It’s super important with a new client that I always make a super-fast start on my work with them. There are a raft of benefits to this approach, not least of which is the signal I send; I’m can-do, energetic, enthusiastic and proactive.
They will forever judge me against this early work.
Many days, others want you. Other days, you are needed; your actions are vital and the wheels turn about you. Then there are the few days when no one cares what you do. These are the days when you stand apart.
You capitalise on some breathing space, not by taking a breather, but by doing the things that matter beyond the end of today, past the end of this week.
This body of work; the things that you do when no one is waiting or watching, will become your legacy. These are the things that you will be proud of. And this work will determine your value.
When I was a kid, I loved photography. Loved the way the camera mimicked the eye. A machine that imitates the body. Camera is to eye like computer is to brain. Composition particularly intrigued me; the way you framed a photograph defined its aesthetic and the context shaped its tone. You could explain your point of view to the ‘reader’ of the picture.
One of my favourite exercises, set by my photography teacher, Mr Brenker, was to find an ordinary still-life object and abstract it using composition – however you chose…focus, zoom, aperture settings. It was fantastic to make a beautiful, unrecognisable “new” image of something familiar. It is possible to get so close to a subject that you can’t tell what it is anymore.
And so the same phenomenon occurs when we deal with people… sometimes we’re so close that we can’t tell what we’re looking at. We can make better sense of the world by taking the photographer’s approach. Zoom in, zoom out, focus and refocus or change the change angle for a clearer understanding of the situation we are in.
It was hot yesterday so…not too sensibly, I waited until the middle of the afternoon to mow the lawn.
It didn’t take more than the slightest effort (walking 10metres to the shed) for the sweat stain on my straw hat to start spreading. Forty minutes later I was really flagging. I stopped briefly for brow-wipe and a drink from the hose. It was really hot, and dusty. Then back to the mower which, suddenly, I could not move.
There was a small sharp stone wedged under my front wheel. I was intent on pushing over it but I didn’t have the power. But I kept shoving anyway and got hotter and more annoyed. My heat-aadled brain was unable to grasp the obvious option… pull back and get some momentum.
That stone was my broken excel formula, my failing email communication with my difficult client, my presentation that wasn’t humming. Sometimes shoving madly forward gets you nowhere. But a pause and some renewed momentum usually does the trick. Roll. Bump. And you’re over that little stone.
Years ago I had a serious crack at writing fiction. One of my teachers, the late Laurie Clancy (pictured) was an old school Australian short story writer and critic. He was possessed of a warm, serious, funny and sad narrative tone and he had a face to match. Amongst the many insights Laurie imparted, “show me, don’t tell me” has stayed with me and remains a powerful metaphor for life beyond fiction writing.
To give your characters life, you must show their actions to your reader. By only telling, you omit evidence, you forfeit richness and create doubt about the believability of your characters. Each exposition and development must be illustrated, not simply told. Think Hamlet’s slide into madness, Ahab’s escalating vengeance against That Whale or Raskolnikov’s delusions of grandeur as he plots his Crimes, before Punishment.
We observe those characters by their actions just as our observations of those around us powerfully inform our view of them, beyond what they merely say. Clancy’s advice is never truer than when we pursue credibility in our work. We must make action our central narrative device. Our deeds and successes must be shown, not just told.
A mentor should actively seek gain from their mentee relationship (I’m not convinced that mentee is a real word, makes me think of manatees…). Anyway, one of the first questions a new mentee asks me is, “so, why do you mentor?”
The correct answer seems to be about giving something back. I’ve used this reply. I’ve talked about helping others but, in truth, I’m a Selfish Mentor.
The Selfish Mentor gives of his time only with an expectation of something in return. I’m aiming to develop myself too. And I know that I’ll get great , if I give great too.
Mentoring develops a wonderful symbiotic relationship. Both mentor and mentee come together out of self interest and, as they grow together, enrich themselves and each other.
Selfishness builds a richer, more fulfilling relationship for both parties. The giving causes taking…and the giving given, allows for taking.
And that’s why my desire to gain moves me to give the mentee the best I’ve got.
I have a friend who runs a very successful professional services company. In her company, the expertise of her people is paramount. In fact, it’s all her clients care about. So she’s always on the lookout for potential.
She has a secret policy for emerging leaders. Secret? What kind of a policy is that?
Her secret policy supports her best employees through their post grad studies. You see, the only people who qualify for consideration are those with the initiative, spark and determination to wonder about what’s possible. The only people in her company who ever get to hear about the secret policy, are those who actually talk to her about what they can do together.
She’s believes in the underlying principle that we should each be responsible for making things happen for ourselves. And so having leaders self-select for development is the perfect way to allocate very limited resources towards those people who are determined to use them well.
So the next time you hear a whisper around the water cooler at your office, you might wonder if you’re missing out on a really useful secret.
Acronyms are lazy. We should be making more effort to be convey rich meaning, not less.
In business, precise expression and meaning are vital.
When we compress our words into new groups to make codes, we flatten our tone, communalise ourselves and render ourselves less individual. We make our language and expression less precise and more open to interpretation.
Like a joke that needs explaining, an acronym that requires decoding is POOR (caps for emphasis, not an acronym…as far as I know) communication. It obscures meaning, distracts from the message and corrupts our purpose.
Put some grain, colour and accentuation into your language. What you say and write will be memorable because it will better convey life’s many folds.