Tag Archives: relationships

Ethics & Integrity

How we deal with people is crucial to our success (and theirs) in all areas of life.

Life without integrity is like a lighthouse without a light: everything’s fine until darkness falls or the storms break.

Service or Ripped-Off?

So goes that start of a conversation I overheard today whilst out shopping at our local Market.

What a damning inditement on all those free offers we are continually bombarded with in order to grab our business; offers which, in reality, have nothing free in them.  They are a hook to get us to buy and clearly in the mind of individual concerned they had been forgotten:  it was the financial transactions that had been remembered, not his free gifts (if they had actually ever received any).

This set me thinking … again … about how we sell ourselves daily:  in business and in our own lives.  We used to have a saying at work;

‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch!’ 

 i.e., You don’t get something for nothing; everything costs.

To some point I agree.  But where that cost lies is the divider between something being perceived as an offer of service and being taken for a ride.

If we make our customers pay, they see it as being taken for a ride and their trust is often shattered.  If we take the cost, our customers see it as a service, as a favour, and it builds trust … and if we do make a mistake in the future they are far more to help us solve it than make demands.
This is a simple division, but one which businesses and individuals ignore at their peril …  every day.  We promise but don’t deliver.  We offer something for free … but there’s a catch!

Perhaps we need to think more carefully before we advertise our next free offer because if we fail to deliver on that offer, we make our customers (and friends) ever more cynical and thick-skinned: we turn them off rather than turning them on to what we really have to offer.  In reality, we turn them off to us because we fail to deliver on what we’ve promised.  It is ourselves that we are selling short and it is ourselves that get the bad publicity.  We gain the label ‘Can’t be trusted’.

The idea of personal integrity is getting ever more lost amidst spin and short-term fire-fighting.  High profile figures expect us to believe their words, even though we see they are contrary to their actions (the cover up).  However, for those who are prepared to match words with actions, the opportunities are huge.  There is a saying I like to use for personal encouragement:

‘Where the darkness is darkest, the faintest light shines brightest’

I’m not on my own when I say that by being honest and open, yes, even admitting our mistakes, we build an opportunity for growth and success; for competitive advantage.  Despite what the macho businessmen (many of whom are scared witless of failing) may say, customers like attention and they like vulnerability because that makes us just like them, complete with faults and failings, and they can relate to that.

Lesson from a Business Enterprise Day

Yesterday I visited a local secondary school to help with a business enterprise day for their Year 9 students (aged 13/14). 

The group I helped with comprised 4 teams with between 4 and 7 students per team.  Their task throughout the day was to create a business that designs and manufactures paper ducks for selling to potential buyers’.  Materials were provided, including paper for making the ducks and a range of extras for decorating and enhancing the finished product.

Meeting and observing the students was fascinating.  Some were confident, some felt they’d a lot to offer, some were team leaders and some were just bossy! 

However, there was another group that caught my eye.  These were the students who were shy, lacked confidence, were easily distracted and retreated into their own worlds, could so easily be overlooked or had been identified with special needs.  On the face of it, there wasn’t a lot they could offer in the face of more boisterous and confident competition. 

In reality, they were some of the most significant contributors to the day’s activities once they were engaged. 

The groups who included these students in their discussions and activities benefitted from a whole range of skills and insights that may otherwise have been overlooked or lost: 

  • Organisational skills
  • Sorting skills
  • Creative skills
  • The ability to single-mindedly apply themselves to the task they’d been given
  • People skills (an unexpected one this)
  • The ability to think wider than the problem
  • The ability to see different kinds of solutions

I was very interested that the winning group was ‘organised’ by a student who does not have a reputation for shining in lessons.  She organised, steered, encouraged and to quote the girl giving feedback, ” … was the boss!” 

From that same group came one of the most insightful comments of the day. 

As part of their ‘selling’ exercise, each group had to state why their particular products should be chosen.  Again, a ‘special needs’ student stated quite simply,

“Because ours are made with love!” 

What a beautifully simple selling point.  Their paper ducks weren’t just ordinary ducks, put together on some production line, each one a replica of the other; they were special because they were each made with love.  Care, attention and a bit of the maker had been invested in these little paper creations.  That won it for me!

