Don’t look back in anger

Don’t judge me, but I was watching Kung Fu Panda II last week and it put something back on my radar I felt I should write about.

Yes, I am saying Kong Ffu Panda inspired me to write a blog.

Maybe as something I’d like to ponder over a bit more, maybe as something to make you think. It’s really about perspective if you like. And maybe about a different perspective.

For those of you who haven’t watched the animated movie and those of you who never intend to watch an animated movie about a Panda who becomes a Kung Fu warrior, I’ll paint the picture.(Careful: spoilers ahead)

So, there’s this Panda, right, and he’s called Po. His dad is a Goose, called Mr. Ping. And then there is an evil Peacock, Lord Shen, who wants to rule the world. But a prophecy predicted he will be defeated by a black and white worrier. To make sure he’ll survive, he kills every Panda in the universe, bar one.

You guessed it: this is where Kong Fu panda Po comes in. While the story unfolds Po finds out Mr. Ping is not his real dad and his panda parents got killed by Lord Shen. In the end, taught by his Kong Fu teacher Master Chifu, Po learns to find “peace within” and uses that superpower to defeat Lord Shen.

The moral of the story: The past might have made you what you are today, but it doesn’t define your future. Accept your past, leave it in the past and move on.

I appreciate this is easier said than done, but there is so much truth to it. I mean, can you think of any example where dwelling on the past has ever helped you moving forward? And by this, I mean using the past as an excuse not to try something new, stop doing something that holds you back or is bad for you, or not to allow yourself to achieve something?

Do you ever find yourself thinking or saying: if it wasn’t for X (person, situation, circumstance) I would’ve been Y now? Sure, maybe that’s true. But is there anything you can change about that? No, because it’s in the past. It’s out of your ability to influence. Which in my opinion makes it useless to dwell on.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not denying your past might have been awfully hard, life hasn’t treated you fair or you’ve made mistakes that had a big impact.

I’m not trying to preach either. Who am I to tell you to get on with life? What I’m trying to say, I guess, is that when I consider it, there is really nothing in my past I want to use as an excuse to hold me back. Even taking it a bit broader: there is nothing in the past, in general, I want to use as an excuse to hold me back.

I don’t think I’ve fully mastered “being at peace” with everything in my past. I might hold a little grudge here and there, and sometimes I do think: “what if I would’ve…”, or “what if that wouldn’t have happened” even though I know it’s not very useful. Sometimes being aware of doing something is a good start of changing it for the better. Most of the time I do choose to focus on what is now, who I am now and what I want to be when I grow up and it suits me well.

Life happens. And whatever comes your way, it’s your decision how to deal with it.

I’ve seen the lady (Martine Wright) in the video below tell her story live and I thought her it was incredible and it really puts things in perspective. Just food for thought…

Inspirational read: Option B by Cheryll Sandberg

Don’t be a D***

One of the reasons I love my job is our company culture. Our former MD frequently quoted Mark Drucker by saying: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”.

When external people work with us or for us, we often get told what a great company we are. I’ve heard us being called “a bit PC”, but a great company with lovely, amazing, hardworking people.

So, what’s different, and what is it about this culture I love so much?

Well, when we’re in the office (Remember pre 2020, when people went to offices to work?), we hold the door for people (which means it can take some time to get anywhere during peak times). We don’t tell people to do stuff; we ask nicely. We say please and thank you. We come up with solutions; ways to make sure we can, instead of reasons to say we can’t. We learn never to get complacent. We focus on being inclusive and understanding. We get involved in charity and volunteering. And we make an effort to make work enjoyable and fun!

What we don’t do? We don’t throw people under the bus when things go wrong. We fix the issue and learn to do better next time. We don’t raise our voice at people. We don’t give people “an ear full” and we don’t use scare tactics.

When I started working for this company 3 years ago, I was anxiously waiting for the moment someone would shout at me. Or at anyone really. Or tell me “we could have a different conversation” if I didn’t get behind something that clashed with my moral values.  

That moment never came.  

I don’t even know why I consider this to be exceptional.

