Tag Archives: encouragement

Funerals, Reflections & Relationships

Last week I attended the funeral of a good, long-time friend who died just before New Year. 

The crematorium was packed to overflowing and many familiar faces were dotted amongst the crowd of people who had come to pay their last respects.  The service contained some real heartfelt tributes and as usual, we all learnt things about our friend we didn’t previously know. 

The tributes were glowing: he was dedicated, hardworking, reliable, a loving husband and father … but one phrase amongst these tributes hit me harder than anything else in the service; it was the simple phrase,

If only he knew how much he was appreciated and loved by others.”

And that set me thinking.

I had known him for nearly 30 years, yet how often had I told him that I valued his friendship and counsel?  How often had I said, “You’re a good friend” or “I appreciate you” or “If you ever want to chat, I’m here.”

Now I know it’s very easy to become introspective at funerals and think about the ‘what ifs’ and ‘If onlys’ of life, but I do think those few challenging words are very significant: to me  and to everyone in friendships or relationships.

We all need friendships and relationships to function at our best. Many will be long-standing; some will be more recent; some will be brand new.  Whatever their status, a key factor for their success is our input (the one thing we can control), both in terms of quality and quantity.

Why do we have relationships?

We’re human beings and we need personal contact: without it we’re potentially heading for potential health risks and psychiatric disorders/imbalances.  If it were not so, why is solitary confinement used as a form of torture to break down resistance and extract information/cause harm and suffering?

The nature of relationships will vary depending on their context e.g., personal relationships will be different to business relationships, but the core requirements are pretty consistent regardless of their context.  Three common scenarios are:

‘I’m in it for what I can get out of it’:  most of these are doomed to problems and failure, and are not actually true relationships. 

‘I’m in it for what I can put into it’: these are far more likely to work if the action is reciprocated by the other party(ies).

‘I’m in it for how we can support and help each other‘: these are the most likely to survive and thrive through good and bad times.

Face-to-face contact

An important part of a relationship is face-to-face contact.  Many of these face-to-face interactions carry far more value than we realise since many non-obvious factors like expression, body language, touch etc, reinforce our words and actions. It’s at these times that we can really build each other up and make the other person feel valued and important.  It may be a natural part of our relationship or we may have to work at it.  Whichever is true, it is important.

Attending my friend’s funeral has reminded me of the importance of these ‘personal’ moments and of my responsibility to help make my relationships successful.

If we are successful in just this area, we will have made a difference to other people’s lives and, I believe, made a difference to our own life too, because as our behaviour changes in one area it will almost certainly impact many other areas of our life at the same time … and surely that can only be a bonus.

Advertisements

How can we affect self-esteem & self-confidence in others?

It is always worth considering what impact we can and do have on the self-esteem and self-confidence of other.  If these qualities in us are affected by external input from our parents, peers etc (i.e., others) then we too can have significant impact on the self-esteem and self-confidence in others.

Let’s consider as an example, the boss who wants to add some stretch to the expectations of his staff in order that they can develop and grow in their roles.  How can he help them to grow and develop and achieve these goals?  I would argue that one way is to reinforce their self-esteem and develop their self-confidence.  These promote not only independent thinking and working, but also the security to approach others for assistance if and when needed.  But what happens if this boss

  • Sets targets, and then continually reviews them and re-sets them as they are met? 
  • Sets targets that are simply not achievable? 
  • Introduces so much stretch in the objectives that they push the individual beyond their elastic limit? 
  • Continually focuses on targets that are not being met and ignores those that have been achieved or exceeded? 
  • Provides criticism and objective advice without praise and reward?

These scenarios are all too common in business today; many through pressures to perform in difficult or changing economic climates; many through personal drive or feelings of the need to achieve or survive; many through ignorance.  Whatever the reason, the end result is the same; underachievement, low morale, suspicion and loss of best staff (either voluntarily or through ill-health).

When the pinch comes the focus can be turned so strongly onto the objective that we neglect the means of achieving that objective, our staff.  Survey after survey shows that the best results, greatest growth and greatest stability arise where people feel valued, rewarded and are given the freedom to try, in other words, where people have a feeling of worth (self-esteem) and the confidence to make a significant and recognised contribution (self-confidence).  It’s also interesting that in many cases, reward constitutes little more than acknowledgement and being thanked.  It does not necessarily have to be a salary increase or monetary award.

The problem is that in many cases, praise, thanks and acknowledgement have been consigned to the annals of history.  The positive side to this is that where there is a cultural change from a praise vacuum to one of acknowledgement, the change in atmosphere, attitude and motivation can be remarkably rapid and greater than could be expected.

