Humid as for Christmas

Even with a cool breeze running through the house it’s well over 80% humidity according to the dial in the hallway.  If you’re a parent of a young child you’d be sweating too, if you haven’t done the business by now and got a suitable collection of presents under the tree. It’s a festival for mid-winter for most of the world but we’re here in the most humid time of the year, with the remnants of Tropical Cyclone Evan apparently in our midst.

One of the Franklin Road houses has a big ribbon around it with words that make you look twice.  Today is the presentA colleague at work commented that they “couldn’t wait for Christmas”.  When I enquired what that was about, I was told it was the current pressures.  “Now is as good as it ever gets” was my reaction.  It always is.

Enjoying the present is very much part of Christmas, whether that be the wrapped sort or the real sort. Even for a cynic who looks forward to the end of the actual day so they can start enjoying a holiday, here’s an opportunity to really take stock of the present. Sweating it out with a hot roast here in Auckland can be tough, but don’t worry, those relatives won’t be here for long! Always waiting for the future is a trap. The present is our gift to ourselves.

Merry Christmas.

Stephen

Grandma’s Clock Part Two

Collecting the clock from after its refurbishment before Christmas the Clockmaker declared it “fully wound, you should rewind it every week”. The clock has three wind mechanisms – the clock, the hourly signals and the fifteen minute chimes. I don’t usually have the latter two wound, preferring not to be woken every fifteen minutes. Somehow Grandma could sleep through it though!

So I’ve been removing the weight, the thing that keeps the “tick tock” going, a lovely soothing sound, during the evening. Sometimes I’m too busy or don’t remember to put the weight back in so it’s taking quite a few weeks to wind down the offending chimes.

It’s a long weekend for the top half of the North Island and another one for the whole country next week, thanks to Waitangi Day being on the Monday. Having been back at work for two weeks there’s a lingering sense of holding on to the holidays with two long weekends in a row. And hoping that we might get more than a few summer days in a row!

Leadership is always on show – I’ve blogged about that many times. You know, if you run into a leader you admire in the weekend, will you find the same person you know or know of if it’s a public leader? You should do I reckon. If they’re an authentic leader.

But leadership is also about taking the weight off when you can and when you need to. Some people like Grandma never seemed to need to – she was a hardworking woman who was doing the accounts for a local business well into her seventies – and later, yes later, Patron of the local Bridge club.

I’m nursing some soreness which is meaning a bit of a stand-down from long runs at the moment, so that combined with the long weekends means taking the weight off for a bit. Even though it’s the start of the year, it’s still a good time to build resilience. In fact it’s always a good time to build resilience so take the weight off when you can, whatever time of the year it is.

Maybe just overnight, like the clock!

You’ll be a better leader for it.

Stephen

True Colours

My friends from Melbourne have gone, leaving as they always do, a selection of olives, cheeses, sun dried tomatoes, cold meats and other delectable items which I’ve turned into a colourful, tasty and nutritious meal to suit me right now.  It’s a rainy evening, this Equinox, and I’m cosy after a 26km run and shower. Comfortable.

This boy unknown to me at the Grey Lynn Festival in November seemed very proud of his new colours!

Speaking of running, we had two marathon Seinfeld sessions and I’m continuing tonight solo. Jerry and Kramer have just run into someone who called Jerry a phoney five years ago. “Is Jerry still mad at me for the phoney comment?”. “Oh no” said Kramer “it’s water near a bridge!”.  “Maybe I’ll see you in another five years”, said Jerry.

At the risk of showing your true colours sometimes you feel the need to say something that has the potential to cause injury. In your own language, the truth might hurt. In the recipient’s eyes, you’re showing unpleasant, but true colours.

Last week I ran a great workshop on story telling (well I thought is was great anyway!). As you might expect I started with a story. The story started with the events of 22 February 2011 with my son Thomas and Dad in Christchurch. And somehow I went to a classic photograph of my parents in 1952 in Queen Street, taken by a roving street photographer and restored by me for their 55th wedding anniversary (actually the credit for the restoration goes to my talented former assistant Ivana Dimovski). The photograph stirs deep thoughts in me, of a young couple in love and makes me reflect back over the 48 years or so that my DNA has been part of that union. And because it means that much I like to be clear.  So in the weekend I had a ‘showing my true colours’  moment, because something challenged my values that I didn’t think had been properly dealt with.

