Archive for June, 2014

Lessons from the Bahamas – part 3

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

One day, we went deep sea fishing. It was a pretty expensive trip given the cost of the boat and all the equipment, we travelled miles off-shore and whilst it was a great experience, and despite our crews very best endeavours, no fish were caught.  We enjoyed the ride, enjoyed seeing flying fish, and the view of the island from the sea but it was a relatively poor return on investment.  By comparison, we went on a birding trip, at a fraction of the price, and just a few yards off one of the main roads, were shown a cave that was full of bats… it was amazing.  We also found humming birds and many other bird species, it was great.  Sometimes the really rewarding things are under our noses, such as when we were walking back from a meal one night, and I saw what I thought was a statue just over a garden wall, and then it moved!  It turned out to be a night heron just a few feet away. Some times you can get a huge ROI on the smallest of investments. It is a proven fact that a little attention will boost productivity.

Lessons from the Bahamas – part 2

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

The beach was regularly ‘patrolled’ by locals who were plying their wares, Cuban cigars, dresses and bangles, cruises, drinks and time-shares.  You might have found it annoying but one had to admire their enterprise.  One thing that was very interesting to observe, was they seldom came up and said “Do you want to buy…” which normally provokes the answer “NO!”  They would ask you your name, then introduce themselves (they were keen that you remember them), and then asked about what you were doing there.  The thing is that experience had taught them they  sell more once they have established rapport and some kind of relationship.  Life is a great teacher if you are alert to its lessons, and in the UK, salesmen pay a lot of money for this kind of education.

We learned another interesting sales lesson at a location that specialised in local Bahamian food.  It is called Fish Fry and consists of loads of competing restaurants and stalls mostly serving the same kind of food.  We were told that if you were savvy, you could get a free cocktail and appetisers as people competed for your trade.  However, we also were informed that the best place was called Goldies, and once we had eaten there we knew just how good it was!  They never offered us freebies; they didn’t need to, it was that good.  Quality speaks for itself and allows you to dictate the terms.

Lessons from the Bahamas – part 1

Monday, June 9th, 2014

This was my first visit to the West Indies, and my first on holidays.  My nearest other trip was to Puerto Rico, but that was a strictly business, so this was a real opportunity to see what they were like and learn about the islands and their people.  Of course, it was hot and the beaches were golden sands and the seas the turquoise you only see on postcards, but there was so much more.  I had the chance to snorkel most days and saw so many different fishes.  There was a little reef just opposite the hotel, and initially, it seemed that it might be a bit limited.  However, going out day-after-day, and seeing it under different circumstances, I found that the more I looked, the more I saw and discovered… strange that isn’t it?  The biggest underwater thrill was seeing a sea turtle, in between the reef and the beach, passing right passed all the bathers who had no idea it was even there!

When, you are in the discovery phase of Change, it is important to use your eyes.  What might first seem to be the case is not necessarily the whole story, and in fact, seldom is.  There are often hidden treasures and quirky surprises if you look for them and don’t judge too soon.

Lessons from the Ceredigion Way–part 2

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

Whilst we were walking the Ceredigion Way, we learnt that it wasn’t a stroll along the beach, rather a series of seemingly endless ups and downs.  It was hard to decide which was harder, climbing the blooming hills or descending them, down steps that were all the wrong sizes or paths covered with shale, whilst your toes banged into the front of your boots. 

When climbing you needed to motivate yourself to keep going and would look up and go “It’s not far to the top..”, however, more often than not, that wasn’t, in fact, the top!  You’d arrive at the point you had seen only to find there was another ‘top’ another 100 yards on, then another and so on.  I can’t tell if this was heart-breaking or if, had one known at the outset how steep it was, one might have just not bothered!  The truth is probably both.

It made me think… in business, or sport, or just Life-in-general, one never really knows when you are ‘at the top’.  You might think you are and take your foot off the gas, only to discover that you have either been overtaken or that there was another player you were unaware of who is in fact better. 

The other thing that happened, luckily on the last day, was that we lost our maps.  The thing is, we had to use other means to find our path.  Again, in a Change program, you might find yourself ‘off the map’, and you need to find a way to get where you need to be.  You have to review the resources that you have and find an alternative strategy.  The journey will never work out exactly as you expected and you will always have to change, not just yourselves, but your plans too, and if not the destination, perhaps just how you find it.

How do you cut down a massive hedge?

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

We have lived here 20 years and the hedge in front was tall when we arrived, with a mixture of trees and other plants.  We always felt hidden behind our green wall and that was never really an issue.  However, as trees and plants are wont to do, they grew… and grew.  Every year I cut them back, but probably left it too long to try and stop them going up.  It now really feels a bit much and I’d love to be able to control it a bit more easily and my neighbours would like it a little lower too.

So, how do you approach a huge task like this…?  I discovered there are only two answers really.  Either you get in a tree surgeon (and they seem remarkably difficult to engage) or you do it yourself, one branch at a time.  It might seem a statement of the bl**ding obvious, but what seems overwhelming as a whole, can be reduced to a series of snips, each one of which makes the next one easier to see and do.

This is not so very different from a big change project.  When clients ask where they should start, I usually say that it really doesn’t matter what is important is starting.  That builds momentum and enables you to get a better feel for what is the next step.  The secret is having begun, keep snipping. 

The comeback Quins

Sunday, June 1st, 2014

Regular readers will know I am a keen rugby fan.  My team, the Harlequins, have had a difficult season.  Two years ago, they won the Aviva Premiership for the first time, last year they needed to prove it wasn’t a one-off and that they were genuine top four contenders.  They made it to the semi-finals and lost to Leicester, but they did win two other trophies.  This season we managed top four for a fair while, and certainly people were considering us a top team, but in the middle of the season we where hit with all manner of injuries and frankly we just weren’t playing awfully well; lots of silly mistakes and attempts at ‘forcing the game’ (in other words, just trying too hard.)  We were also hit hard by losing a number of our key players (Care, Brown, Robshaw, & Marler) to England during the 6 Nations.

However, in March, once they returned, we seemed to get our act together and there followed a series of narrow wins, but wins none-the-less.  The coach, Conor O’Shea, said that as we needed to win every single game in order to qualify for the play-offs, that we needed to play each game as if it were a cup final.  The first of these was a game against Sale, one place below us and another contender for top four; it was a ‘must win’ game.  We went there and, against all odds, beat them.  There followed a series on do-or-die games which we won till, the last one, against Bath, above us in the table but if we won, we qualified.  Astonishingly…. we did it!

The attitude and spirit of the players, their self belief and commitment enabled them to perform at a level that defied all pundits.  Being able to engage people in this way and evoking this kind of performance is what a real leader does.  He shows belief in them and encourages them to face their fears, and cast them aside and allows them to express themselves.

The story doesn’t end in a fairy tale way, as despite playing out of our skins for 40 minutes and going in at half time ahead, we succumbed to Saracens on Saturday, but it was still such a strong expression of passion and skill that no one can feel badly about it.