So, if encouraging others costs nothing, apart from a bit of pride, self-discipline and effort, but reaps such great rewards, what are the barriers to us starting, now?

  • Pride?
  • Time?
  • Image?
  • Effort?
  • Expectations?
  • Office structure?
  • … other reasons?

If survival, growth and development are priorities in our businesses then none of these barriers is too great to overcome.  Most are personal anyway.  And if it is a case of reorganisation or redundancy, then there can be little argument against the case.

The benefits of building self-esteem and self-confidence in others and ourselves are that we are laying the foundations for greater things; creativity and innovation.

More of that next time …

Success in Failure; Humility in Leadership

Whilst hopping around the Internet recently I came across a great article on The London Business Forum website from an interview with Sir Richard Branson.  As I read it, I was struck by an individual who is totally passionate about what he does whilst also being ready to learn, change and improve. 

I remember Richard Branson being set-up for a fall on more than one occasion by our beloved British Press.  When he was trying something new or attempting a new record, the snipers of the true British spirit shot … and if he failed, the “I told you so” or “You read it first in the ***” kinds of headlines prevailed.  It was more important that he’d failed than what he’d attempted.  And yet, if we talk to any successful businessman, failure is always on their list and it’s seen as part of their road to success (and perhaps that is why so many of our current journalists will never be successful … but that’s another story!).

Anyway, please enjoy the following except from Sir Richard’s interview: 

‘Many of the audience wanted Branson to dispense some entrepreneurial advice, and he didn’t disappoint, mixing the common-sense with some fascinating and salutary anecdotes. “The importance of protecting the downside,” was a key lesson to learn, he said. This is why, when he cut a deal with Boeing to buy his first second-hand 747, it included an option to sell the plane back after one year. Boeing’s only concern, he said, was that Virgin “wouldn’t live up to its name but would actually go all the way.”

Similarly, he had a valuable tip on how to retain entrepreneurial dynamism while you’re growing: as soon as the number of staff hits 100, split the firm in two. In this way, he said, Virgin Records ended up being 20 different companies that “didn’t even share switchboards”. It’s a philosophy that Virgin still tries to observe in spite of its gigantic size. Of the group’s 200 branded companies, “none of them are massive in any particular field,” Branson said, and each has to stand on its own two feet”. The people who lead each business are managing directors, and are incentivised accordingly. “Virgin has created about 200 millionaires over the years,” he revealed.

The moment you go from one company to two companies, you’ve got to start learning the art of delegation, he added. “So what I try to do when we set up new businesses [is this]: I’ll go in, I’ll immerse myself for a month or two, I’ll learn all about that industry, so that if a managing director does come to me and wants to talk to me about mobile phones or trains, I’ll know something.”

True delegation means giving people the freedom to make mistakes, he said. “[My parents] would always look for the best in what [I] did. They were great believers in lots and lots of praise… And I think if you’re the leader of a company, this is even more important. You shouldn’t be looking for people slipping up, you should be looking for all the good things people do and praising those. People know when they’ve slipped up, they don’t need to be told.”

Another defining characteristic of Branson’s personal management style was his willingness to be humble, and to listen to criticism, where staff and customers are concerned. “I do try to make an effort,” he said. “If I’m on a Virgin plane, I’ll try to meet all the passengers. I’ll have a little notebook in my back pocket. I’ll meet all the staff.” He stressed the importance of tiny details, saying that only by getting these right will you end up with “an exceptional company rather than an average company.”

Ultimately, business is not about “balance sheets, money, profits and loss,” he argued. It is about “creating something you’re really proud of, something the people who work for you can be really proud of… the actual business aspect is simply there to be mopped up at the end.”

The fact that he never got a tight grasp of financial matters was probably a benefit, he suggested, in that it persuaded him never to bring in accountants too early in the development of a venture. “You’ll get one firm of accountants that will tell you, based on their own preconceptions, why starting an airline is a ghastly idea and every other airline fails and you’re going to lose a lot of money. You’ll get another set of accountants who’ll tell you why they think you’re going to make money. But they have no idea one way or the other.”

Far more important is to create something that you, yourself, really want and value, he concluded. “If it’s exceptionally good then people will always turn up and use it.”

Perhaps it’s time to regain and re-embrace some of the old ‘British Spirit’ without being ashamed (and without extreme nationalism).  And it’s time to put to death the insipid political correctness that will undoubtedly ruin so many ventures.  We are not all the same.  Celebrate the fact and be prepared to try to succeed, even if we must embrace failure. 

Above all, be prepared to be humble; to learn, to change, to improve … and to acknowledge that we may not have all the answers on our own, but they are often in our colleagues, friends and family if we are prepared to look.

Until next time …
My Zimbio

Top Stories