovely to see you come, and lovely to see you go“.

Only years later did I understand.

Stephen

 

Back to the stars

We’re made of the same stuff as stars. In fact our bodies contain stardust from long expired stars in the Universe and we keep regenerating our bodies throughout our lives, although we will all suffer one failure too many and return to the stars. Quite soon!

iStock-498309616.jpgAnd so it was recently for my favourite scientist, Stephen Hawking. Not just a great scientist, but a great person who contributed historic insights about the nature of things despite the devastating odds of his illness.

It’s trite to say he was clever but it’s fascinating that he achieved so much so quickly, with a medical gun held to his head most of his life, so to speak.

The sense of urgency in his life has to have been a key driver I reckon and we can all learn from that. Time passes whether or not we do anything with it. Before we know it the stars will be calling.

Time to act.

Stephen