The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


How To Get Ahead In Your Career Without Being A Corporate Toady …

I’ve always found management an interesting concept or – more specifically – how people become managers.

Most of the time, it seems someone who is good at their job gets promoted and told “… there you go, manage the department”.

Little support. Little guidance. Masses of responsibility.

Now having done this for a long time, I realize the folly of this approach.

Sure, it’s nice to feel you’re being recognized, have a bit more responsibility and power and get more cash … but it also is the fast-track to bad habits, bad practices and bad career decisions.

You see management is complicated.

On one hand you have to lead your department … set a direction, instill standards and beliefs and develop a gang.

On the other, you have to put yourself second to enable your team – and the people within that team – to grow and develop and ultimately, take your job.

Few have the skills to work this out on their own – let alone execute it – which is why the older I get, the more grateful I am that I was given such great help from my amazing mentors and certain bosses.

You see in the early days, I saw career development as simply going from employee to boss to big boss.

In my mind, if you were a good employee you might get to be a boss and if you were a good boss, you might get to be a big boss.

That was it.

But my mentors – and some good bosses – made sure I understood that career progression wasn’t just about how good you were in your day-to-day job, but in your ability to develop additional skills.

Sure, some of these were operational skills – really important operational skills – but the advice that made the biggest difference to me was when they told me how I’d need to understand the difference between good management and good leadership.

To be honest, previous to this I never really saw a difference between the two but this quote by Peter Drucker sums up what they told me perfectly …

Now I appreciate anyone who has worked with me in the past might think I am terrible at what I do – and I accept my approach is often unorthodox and filled with dollop-loads of chaos – but understanding how the development of skills and outlook was better for your long-term career than consistency and capability made a real difference to me and that’s why I am such a big believer in feedback and goals.

I should point out this does not mean the ‘annual reviews’.

Sure, they have their use, but if you’re only having these conversations once a year, you’re really not helping anyone that much.

But constantly having conversations – where you discuss where people are and what they’re working towards – makes a difference.

It lets you know where everyone is.

It lets you know where everyone is heading.

It gives you the opportunity to offer the right advice at the right time.

Which enables them to develop the skills that will help them grow not drown.

Which lets them develop their own voice and approach to the challenges they face.

Which lets them work out where they are heading and want to head.

Which lets them get hired for who they are not just what they do.

Which means, ultimately, you’ve done what I believe a boss is supposed to do … which is help your people get opportunities they never thought they could have.

This all may seem so obvious to you all, but I still meet people who think being good at their job means being good enough for career progression and while many companies may agree with that, I am so grateful to my mentors and certain bosses for putting me straight.

May this year be your year.

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We Are All The Same. We Are All Different.

So for the past 2 days I’ve been writing a lot about equality.

It’s a subject very close to my heart.

To be honest, it always has been but being a Father has raised it’s importance.

In some ways, having Otis grow up in China made things easier as it meant he was exposed to different cultures from day 1 but I didn’t want to take that for granted, so when we knew we were going to move to the US, I spoke to a friend of mine – a Brit, who is black and lives in the US – about the [thankfully small] issues his kids faced being in the US and what he thought parents should teach their kids to stop that happening.

His response was phenomenal.

In essence there were 2 parts.

The first was the obvious one – treat every person from every culture the same way – with respect, appreciation and consideration.

So far so good … but it was the next bit that really made an impact.

Don’t tell Otis different cultures are all the same.

Don’t ‘whitewash’ our differences, acknowledge them … enrich Otis with understanding about different cultures history, struggles and values.

Or said another way … celebrate the differences but treat everyone the same.

Brilliant.

Absolutely brilliant.

In a World where so much hate is built simply on ‘being different’, helping break down those walls through knowledge and understanding is even more powerful than just saying ‘don’t see the colour, see the person’.

Of course it’s vital to treat people the same, but understanding the background isn’t just a mark of respect – it’s a way to celebrate strengths and understand behaviours that you may otherwise judge for no other reason than your own in-built prejudices.

So among Otis’ books on animals and dinosaurs and Peppa fucking Pig, he has books that explore the cultures associated with Africa [‘Africa Is Not A Country’ & ‘Sundiata’], Mexico [‘Tequila Worm’] and the Middle East [‘My Fathers Shop’].

Now I appreciate some people may think we are going a bit over-the-top with this.

After all, Otis is only 2 and a half.

But, as I have written before, I’ve learnt not to care what others think.

I’ve learnt people often mistake being a parent with being an ‘expert’ on kids.

I’ve also learnt kids develop so many of their behaviours by being masters of mimicking how their parents behave.

[Jill hopes she can stop him fall victim to ironic t-shirts and Birkenstocks]

At the end of the day, we believe we have a responsibility to him – and society as a whole – to encourage the values and beliefs that can enable him to be a good human being … someone who doesn’t just contribute to society in terms of what he achieves, but in terms of what he helps others achieve.

Of course we know he will face challenges.

Peer pressure. Unexpected circumstances. The allure of mischief.