So this blog is written I admit with a slightly bruised feeling – I’m the one that’s done the bruising – and I don’t feel flash for doing it. Funny how you can bruise yourself when showing your true colours. And I forgot the power of the story for a moment – I did the telling bit, but not the story with all it’s grit, love, rights, wrongs and meaning. And without doubt I made somethings that were actually good, not good, to justify my sense of wrong.

The story of life is gritty and true colour moments come and go.  With those that really matter they are building blocks to greater meaning. Nice words, probably true, but I need to tell myself, easy fella, make sure I don’t do more harm than good in my truth moments. And remind myself that the buttons that get pushed – mine is usually around transparency when the water is still near the bridge – are my buttons, not everyone elses.

And the couple in the photograph in 1952 are just the best parents you could ever ask for and if you don’t know that about someone special in your life, maybe you’re afraid of the true colour moment, maybe you never recovered from a true colour moment, maybe the water is near the bridge and you haven’t had the courage to let it flow. Whatever the reason don’t wait for the next Equinox to realise that it’s time to sort it. And don’t save up some crap until the next Equinox either.

I recently wrote about a cousins barbecue at the memory-filled Stanmore Bay where most of us there shared some DNA.  But remember, your DNA only lasts for so long.

Stephen

Need a holiday already?

I stopped on the footbridge over the Southern Motorway near the Newmarket Viaduct on my run yesterday, mainly to look at the construction of the new viaduct. It’s a fascinating project and as I gazed over the motorway I found myself mesmerised by the lanes of traffic speeding towards and under me. Feeling slightly dizzy I continued on my way. The run took me past six Auckland Volcanoes – Three Kings, Maungakiekie in One Tree Hill Domain, Te Kopuke (Mt St John), Remuera (Mt Hobson), Pukekawa (Domain) and Maungawhau (Mt Eden). On a more energetic day I have run up the peaks, but this run was about a steady undulating run.

I lot of people I know are feeling fatigued already having been back at work for less than two months. Increasing expectations on us all, limited resources, a recession, a terrible disaster in Christchurch are some of the things that might be contributing to this. I’ve noticed I haven’t been to as many movies as I would like to recently – there doesn’t seem to be time.

Always in a hurry. Busy people filling their resting time with activities (like running!), so not finding the time to be present with ourselves, reflect and recharge

And those we’re leading: are we putting the same expectations on them? Or maybe we’re holding onto stuff that could be delegated because we want it done, well, our way!

At the end of my run I took a diversion to pass my former maternal grandparents home. Having been at a cousins get-together the day before it seemed like the right thing to do. Grandma’s house seemed peaceful and inviting even now. A place where as a little boy I could sleep on the couch overnight. A peaceful oasis so close to the scene of so many volcanic eruptions.

I’m going to the movies this week. I’ll find something reflective, happy or even just funny. A holiday evening in the week.

Stephen

Death on holiday

It was the sight of raw grief on the edge of the forest near the little shopping centre at Matarangi as family and friends of the young man found dead kept vigil while the police did their business. There was a strange stillness with a couple of dozen police, lots of police cars, police talking in hushed tones, distant from the family. A stern, strangely familiar nod as I ran past. Wonder why they don’t ask me if I saw anything. Afterall, I might have been running yesterday.

Out on the highway, it was hot. You notice the empathetic drivers – some give you the entire lane if they can – while others assume the lane is theirs and runners and cyclists need to fit in what they don’t use up. Lots of police cars coming and going in and out of the township – they fall halfway between, giving you some room, but not a lot. You can hear their high speed tyres, almost as noisy as a four-wheel-drive.

