Look after your stuff

Taking responsibility for what comes your way too.

I’m back to Mum’s 85th birthday again. After a lovely lunch at Dux Dine (where Mum and Dad are regulars) we assembled in a corner of the restaurant for photographs and words. Thinking about what I was going to say to Mum I noticed she grabbed all her cards and gifts together in a neat pile and clutched them tightly.

Look after your own stuff. Make things happen for yourself. Take responsibility for your own actions and if you want something then find your own way to get it. That’s Mum.

She’s a great Mum and firm and compassionate all at once. Direct too. “About time you bought a house” she said once. She was right and I did. If only more people knew she predicted the Auckland housing market long before it was even talked about!

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A fine leadership example.

I like taking responsibility for achieving something myself – they’re the best achievements you can ever have.

Stephen

ps I got a lovely thank you card after the birthday too. That was a nice surprise.

Grandma’s Clock Part One

Visiting Grandma (and Grandad till he died in 1967) in Auckland in the 1960s and 70s were great times.  The memories are not complete without reference to the sound of the mantle piece clock sounding every 15 minutes. After Grandma died in 1990 I took over the clock which after 50 odd years of service had stopped functioning. It wasn’t until this century that I had it restored to it’s former glory though somehow I don’t have the same ability to sleep through the chimes every 15 minutes that Grandma seemed to, so I don’t wind up the chimes or on-the-hour bells.

It’s incredible how the sound of the clock can bring back so many memories, both in time and space and when the dear old clock stopped working a few weeks ago it was off to the Polish watchmaker in Queen Street who restored it originally for me.  Grandma was a no nonsense person who said what she thought when she thought it and didn’t go for ceremony or emotion. Watching the celebrated New Zealand pianist Michael Houston in full flight on the TV once she remarked: “Why doesn’t he keep his head still – he’s only hitting the keys, all that moving around is quite unnecessary!”

The message from the watchmaker was one Grandma would have appreciated. Listen to it here: Watchmaker message. Priceless. Just what you’d expect. It’s a full service required – $400 – but that’s a small price to pay for keeping all those memories alive.

We should look forward and live in the present. But we are made up from the past too.

Stephen

Mother

On her Facebook page she used to describe herself as Retired. Recently my mother changed it to Mother. I felt the need at her 80th this weekend to apologise for her having to come out of retirement for us kids! Born in the depression in Auckland to parents who ran a fish shop in the Valley Road shops, Mum went to Dominion Road School and Auckland Girls’ Grammar, leaving to do night school secretarial studies and typing while working for WG Archer Builders. She met my Dad at a church convention and they married in Christchurch in 1952. Lots of children were born from 1953 until 1959 with a gap to 1962 and finally in 1965.

Mum's a great gran now too

She’s a quiet but very determined woman my mother. Excellent with money, super organised: there were bread orders from different dairies on different days of the week, lunches to make or organise the kids to make them, music lessons for all of us, some sports including Tennis, regular church attendance. And, washing, ironing, cooking, baking with tins of biscuits “hidden” under their bed so we didn’t eat them all at once! We were never hungry or lacking in warmth or clothing. There are times when you look back at your childhood and forget your parents – well certainly in my case – were very young when we were growing up. By the time Mum was 30 she had 5 children. Time can fool you into believing that the wisdom they now hold is precisely what they had when you were young. Maybe Mum did, but I reckon she, like most young people, learned it on the job. So the wise 80 year old I’m in Christchurch now to celebrate the birthday for, got there by trial and error. Experiential learning we call it and if we’re wise too, we recognise that growth comes from failing at times. And giving it a go.

Which is what Mum certainly did in 1970 when she enrolled into the University of Canterbury and completed a BA and Diploma in Teaching. Teaching the dysfunctional girls at Kingsley Girls’ Detention Centre was probably not a big stretch from us 7! Some of the girls achieved School Certificate pass for the first time in the history of the centre under Mum. When I was sick from school I would sleep in the back of her Triumph Herald in Hereford Street while she attended lectures. Morning Teas were at the university cafeteria – now Dux de Lux restaurant. This is all now the Arts Centre and seriously damaged from the 22 February quake. Time can do many things to your perceptions of the past – it can at times make you regret, it can rose-tint actual events and it can make you angry, if you believe something did or didn’t happen that was outside your control.