Ability is far more than getting answers right or doing lessons well in class.  There are so many people who have skills that get lost in the crowd, or lost in the noise and activity of others around them. 

Diamonds rarely just appear on the surface; they must sought after, discovered and often mined from great depths in the earths crust.

I have been reminded  to spend more time looking for those gems that, once found, stand out from those around them, and to invest time and effort in encouraging them to use their talents and gifts.

Independence or Interdependence?

Independence breeds suspicion; interdependence cultivates trust and success … but dare we take the risk?

Integrity, Expenses & Me

Like me, you’re probably getting tired of all the current revelations surrounding the exploits of our politicians and their ‘accounting errors.’  I feel sorry for those politicians whose names have not been in the headlines because they have actually been honest (but not for those that simply haven’t been caught yet!). 

I have also been amazed at the naivity of those concerned to think that they can use a few weasel-words to cover-up what were quite clearly blatant attempts to defraud …

I am humiliated by my error of judgement” … But it obviously didn’t feel too humiliating when making the initial fraudulent claims,  before being found out.

I overlooked this accounting error” … No!  You made a fraudulent claim and failed to declare it.

I have paid back the expenses I shouldn’t have claimed” … Okay, but how long has it been going on?  What haven’t you told us about?

I made an error of judgement” … About the expenses or the risk of being caught?

Do the government bodies e.g., HMRC, allow us to say, “Sorry! That non-payment of tax was a small accounting error.  I’ve admitted it now so no need to worry about it further.”   I think not.  Argue with the taxman and court beckons.  In fact they are one of the few groups of people who can expect us to pay them back for their mistakes (sometimes large sums of money if we’ve not noticed an erroneous tax calculation … which is interestingly our fault for not noticing the error in the first place.  Sorry.  Have I missed something?).

In the past  I have commented to friends about the various activities of politicians outside of Parliament, only to be told, “Oh! That’s their private life. You shouldn’t worry about that; they wouldn’t do that in Parliament.”

I would argue that if an individual can knowingly act dishonestly in one area of their life, they can act dishonestly in any area of their life.  

We are what we are.

Trust and integrity are keys for success in any area of our life. Unfortunately, too many people want to be trusted without having to be responsible for their actions … and when we let people down through deliberate deceit, it takes a long time to rebuild the trust we’ve shattered.

Our politicians are human beings who, because of their public visibility (and the thirst of the media for ‘news’) are easy targets for the snipers.  In no way can I condone what has happened.  I am probably as annoyed by the deceit as the next man.

BUT it does challenge me re-examine what I do and ensure that my dealings with others, in business and everyday life, build trust; not destroy it.  

We all make mistakes.

What I am concerned with here is that those are genuine mistakes or misjudgements, rather than a clever manipulation of the English language to cover deceit and polish a turd!

Teamwork Suffering in Downturn

I have just read a very disturbing, yet unsurprising article reporting that 12% of workers admit to having become more insular during the recession. 

At the very time when companies need greater interaction and greater interdependency (teamwork), individuals are seeking to protect their own workloads and projects and around some 27% admit to working longer hours.

The report quotes Mike Bourne, professor of business performance at Cranfield University School of Management as saying,

“Team collaboration and knowledge sharing is essential to help businesses chart a way through the current climate. However, while some employees are understandably worried about job security, firms with business processes to automate teamwork are able to reconcile both workforce productivity and personal performance.”

See report here.

I’m not sure whether it is part of British DNA or culture, but we seem to really struggle with the concept of working together to achieve a common goal.  Perhaps we’ve had experiences where we’ve been betrayed by those whom we have trusted, or had others leapfrog over us as they take our ideas and use them for personal gain and promotion. 

Unfortunately, these sad characters will always be with us. 

But teamwork is exactly the forum that will help to expose these individuals and it provides the team with a level of security impossible to achieve on an individual level.  Who in their right mind (if they are that way inclined) will take on a group of people, a group which is likely to include members of the management team?

But teamwork isn’t really about sinking these rogue battleships; it’s about achieving an objective more quickly, efficiently and completely than is possible when we work alone.

The proof is in the marketplace.  Look at the most successful companies and see how many of these use teams and creative approaches to problem solving and company direction.  A recent survey suggested that in business cultures which engender trust and co-operation, productivity is around 269% greater than where it is absent.