Nearly 7ks out it was getting too hot so I stopped for a drink to see the funeral director’s stationwagon, speeding like there was no tomorrow. Strange, what could be the rush? And hasn’t he seen enough death to know what can happen when you push the limits? But I know that adrenalin-fuelled urgency from my days in the police, where you drove fast and sure-footed to and from the sober, still, scene of death. Something about death made you confuse importance with urgency, and urgency always won.

So, it was a death on holiday for the young man. Similar age to my big boys. Everyone agreed “how would you cope?”, “it’s tragic”. We feel it. We understand the grief and are secretly relieved it’s not someone we know. So what can we do to make value out of such a tragedy. If we came across someone in distress, would we call for help? Even if they said they were alright? I hope we would. We promised ourselves we would.

Give them all the space they need, but we’re on this distant planet all alone with only each other to rely on. Let’s make it a promise to look after each other. If we don’t, what then?

Stephen

Can’t it be Christmas already?

Today, my friend Mahvash asked me if I had bought all the pressies I intended to. I responded that I had one left to purchase and asked her the same question. She explained that as a Muslim she doesn’t do Christmas, so I figured that actually the answer was, yes, she had done all the gifts she was intending, like none. Well she did ask me!

I’ve got a big list on my whiteboard, most of which have been completed enough for this year, and what’s not done, isn’t going to be and the sky won’t fall in come 2011 if they haven’t (lucky I don’t work in an ED).

When I blogged recently I commented on the traffic and today it’s even more manic.  Hot, humid, busy and a strong feeling of  rushing to complete. Completion can be satisfying and I’m sure my boys wouldn’t be too impressed if come the 25th I hadn’t got around to getting their gifts yet! But the sense that prevails at this moment is counter to happiness.  No, you don’t need to spend all your life in reflection, things need to be done of course, but how we react to the so-called Christmas rush can be telling of our balance and perspective.

The unnecessary purchases (Help! the shops will be closed on one whole day), the patience or otherwise in the store or carpark, the reckless abandonment of agreed purchasing limits! Yes I’ve been there, but this year I promised myself – only use the EFTPOS, no credit card and don’t buy anything for myself. It’ll be there on the 26th still.

These are only small nothings in the scheme of things and might not even be relevant to others, but what I’ve been trying to do is keep myself centered and authentic. I’m really looking forward to time for reading, running and resting.

And Christmas needn’t come too soon or too late. It’ll come whether you’re ready or not.  So don’t wish Christmas to be either delayed or here already. It’s an annual opportunity to be yourself and embrace a day with those that matter in a mindful, peaceful, but not too full I hope, way. Like Mahvash, some people don’t do it. And for them I wish them the same – a mindful day with loved ones.

Merry Christmas.

Stephen

What is your leadership theme?

Just over a year ago on 10 August 2009 I wrote my first blog Who is doing your dirty work. I had started contracting to AUT University a few months earlier to establish the Centre for Innovative Leadership and started the blog partly, at least, to gain a web presence for the Centre.

I came to enjoy blogging and combined some of my other interests – movies, photography and general commentary – into other related blogs.

But the leadership blog remains my core. I’ve learnt a lot about the technical aspects of putting stuff on the web including photographs, linking, doing automatic feeds into twitter and facebook and recently, video – which I believe will be the key to communication on the web going forward.  These words will become more limited.

Speaking of words, I’ve created an electronic book with my 56 (including this one) blogs and done some reflection about the themes within my work (sorry about all the headshots of me – it’s to do with the linking I did on LinkedIn and I can’t remove them … yet!). Writing about leadership has both consciously and unconsciously been a reflection of my own journey in the last year and the other nearly 47 years before that.

Which brings me to themes.

My conscious themes are about authenticity, vulnerability, having fun, photography, narcissism, anti-dogma, transparency. But what else comes through? What are my unconscious themes?

Looking through the blog book and doing some searches I also found a story embedded about my sons, my father and mother, holidays, Space, Evolution, Officials hiding, values, fake personal branding, religion, tolerance, running, forests, driving and disclosure.

No surprise then that that’s been my life this past year: my authentic leadership themes.

What are yours?

Stephen