I count myself as extremely fortunate to have active reflection with my Mum and learn about her life, my life and those around us.  She taught me to respect but be cautious of so-called authority and of different perceptions (see the link below – it’s exactly sums it up about draft vs breeze – but not the rest!). You really can’t ask for more than that. Or can you? At Mum’s birthday celebration yesterday I was privileged to take the role of MC and talk of Mum’s life. To be able to publicly speak of Mum – facts and figures including a family tree going back to the Vikings, being born 10 weeks after the Napier earthquake, the early life in Auckland, marriage, family, study and career.  But what really made it was being able to express the personal memories and connections in front of so many family members that mattered. I never expected this to be the rich experience that it was. Such experiences leave you with a contentment that is difficult to describe.

On our leadership programmes we challenge the participants “What makes you a leader?”. Sometimes you really do find out.

Thanks Mum. You can retire again!

Stephen

Like me, Mum enjoys a good laugh and Seinfeld!.

A week of it

Tomorrow morning I’m going to run a workshop about authentic leadership. I’m pretty certain that Mother Teresa, described as Mother of Mercy will get another airing – my mother, in an act of mercy to someone she never knew,  suggested to me “leave the poor woman alone – she can’t defend herself”. Mum’s right (though if Mother Teresa is where she thought she was going then I guess she can!). We’re also going to talk about personal branding and see if we can discover what if anything, the relationship is between that and authenticity.

Two surveys came out today – one was about who the most trusted New Zealander is and the other was about the most trusted brand. Notice that we weren’t asked to decide who the best branded person was? Not that surprising really for me – if you’ve read any of my blogs you’ll know that I go on a bit about trust and its relationship with leadership and authenticity.

So, authenticity and leadership week. This week came about to celebrate Sir Peter Blake. He struck me at times as a bit gruff and someone who didn’t take any nonsense. If you’re big into emotional intelligence you might say there’s some work to be done if you’re gruff.  But then again, you might think it’s authentic to be who you are. The author Christopher Hitchens who got me thinking about Mother Teresa declares in his book Love, Poverty and War (after describing how, objectively, his life is good and satisfying) that “I wake up ever day to a sensation of pervading disgust and annoyance”. The book explains much of this annoyance.

So I ask myself, if I have a sense of irritation or gruffness, should I exhibit my maximum emotional intelligence and restrain myself? Or are there times to let rip at the ignoramus who texts in the movies, or the paper-pushing bureaucratic that spends our taxes justifying a decision?!! My coach says that I need to get mad sometimes. I’m not sure that this is the week to start. After all, I’m putting myself and others I work with out there to be involved in Leadership Week and people might expect…expect what? Caught myself.

Sorry Mother Teresa (and my Mum). If you are just a brand, expect no mercy!

Stephen

What can you say Mother?

Often when I ask people who are the leaders they admire, along with the usual suspects of Peter Blake, Nelson Mandela and Ghandi we often hear “my mother” or “my father”. We also hear about that other mother, Mother Teresa.

I’m reading essays by Christopher Hitchens who is pretty unflattering about Mother Teresa and accuses her of stage-managing images of poverty to ensure that those who were in poverty, stayed there, even when in her care ie the places she set up, even in America, were stripped of all possible trappings of normal civility.

Lately I have realised that the phrase authentic leadership development is absurd. It’s discovery. Running alongside the idea of authenticity in a parallel, but not necessarily the same universe is the concept of personal branding. Develop your personal brand ladies and gentlemen so people know not only who you are, what you stand for but also what you’re really about.

Is that authentic? Or is it marketing spin? Was Mother Teresa an authentic leader? Or did she simply have a brand of poverty that gave her followers? Does it matter?

Only you know that. Mother Theresa can’t answer that. If, like me, you’re fortunate enough to have a mother you could ask, I’d hazard a guess that she wouldn’t give you much of an answer though. My mother never branded or got told how to brand. But I know what she stands for. So does she.

That’s important I reckon.

Are you prepared to model the real you?

This evening I had the pleasure of attending a fashion show put on by the Auckland Zonta Club.  Zonta I discovered, is an international organisation dedicated to advancing the status of women.  This was no ordinary fashion show.  Held in the beautiful Fables Antique rug gallery in Parnell, Auckland the models were almost all, well, not models. But you’d hardly know it!

Here were women from all walks of life, all ages, parading it out in front of a big crowd seated around the rugs to an eclectic music mix including Carmen, Paolo Conte and Michael Jackson.

My immediate reaction was this was a beautiful display – all the women were beautiful.  And brave.  Braver than all of us on the rugs, that’s for certain.

I’ve blogged a bit about authenticity and uncovering the real you to find the authentic leader that exists in us all.

When we’re comfortable enough in our own shoes, when we know who we are and why, we’re comfortable to present ourselves to the world as that real person.

In return we win respect from those around us and become role models for others to aspire to.

Zonta turned this concept into glamorous reality tonight.


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