Well, actually, I do: Because I’ve experienced places, departments and projects where it was accepted to raise your voice at people or make them feel bad in any other way. I was used to having meetings in my calendar to be nervous about. Meetings of which I knew there was just no way of winning. We’d be shouted at whether we under- or overachieved (when we overachieved we’d been accused of sandbagging). I’ve been in situations where I saw grown men walking out of meetings crying. Not a one off: plural.

None of those places were nearly as successful as the one I’m working for now.

I believe shouting at people is the most stupid thing you can do, especially in any type of leadership position. Why would you? Only to vent your frustration? It sure doesn’t reflect well on you. You ‘ll seem out of control, out of your depth and you certainly won’t encourage the people you’re shouting at to do well or enjoy their job.  

People who are scared to make mistakes are likely to start making more mistakes. And when they do make mistakes, they’ll be scared to own up to their mistakes. That can lead to escalations and disasters that could have been prevented if you would’ve chosen to focus on solutioning instead of finger pointing and finding scapegoats.

I believe in treating people the way you like to be treated. I’m not saying you have to like everyone, or everybody needs to be your best friend. But it’s certainly a given that having good relationships will lead to people being more likely to be willing to do things for you.

So, my company might be “a bit PC”, but if it means we’re aiming to be kind, helpful and humble I’m happy to be sigend up for that. It also means people are much more likely to do things for each other and achieve great stuff together. Even in unprecedented times.

Saying please and thank you goes a long way. Being kind and making people feel appreciated goes a long way. And you know what, you can do all of that, especially when times are tough, and it doesn’t cost you a thing.

As a wise former CEO I know used to say: “Don’t be a D*ck”

Kindness might even benefit your own well being!

Influencer

In a role with leadership responsibility the majority of things you say, don’t say and do or don’t do will be measured and weighed.

On top of that, people will form a perception of you. No exception. Sometimes, you might not even realise what that perception is and what you’ve done to prompt that perception.

Flipping it slightly: consider how critical you are towards the directors in your company making company announcements, sharing information in “all hands” meetings… You weigh and measure things those directors might have not even deemed to cause an issue when they prepared for the meeting (Which they meticulously tend do to make sure their messaging is spot on).

Consider the perception you have about your line manager, the Managing Director or CEO of the company you work for, influencers you might follow on Instagram, the founder of Microsoft, the Prime Minister, the President of America, the President of New Zealand… It might be really positive, or quite negative. But it’s likely to be strong.

As someone with leadership responsibilities (Don’t just think managers or world leaders: think teachers, parents, influencers) have you ever considered what the effect of your words and actions are? Have you realised that every action causes reaction? That you have the power to influence people?

Everything you say or do, or don’t do, can blow up, be taken out of proportion, can cause an unintended effect. Scary, right?

The more visible or influential you become, the stronger opinions will get; both positive and negative. It probably helps to develop a good sense of awareness of what you want to portray.

A couple of weeks ago, one of my reports told me they couldn’t understand where I found the time to do all the things I was doing with my life. He felt like I am never just doing my day job but always get involved in a million other things to keep me stretched and challenged. Inside as well as outside of work. He said he felt that I might expect the same of my reports or consider them to be lazy or inadequate if they didn’t have a similar approach to life.

My initial thought was: Why would he have that perception of me? I never feel like I read enough or am massively busy and I often consider other people to do many more useful things with their time. Also, I appreciate I have quite some more me-time available to spend than people who have caring responsibilities other than just themselves and their house plants.

Then I got a little shocked and worried. O dear, people take things from me and care what I think and consider changing their behaviour because of it!

Just because I like to do a lot of things at the same time, because I like to read management books and write blogs, it doesn’t mean I expect my reports to do the same! I’m not after copy-pasting myself into an army of duplicates! Do what works for you! And that’s not necessarily the same as what works for me!

It was a good eye opener though and it got me to reconsider influence and perception.

I believe that one of the most important aspects of leadership is understanding what your messaging does to other people. “Seek to understand”, in Covey speech. Put yourself in the shoes of people on the receiving part of your message. This applies to unconscious messaging, which might lead to unintentional perception, or conscious messaging, which should lead to some more deliberate effect.