And while we can’t dictate how he handles those things, we hope we can prepare him to deal with them in a way where he can hold his head high … which is why on top of being loving, supporting parents, we will buy him books on understanding different cultures, give him dolls to play with and encourage him to play with his beloved pink kitchen.

Being a Father is one of the most amazing things that has happened in my life.

I feel embarrassed to admit I had no idea how good it would be … and while being a good parent is basically a matter of trying things with good intent, I want to say a big thank you to Karrelle Dixon … because he may not realise it, but he made a big difference to how my little boy will grow up. Not in terms of respect, but in terms of understanding … and when you think about it, that’s one of the most wonderful gifts you can give anyone.

I hope my parents would think we’re doing good with their grandson.

I think they would.



How Raising A Child Reveals Whether You’re Full Of Shit …

I love my son.

I love him so much.

He is such a sweet kid.

Sure he’s a bit cheeky and a bit mischievous, but he’s just a lovely little boy.

I want his innocence and wonder to never leave him – but sadly, I know it will.

I also know things I’d never wish on anyone will happen to him.

Bullying.

Heartbreak.

Sadness.

And all I can do is try to prepare him for it in a way where he knows he can come through the other side.

Of course part of that will be by making sure he knows he is loved and supported unconditionally by his parents … the other part is making sure he is brought up with as much openness as possible.

One of those things is him understanding men and women are equal.

As I wrote about a while ago, my wife and I have had some stick from relative strangers in how we’re bringing Otis up.

One of the things they’ve ‘questioned’ is why we let Otis play with dolls and brooms, why we bought him a kitchen set and why we let him dance wherever and whenever the mood takes him.

Of course it’s none of their fucking business … but the fact is, we don’t want Otis to grow up thinking boys do this and girls do that and seeing our little boy being as happy playing with dolls as he is with his iPad is utterly wonderful.

I have to admit, I find the level of sexism around me frightening. I find it especially bad when I hear it from a man who has daughters. I literally cannot understand that.

And yet many ignore it exists.

They say any wrong behaviour is ‘cultural’ rather than sexist.

Of course there are cultural traits that define gender roles – especially in Asia – but that doesn’t mean they’re right or you have to carry on with them, even more so when you are not from this part of the World.

And yet it is everywhere – even in supposedly liberal and developed nations, as this wonderful piece by Hillary Clinton shows.

While Hillary says the way women are judged differently to men is ‘not bad, just a fact’, I find it deplorable.

But it’s true.

I remember having to tell one of my talented female planners to clap her hands a bit differently because it looked too much like a little girl and a bunch of sexist pricks would then judge her for that. I hated having to do that … but there was no way I was going to let this talented individual be ignored just because they had decided the way she applauds looks juvenile.

And that’s why I like what Cindy Gallop is doing.

Or what she’s trying to do.

My problem is she’s treating all white men as the enemy which, in my opinion, not only doesn’t serve her purpose any good, but is the sort of generalised bollocks that certain white men have treated females.

And that’s why Otis is being raised to see equality not prejudice … because values, roles and/or potential shouldn’t be evaluated or judged by gender or demographic, even if the way society operates – including those supposedly fighting against it – wants to keep that the norm.



Why Innocence Is A Welcome Change From Fear …
May 26, 2015, 6:20 am
Filed under: Comment, Entertainment, Innocence

We live in a World of experience inflation.

Everything and everyone is trying to make things bigger.

Better.

Louder.

Scarier.

More exciting.

Thrilling.

Dangerous.

Extreme.

Of course there are 2 main reasons for this.

1. New quickly becomes the new normal, so to keep business going, you have to keep evolving.

2. In such a demanding and stimulating society, people need greater extremes to make an impression on their feelings and emotions.

3. Companies can charge more money for what they’re doing.

Which is why, when I was in the UK recently, I was charmed by this:

Funny thing is, it was simply a guinea pig enclosure.

About 4 or 5 guinea pigs running [well, running in the guinea pig definition of the word] around.

And you know what? I loved it.

OK, I didn’t spend long there and yes, it was inside a garden centre rather than a theme park [and I’m still trying to get over the fact I went to a garden centre] but there was something magical about its simplicity.

We all rush along at 100mph looking for things to grab our attention but often it’s either right in front of our eyes or located in places we have pre-determined we wouldn’t want to visit.

Sure, I’m not going to go back anytime soon, but I can honestly say it made more of an impression on me than most theme parks.

Talking of theme parks.

I was once told this story by ‘virtual reality guru’ Jaron Lanier, that he had been hired by a rollercoaster owner to create the ultimate ride.

Months passed until he finally was satisfied and showed the owner what he had done.

The owner looked on before asking, “How many times will people throw up on one of these rides?”

Jaron responded by saying, “We’re working on ensuring that doesn’t happen”.

To which the looked on and said,

“Son, you may know a lot about technology but you know nothing about the entertainment business. Vomit sells seats. Make it worse, not better”

And right there, you see why rollercoasters will always have more visitors than the Guinea Pig World in Nottingham.