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Sunday, 25 April 2010

If You Don't Know That It Is Impossible - Just Do It!

In the days of my engineering career, I had a colleague called George who was slightly older than I, certainly more worldly wise and indeed wiser in general. George cultivated a rather detached view of life, being something of a rebel but unwilling to rock the boat too much. His great saving grace was that he had a wicked sense of humour.

In the early days of his career, he had been one of three partners in a contract engineering design and drawing office and, as he said that he was the only one with a tie, he had the job of going out to see Chief Designers to generate some business.

On one occasion he found himself in front of the Chief Designer of a major rubber processing company who told him that they needed some rubber moulding tools to be designed and could they offer some assistance?

George said confidently: "We are world experts in the design of rubber moulding tools" which encouraged the Chief Designer to give him the assignment. On his way back to his office, George popped into the Lending Library and found a book on the design of rubber moulding tools which was a total mystery as far as he and his partners were concerned, and proceeded to get to work.

On presenting the designs, the Chief Designer said: "You're right, George, you really are world experts. We have been in the business for years and we couldn't solve this one and you have done it!"

As George said to me afterwards: "It's a good thing that he didn't tell me beforehand that the job was impossible, so we just went ahead and did it!"

And the moral? I suppose that it is all about the "can do" attitude as against the shake of the head, and the sharp intake of breath approach to life. It is the prerogative of the leader to engender a positive attitude in the team and, most importantly, to ensure that nobody is blamed if something doesn't quite work.

I know that I have banged on about the importance of positive thinking in previous posts but this story reinforced my attitude to the solution of issues. As Henry Ford said: If you say you can or you say you can't, you're always right".

For more information visit www.vistage.co.uk and www.vistageblog.co.uk
To contact us, email to ivan.goldberg@vistage.co.uk

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Dare to be Different (and make a Difference)

In my youth, my (pre-girls) passion was cricket and particularly Lancashire League cricket. As a very ordinary off spin bowler, my role model was an extraordinary leg spinner called Tom.

Tom managed to deliver sumptuous leg breaks and gigantic googlies while bowling like a demented octopus, arms and legs flailing in all directions. To say that the batsmen had difficulty in picking his googly is an understatement. In fact they seemed to have just as much difficulty in deciding which of his wildly gyrating extremities would be delivering the ball.

The consequence was, of course, that he gained a reputation of invincibility in the League and he eventually went on to bigger and better things in his career. Sadly it was cut short by physical problems but the memory remains.

So what is the point of this tale? The point is that even though he had talent, enthusiasm, drive and commitment in abundance, his greatest attribute was that he was different.

I don't mean different just for the sake of it or to make an impression. I mean rather be different so as to impact on people's thinking, to help them to change in a positive sense and to stand out from that crowd which seems to be growing ever bigger.

Our education system from GCSE through A-levels, to University and then on to Post Graduate studies can lead to a standardisation of the eventual outcomes with an emphasis on conventionality.

Will and Kenneth Hopper in their wonderful book, The Puritan Gift, quote the late Professor Russell L Ackhoff, formerly of the Wharton Business School in the USA, as saying that there are three principal achievements of a business school education which are "to equip students with a vocabulary that enables them to talk about subjects that they don't understand, to give students principles that would demonstrate their ability to withstand any amount of disconfirming evidence, and finally, the give students a ticket of admission to a job where they could learn something about management".

It is not a surprise to me that seemingly a significant proportion of Managing Directors and CEO members of Vistage International groups, at least in the UK, did not go to University but found their success through a burning desire to succeed, through humility, a voracious appetite for learning and above all, through being different.

Visit the Vistage website at www.vistage.co.uk and www.vistageblog.co.uk
For more information email ivan.goldberg@vistage.co.uk

Sunday, 11 April 2010

It's Groundhog Day - Again? Again? Again?

Strange how things never change, or as the French say, "Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose", the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I saw a nice quotation recently which said "Children nowadays are tyrants, they contradict their parents, the gobble their food and they tyrannise their teachers". The Schools Secretary? The Shadow Schools Secretary? No, it was Socrates in 425BC.

Plus ca change etc. So how is all this relevant to today and to business as we know it?

It seem to me that it all comes down to learning from our experience and on the face of it, we have not been too successful. Had we been, then recessions and financial crashes would have been things of the past, we would have learned about the futility of war and most importantly, our lives would be far more ordered.

A previous mother-in-law of mine used to start her homily with "If you'll take my advice, in my experience......." which of course irritated the hell out of both my wife and me because we wanted to gain our own experience. Perhaps it would be by trial and error but it was ours and not someone else's.

We always say that we don't learn from our successes, only from our failures and perhaps we need to assess consciously how we can put this into practice.

It all boils down to a reluctance to accept change, to decide that the status quo is the best alternative to presumed chaos, that the peaceful life is our main objective.

Change means that we must go through a process which takes us out of comfort zone into denial and denigration, into organised chaos and finally into rebirth and regeneration. The danger is that we eventually subside back into another comfort zone where more change is seen as a problem instead of an opportunity.

Take a look at www.vistage.co.uk and www.vistageblog.co.uk
For more information, email to ivan.goldberg@vistage.co.uk

Sunday, 4 April 2010

It's Lonely at the Top (but the View is Great!)

At one stage in my life I used to lecture on a part time basis to people running SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) at Manchester Business School on one of my favourite subjects, Management Style.

I recall that one of the points that I made was that, the higher you progress up an organisation, the fewer people there are to tell you how wonderful you are, and that demands a measure of emotional stamina. If they do tell you, by the way, it can be construed as creeping.

We all need reassurance that the job we are doing is being done well and we really cannot expect that reassurance from subordinates or even from a peer group in the business.
The American psychologist Frederick I Herzberg (1923-2000) propounded a very interesting theory of motivation and, particularly, what it is that really motivates us. He derived what he called hygiene factors, that is, criteria which we often imagine are motivators but which actually operate independently. Typically they consist of things like pay and benefits, company policy and administration, relationships with co-workers and supervision among others.
On the other hand, the really positive motivational factors are Achievement, Recognition and Reward, the Work Itself, Responsibility, Promotion and Growth.

The question is, when you are at the top of the tree, who is going to provide you with all those good things, especially recognition? It is interesting, by the way, to note that pay and benefits are not motivational factors, per se and as hygiene factors they have a short term effect, if any.

We all need someone to talk to, and I have found that there are two excellent outlets for the lonely; a confidential external peer group and an equally confidential one-to-one with a trusted advisor. It is precisely for that reason that I have been with Vistage now for eighteen years and have seen how many stressed businessmen and women have been able to download and discuss their issues and opportunities in a safe environment.

And the moral is? Don’t hold it all in the hope that it will come good in the end. That is a recipe for unhealthy stress. Far better to admit that others can help just as we can help others. As my old Managing Director, Ken Saltrese, used to say “No-one is as smart as all of us!”

Postscript: I made two bad errors in last week’s blog and offered an Easter Egg for the first reader to spot them. The winner was Vistage alumnus David Beddy, Managing Director of Furniture Management Services in Warrington and an old friend and colleague. Well spotted David! (t was Michelangelo not Leonardo who painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling (not Cistine))

For more information visit www.vistage.co.uk and www.vistageblog.co.uk
Email ivan.goldberg@vistage.co.uk