I’m not saying you should be frantically worried about what people might think of you. I’m just suggesting you need to find a good balance. Be careful people don’t think their perception of you is the same as your expectation of them and be mindful and considerate about you messaging. Lead by example and treat other people they way you like to be treated. Just in case someone does go in to copy-paste mode… If you influence people, it better be in a positive way!

Oh, and you probably need to accept you can never please everyone. Good luck 😊

Reads:

How to make friends and influence people; Dale Carnegie

Never thought a video about firefighters would ever make an apprearance on this blog. Worth a watch!

Goals – Part 2: Passion

There is a lot to be read about finding your passion in combination with goals. Goals can be built around your passion. It’s more likely you’ll achieve them if you’re passionate about the cause.

“Nothing great in the world was accomplished without passion” according to Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, a German philosopher from the 18th century.

No pressure.

Coming from a country where the saying “Just act normal: you’ll be silly enough” is a thing; a mentality even, talking or thinking in terms of ‘passion’ is not something that was massively on the forefront of my mind.

When I started working with coaches, I did get asked the question. What is your passion? In more “Dutch” terms, toning the word ‘passion’ down a bit: What gets you excited: What makes you tick?

On the other side of the spectrum, there’s the US. If you read books from American writers and motivational speakers, they’ll be very generous with the word ‘passion’. Influential and motivating Americans love the term: Oprah Winfrey, Tony Robins, Eric Thomas, the late Maya Angelou. It seems to me Americans even use it in cases I wouldn’t exactly call something ‘a passion’ but more ‘a temporary obsession’.

It’s interesting how there is such a difference between these cultures really.  

When I bought some house plants during lock down, I got incredibly obsessed with how to care best for them. Would I call that a passion? Meh. I wouldn’t want to quit my job and become a florist because of it. So, I think I’ve decided not to class it as a passion.  

But, since all these successful people seem to be incredibly passionate about things, I figured I needed to find out what my passion was and embrace it.

For a very long time, I didn’t really know if I had a passion. I mean, I like things, but do I consider them to be my passion? I always enjoyed doing a bit of everything and never liked focussing just on one thing. It also means that I could do a lot of things reasonably well, but usually didn’t get to a point I’d excel forever.

Even if I was considered being “talented” at something, I just didn’t feel like focussing on just that one thing, because there were so many other fun things that had my attention. And if that thing I was considered to be “talented” at became too difficult or too much effort, I’d give up after a while and would focus on something else. Maybe, if I had been more passionate about just one thing, I would’ve been more motivated to keep getting better at it.    

When are you allowed to call something a passion? A passion sounds like such a big thing to have! It makes me think of people who have a passion for swimming and want to become an Olympic medallist. Or singing and want to become the next Lady Gaga. If thinking big like that makes you stop thinking about it at all, I would advise to make it a bit smaller.

This will sound silly, but for a big part, my Instagram account helped me understand what I’m passionate about. I’m not kidding. It’s called @whatevermakesmetick, just like this blog. I gave it that name because that’s exactly what my account ended up reflecting: things that get me excited. When I look at the pictures on my account, they genuinely make me happy.

I love walking, taking pictures, food and travel and reading and writing art, wine, being happy. Would I ever consider becoming a food critic, make a living out of travel, reading or writing, being happy? Would I like to learn more about art and wine? I do get excited thinking about those options. Do I make an effort to be happy? Yes! Would I therefore consider them being a passion? I just might.

I’m also lucky enough to love an awful lot of elements of my job; making sure people enjoy their work, making sure people get handed enough tools to develop themselves, cleaning up messes and improving processes and drive collaboration. Gradually I would like to do more of that: make more people enjoy their work, develop them to higher levels, cleaning up bigger messes and drive collaboration between more and bigger teams.

I think I found my fair share of things that make me tick or could even call my “passion”. Things I can build goals around and things that have kept me focussed on trying to learn more and get better at it for some time now.

How about you? Do you have a passion? Are you doing anything deliberate to find your passion? Or have you had a super clear passion for something since you were a child?

Here’s some more food for thought. I love this talk!

Good reads:

Grit: Angela Duckworth

Mindset: Dr. Carol S. Dweck