I guess it’s up to us whether we choose to believe the statistics and give it a go … or continue as we are.  Only time, and possibly company solvency will tell.

What I Do or Who I Am?

I have recently been enjoying Cuban music, in particular that of the Buena Vista Social Club and its members.

For those of you who are not familiar with this group of musicians, the story is a modern-day fairytale …

Cuban music has for decades been the envy and shining star of the World (especially Latin) music scene. Many of the stars who put it on the map had retired or had to find an alternative living to make ends meet: selling lottery tickets or shining shoes in the street, or selling tobacco.

In 1996 Juan de Marcos González, a young Cuban bandleader and arranger was fascinated with the old stars of Cuban music traditions such as Son, Guajira, Son Montuno, Rumba and Bolero. He set out to see how many of them were still living (many had been stars in the 1940’s, 1950’ and 1960’s). To his amazement he was able to contact a large number of these national treasures of Cuba’s musical heritage; the list was impressive:

  • Don Rubén González – legendary pianist and pioneer of the mambo
  • Orlando ‘Cachaito’ López – third generation bassist
  • Ibrahim Ferrer, Piya Leyva, Raúl Planas, Manuel ‘Puntillita’ Licea and Omara Portuondo – legendary singers
  • Compay Segundo and Eliades Ochoa – tres player and guitarists
  • Amadito Valdéz – percussionist
  • Barbarito Torres – Laoud player extraordinaire
  • Manuel ‘Guajiro’ Mirabal – Cuban legend, trumpet
  • … plus more

In order to understand the stature of this group, each one of these names was at the very top of their profession, many having had a significant impact on the history and direction of Cuban music. Each one of these musicians (plus other top calibre musicians) performed together, in the same room at the same time to record the largest selling Latin album ever (over 8 million copies sold). Everyone enjoyed working and performing on the album and no-one was interested in where their name went on the list of credits. Music was being made for the love of the music and no thought was given to any potential financial gain (though this was eventually considerable).

Live performances in Amsterdam followed release of the CD, and the jewel in the crown was when this group of Cuban musicians were able to play a sell-out concert at Carnegie Hall, New York in 1998, captured on film and CD. When you read the album notes and DVD booklet or watch the performances, the joy and emotion of making music together is clear.

This fairytale ending to the story was that these humble people found a new lease of life as they achieved global recognition and ‘stardom’ when many of us would think of taking it easy: most were in their 70’s or 80’s (Compay Segundo was in his 90’s).

By 2005 many of these great characters had passed on and only recently (Feb 2009) the great Cachaito also died … but their legacy continues.

Why have I taken the time to mention all of these people?

Well, imagine a group of top name Rock n’Roll stars gathering to record an album, or business ‘icons’ producing a new book. Now think about the ego problems; who they would work; who they wouldn’t work with; who would want their name at the top of the list?

For me, the great power and impact of these Cuban recordings is the enjoyment, passion and love of the musicians for their music that shines through so clearly. Everyone is in it for everyone else, making the whole band look great. It’s even recalled that at one stage, Ibrahim Ferrer had a bad throat and was struggling to sing and suggested that perhaps someone else should finish the album! That’s a bit like Eric Clapton suggesting someone else should finish off his guitar solo. This level of humility is rarely seem today in a world of get what we can, when we can, however we can.

This excursion into Cuban music has taught me a lot more than just the notes and beats. Engaging with characters of history (and today) who are prepared to make everyone else look good by playing their part has re-challenged me to ask myself, “Is that the sort of character I am? Do people use me in for who I am as well as what I can bring.”

I read many stories today where the key to a ‘successful’ career isn’t so much what you can do, but what you a as a person bring to a particular situation. I also read that our output usually reflects our personality.

All I can say is that I hope some of my ‘performances’ haven’t really let people know what I was feeling on the day!!

I know that rediscovering my love of Latin music through encountering these characters has re-challenged me to be a person that other people want to know, rather than a person whose talents are admired. It has also reminded me that I cannot try to project and hide behind a different ‘persona’. Just as music is too transparent for that, so too is our daily walk. If we are not consistent, the cracks and inconsistencies will soon show!

I guess my priority is consistency as a person and as a business professional.

Do We Already Have the Resources In-House?

