“There’s a hole in Daddy’s arm, where all the money goes”
(Lyric from Sam Stone by John Prine).
Just over a week ago, I went to see John Prine playing Vicar Street. Some of you will probably respond with, John who? He’s a brilliant American country/folk singer. At a party, a couple of months back, the conversation ran along the lines of ‘what’s your favourite album of all time’? Someone mentioned John Prine and, to prove his point, he bought me a CD. I’ve been glued to it ever since.
Life’s Soundtrack: We all grew up listening to music from ‘our era’. Songs transport us back to a point in time, even to particular events and we get locked into a musical time warp. My father in law, Joe, loves music and has an encyclopedic knowledge of singers and bands from when he was a younger man. Joe truly believes that there has not been one good tune written since 1959.
Management Traintracks: This idea of being locked into a moment in time, has a parallel in management. Some of us ‘served our managerial apprenticeship’ in an earlier era when certain beliefs (common currency at that time) became ingrained. Junior staff should ‘listen’ (as we dole out our philosophy). Never job-hop because it looks bad on your CV. People will only respond to financial incentives and so on. If we’re not careful, those mental tapes keep playing a loop inside our brain, over and over again. Like Joe, we think that every managerial idea that could ever be invented has been invented. Essentially a particular set of beliefs has become frozen and we are not learning, just repeating. Some managers don’t have 20 years on the clock; they have 1 years experience repeated 20 times.
The Cure: The good news is that there is a cure for this Frozen Brain Syndrome. Perhaps you have already discovered the ‘fix’. Do you regularly get in your car or get on a plane and research how the leading players in your industry operate? Do you read business book and magazines and constantly drill into best practice details to steal ideas shamelessly? Do you talk to the specialist consultants in your industry and discuss trends? Every now and then (not on every visit or after every meeting) you will discover something new and exciting, a breakthrough that puts rocket fuel on your business or makes your personal life zing. Just like I discovered the musical talent of John Prine. Despite the fact that my head was already full of good music, there was room for greatness. The market for brilliant ideas is never saturated.
On Trial: If you were accused of being a conduit for new ideas into your organization, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Get out there and clock up those miles. Like Ivor Callely become an RPM (‘Relentless pursuit of mileage’) – but in a good way!
PPS: Inner Peace
If you can start the day without caffeine. If you can always be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains. If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles. If you can eat the same food every day and be grateful for it. If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time. If you can take criticism and blame without resentment. If you can conquer tension without medical help. If you can relax without alcohol. If you can sleep without the aid of drugs. Then you probably are…. the family dog!
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