Forty-nine year old Steve Carell apparently noticed how hard out the Pizza restaurant he was at, that he donned an apron and spent an hour serving, answering phone calls and mucking it up in the kitchen. In Jeff Hadens 9 Beliefs of Remarkably Successful People number 6 is Volunteers always win (yes take these quick lists with a grain of salt but if it works you know!).
I saw the movie Cafe de flore today. It’s too early to process what it’s all about but it’s a bit about exorcising some connections that don’t work where they are and embracing new ones or old ones in a new context.
I’ve been too flat for blogging recently, writing an article for a magazine in the weekend was really hard, but the movie, some great conversation over the last few days (even thanked someone for an involuntary coaching session it lifted me so much) I feel back, as Jasbindar Singh would say, in the groove. And listening to the song Cafe de flore. Very groovy tonight.
Simple pieces of service to others can lift them and you immeasurably. I’m thinking of a Conversation at a Cafe with like-minded people on leadership stuff. I’ll mention this in the next day or three and get it going. Service to each other to lift our spirits and our business too. Sound oblique? Could be, but just roll with it. It’ll be fun. Especially if you’re 49 or think you might run into someone interesting who is.
No not me! I was at a TransTasman lunch yesterday at Vodafone where Russell Stanners, local CEO and Juan-Jose Juan, Global Head of Innovation Enterprise both spoke. We heard of an integrated world where our various devices knew where to connect to and what we needed at that moment, because they knew where we were going. In fact, they were telling us how to get there too. I wondered as we heard from Juan-Jose (who said best to call him JJ) what it was like to have a global role. Not that I haven’t encountered such a title before. But talking to him prior to the talk I got the sense of a truly global ambassador for the company who lived, worked and engaged where he happened to be.
We heard about a world where work happens where ever you happen to be, in a manner that suits your needs. No such thing as a desk, desktop or the other symbols of a traditional work environment. Hearing this was like hearing confirmation for how I often work and the tension between this and what some people feel is the real work environment. If I’m honest I think there’s a tension within myself between the flexibility of working wherever I am (like right now at a specialists rooms having some tests!) and only doing work in the allocated place.
There’s a richness for me in working in different and stimulating environments and the delineation between work and home is often blurred. I don’t really mind that and find my creativity enhanced by new places, new people and new contexts. On the Centre for Innovative Leadership’s Innovative Leaders GM Programme we’re off to Whakatane this week. We’ll learn some strategic accounting and finance, but our context will be the case-study. I am sure it will be easier to be present while present!
JJ spoke without notes or looking at the few powerpoint slides he displayed. It’s a given that a leader can talk to his or her topic from the heart. You don’t get heart sitting in your office with the pictures, certificates and files. It’s about being in amongst it. Whatever “it” might be. Makes you rich. Yes I decided I am rich. But there’ll be no capital gains tax on this wealth!
I had two significant conversations last week talking about authenticity and meaning in our work. We don’t always see the obvious. Someone who presents as confident, capable, even strategic can be as empty as can be. Yes, full of the right words, strategic linkages, linear flows and other deliberately important but shallow phrases. They might have an important job, looking after many people and a major division and a family who’s on the fast track to societal bliss.
And it may be perfect. But it may also be that you feel something is not congruent. As one of my colleagues said, “there’s nothing in here”, stabbing his heart. I remember being a cynical boy listening to stuff at a religious service about loving with all your heart and thinking “isn’t this just an organ that pumps blood!”.True, but we also now know that the wiring in our bodies is as big in our brains as it is in our gut. A gut feeling then perhaps, though that’s not the entire point of this.
If your organisation is only focussed on a limited range of number-driven KPIs then what? Happy investors? Possibly, but can the numbers only come from looking at the numbers? If you’re reading this then you probably don’t think so, but I challenge you to ask yourself if there aren’t times when the leadership and authenticity that drives business success is put to one side, because we really need to focus on the numbers. Maybe that always happens. If it’s true that corporate spending on leadership development slows during a recession, then that’s evidence enough I reckon. Say it again, spending on leadership development slows during a recession. That’s okay, but don’t pretend you think leadership development is a key driver of success. The manager with no heart has taken over. And a body without a heart is well, stuffed really, the brain will soon die along with all the other organs. And you won’t even know if you’re bleeding without a heart.
Enough of the metaphor! When I engage with an authentic person who has meaning in their life I know it and I can connect, whatever they do. Can you? Look around you at work. Who hits the spot?
Are you leading with something in the spot? That something is everything you are. A happy authentic space.
From the work of physicists, especially the brilliant Stephen Hawking we know that the universe is pretty big – perhaps about 46 billion light years from earth to the edge. For me when I think about this stuff, my mind can’t quite get around it. That could be because perhaps the only thing I have in common with Hawkings is his name and not his mind!
But for me it does put many things into perspective. Business can be tough, competitive and sometimes a grind. It’s easy in tough times to baton down the hatches, to guard the gates and see every gain by another as a loss for you. But is this right? As leaders, do we really believe the universe is limited? I’m a firm believer in abundance in all things. There’s enough out there that my success doesn’t mean someone else’s loss and visa versa.
If all the people in my line of work do well, then we all do. It’s good for us all. Some might say it’s naive, that the competition will take advantage of me. They could be right, but they can’t take away your values and the universe you exist in. And others can see that.
So I reckon that with 46 billion light years in one direction, that there’s enough for all of us, and that success for one will never preclude success for another.