No matter how much business operators try to convince me, I have never fully bought into the idea of using outside, contract staff.  

Let me explain …

There are times when new people bring a different dynamic to what we do and how we operate and these individuals can play a key role when we don’t have the internal expertise.  However, whilst working in the Pharmaceutical Industry I used to become exasperated when managers declared that ‘we need to hire in external expertise’ before they had taken any steps to determine whether that expertise already existed in-house.

All of us have many talents and abilities which have become latent or hidden over  the years. 

Perhaps we’ve

  • Forgotten about talents we once had or hobbies we once enjoyed
  • Assumed we’ll never need softer, touchy-feely skills so have locked them away and forgotten about them
  • Always wanted to give something a try but haven’t had the chance
  • Been told at school that we’d never succeed in a particular area, even though we really enjoyed it or worse still, were good at it!
  • Been told we’ll never be successful

 … the list goes on and I’m sure you can add your own reasons.

Let’s consider one or two ways in which companies would benefit if they used in-house expertise over hired-in expertise.  Companies would have

  • People working who are already fully conversant with the culture
  • People already established within the social networks of the company, with established relationships across multiple disciplinary areas
  • Chance to develop their people, thereby increasing their sense of belonging and resulting in potentially greater job-satisfaction, commitment and input

I would also suggest that they’d save considerable costs and time delays that inevitably occur when new people are brought into existing structures and cultures.  Contract staff cost more, it’s just that we perceive that they’re easier to get rid of when we know longer need them without worrying about pensions etc and we can often ‘hide’ their costs elsewhere in the figures by keeping them off the headcount!  But what happened if we had people that were so flexible that we didn’t have to adopt or pay homage to the ‘hire and fire’ methods we have become accustomed to? 

The problem is that bringing in people from outside or looking outside of the company is simply too easy.  We don’t have to ask too many questions and we don’t have to worry about changing who we are or what we do.

But coming one step back, wouldn’t it be much healthier for all concerned if companies di take  time to help their staff  discover and develop talents, whether they are forgotten or hidden, so that at least they knew what was in the melting pot.  With information, it is possible to make reasoned decisions.  Making these decisions in the absence of information is dangerous and potentially life-threatening to a company.

Sometimes it is unavoidable that external talent is required to achieve a goal.  My challenge would be, how often could we avoid it and enjoy the benefits by a bit of preparation and enough conviction to take the risk?

The results of ignoring what and whom we have can be very telling and equally catastrophic.  In 1917 Forbes first quoted their top 100 Companies.  When this list was re-visited in 1987, 61 of the original companies were no longer in existence and of remaining 39, only 18 were still on the Top 100 list.  The main reason for dropping off the list or going out of business was that these companies had stayed still and tried to fight what was going on around them.  The 18 companies that stayed in the Top 100 were those that adopted a strategy which embraced change.  And for this, discovery and implementation of creativity within each member of the workforce was key.

We are all creative.  Do our bosses and companies know that?  Have they looked for it or do we perhaps need to find our talents and let those in our place of work know?

What are the Dangers of Self-Esteem & Self-Confidence?

This may seem to be a pointless question after my last few posts, but self-esteem and self-confidence, like most other qualities must be held in balance.

We have all met the ‘over-confident’ and those whose ego and self-esteem are so inflated that they are nothing short of a pain (or danger) to be around. 

Just as a balanced diet should be exactly that, BALANCED, so confidence and esteem must be balanced with and grounded in reality.

Historically, we have been taught that many bullies, aggressive, violent or anti-social individuals have a problem with low self-esteem and low self-confidence.  More recent, controlled research suggests that these characteristics are commonly demonstrated when unearned self-esteem (an inflated sense of self-importance or superiority over others) is challenged or the individuals concerned feel humiliated. 

These people have a self-esteem or self-opinion that is over-inflated and has no grounding in reality.  As a consequence, it is very frail when challenged.

Why mention this?

Well, I think it is important to understand that seeking increased self-esteem and self-confidence as entities on their own is not a healthy pursuit.  Both characteristics need to be grounded in reality and grounded in the context of our character. 

Both characteristics are also under our control.  We have a RESPONSIBILITY as well as a right to handle the skills we have and the best way to do that is by grounding them into reality. 

I saw a scary video the other day of a 10-year-old boy in America addressing a crowd of 20000 people.  Great!  Good for him!  But what is so scary is that he was a clone of the high pressure salesmen and public speakers we fear, and at such a young age is highly susceptible to being manipulated, as well as manipulating others.  The content of what he had to say was actually very good, but his delivery bore no relationship to his age or experience.  The words he used were of someone at least 20-years his senior … and that is probably where they came from.  This was not a demonstration of healthy self-esteem and self-confidence.

So, I’d like to finish where I started my first entry a few days ago … which is by relating self-esteem to self-worth.

If we feel that intrinsically we have value (which I differentiate from importance) we are more likely to respond to the needs around us because we are confident that what we bring has value, even if it isn’t necessarily the total solution.

I believe that building and increasing self-esteem in others (and in ourselves) is a frequently overlooked tool for birthing success; in everything we do

How Can We Build Self-Esteem & Confidence in Others?

Self-esteem is the foundation on which confidence can build.  People who feel valued and know their self-worth are then more able to try new things and be prepared to fail.  Unfortunately, failure has become a dirty word in business and we love to make scapegoats of those who have failed.  But in so doing we continue to hammer the nails in our own coffin, because unless we are prepared to try something new, to put ideas together that have never been put together before, to experiment with them and see if they work, creativity and innovation die.  If we stifle or kill self-esteem, we stifle and kill creativity and our success.  The three are intimately associated with one another.  The most successful and rapidly expanding businesses today are those where creativity thrives; Innocent Drinks and the Virgin franchise are just two examples. 

And where creativity is lost?  The businesses die. 

As pressures increase to be successful, we often exclude the very things that can save us.  One of those things is risk-taking, of which we are sorely afraid.  We continue to work harder at what we’ve always done in the hope that ‘this time it will work’.  Why should it if it hasn’t worked before?  If it has worked before but we’re struggling now, why use the tried and well-trodden path to the cemetery?  Risk-taking is the basis of creativity and the foundation for success.  But in order to take those risks we need the confidence, and to build confidence we need a foundation of self-esteem.

Simple ways to build self-esteem include basic rewards such as a verbal or written ‘Thank you’, recognition in front of peers, recognition of a team in a company publication, a small gift, anything that says ‘We appreciate your efforts.’

Perhaps we should re-learn the art of celebrating our failures.  They don’t have to be big announcements (there are undoubtedly people waiting in the wings to pour on scorn).  But by celebrating the failures with those who’ve tried it is possible to learn from the mistakes and to move forward.  Punishment achieves nothing apart from a misplaced sense of  dispensed justice.  We forget that the greatest discoveries affecting our lives today were the end of a line of repeated failures.  People like Thomas Edison went through hundreds, even thousands of prototypes before they came up with the end product.  Underlying that tenacity and perseverance was undoubtedly high levels of self-esteem and self-confidence which enabled them to face the failures, learn from them and move on.  These inventors would undoubtedly have been inspired and encouraged by others and needed to draw on that as onlookers criticised and ‘commented’ on their failures.  But it is their self-esteem that is likely to have held them on-course through the storms.

Sometimes we just need to let people have a go and discover for themselves.  This is the basis of my workshops.  I can show them plenty of what I can do, but in the end it only really works when each person has the opportunity to try for themselves.  Having discovered that they can or can’t do something they can move on, either to something new or build on what they’ve started.
Sometimes we need to revisit where they’ve been and help them change a wrong perception.  For example, they may have tried something once and decided that they can’t do it, when in fact they just need to try it again.

There are many ways we can help, but perhaps the biggest part is through our relationships with others.  As we develop and use these we have the opportunity to encourage, correct, draw alongside and help.  These things also take time, effort and patience, so it can be useful to weigh-up how much effort and time we can/are prepared to give.

Benefits from the results are potentially huge and long-lasting and the return on investment greater than we can ever perceive.

But we need to take that risk …

 

If you are interested to learn how we may be able to help you, please either visit our websites:

Waywood Creative:           http://www.waywoodcreative.com/

Waywood Training:            http://www.waywoodtraining.com/

Or contact me directly on

(     +44 (0)1509 553362

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¿      stuart@waywoodenterprises.com