On a recent expedition to a shopping centre in Boston, I met a guy selling power-brackets. To be brutally honest, I was fascinated by his high level of confidence which was in inverse relationship to his physical presence (a Shane McGowan lookalike, let’s just say that he didn’t spend a huge percentage of his disposable income on dental work). Anyway, he conducted an experiment in which my balance seemed to improve when I put on this rubber bracelet – almost as I’d acquired magical powers. While every ounce of common sense was screaming at me that this was a complete spoof, I bought it. I rationalized that $30 wasn’t going to break the bank. But, the interesting thing was that, secretly, I wanted it to be real. My son Cillian witnessed all this, securing additional (irrefutable) evidence of my ‘gob-shite-ness.’ Hold that thought!
Brexit Story: Like everyone else, I’ve been following the Brexit story. There’s certainly a big market for disillusionment and it’s hard to see Boris Johnson ever being taken seriously again. I’m guessing that most of the voters knew that, regardless of what happens in the negotiations to leave the EU, there’s no return to a white Anglo-Saxon monoculture which offers a job for everyone – even those who fail to complete their O Levels. One tweeter likened it to when Geri Halliwell overestimated her viability as a solo artist and left the Spice Girls (#Reunion). Central Point: We all like illusions. Most of them are harmless (like buying stupid rubber bracelets). But some illusions have a sting in the tail.
Positive Illusions: Most executives I meet through coaching are positive and high-performing. It’s hardly a ‘random-sample’. They are the chosen-ones, the high-potentials who, unlike Boris Johnson, actually want to embrace a leadership role. But, in the consulting side of our business, I meet a much wider spread of executives, in many ways a more normal bunch – some of whom are happy and some aren’t. And what causes the grief? There’s a myriad of reasons.
Cruel Organisations: Organizations can be cruel places. Relationships with bosses or peers can become frazzled. You continually replay these, giving bullying bosses ‘free rental space’ inside your head. At the bottom-end, the drudgery of work can be mind-numbing. At the top-end, feelings of insecurity about your ability to cope can deliver a sense of dread when the morning alarm starts buzzing. For many people, the issues are less dramatic – just a low level sense of boredom and a feeling that choices are restricted. 1 partner, 2 kids, 3 cats. Pretty soon, the responsibilities start to add up. If you are 40, the dangling carrot of ‘retiring @ 60’ means that the Golden Handcuffs will remain in place for some years yet. To overcome this drudgery, people begin to fantasize, to create their own illusions. Post-60, they are going to do all sorts of interesting things. Sail around the Greek Islands. Play golf on every continent. Date a Latvian underwear model (hopefully you didn’t miss that story a few weeks back). While it’s definitely a plan, does it make sense?
Some people are addicted to status. They couldn’t live with one car or without the holiday home in (Carlingford/Spain/Botswana – delete as appropriate). They keep postponing their happiness until ‘all the ducks are in a row’. But, perhaps, they should take a simple test. On a scale of 1-10, ask yourself “Am I happy with my life right now?” If your score is below a 5 or 6, it might be time to make a bold move, a P-exit (personal exit) from your job, relationship, country or whatever. Benjamin Disraeli stated: “Youth is a blunder; manhood is a struggle; old age a regret.”
You are the CEO of your own life. While you might be ‘managing well’, do you have the guts to take on the leadership role in your own life? Don’t wait until the full time whistle sounds, to realize that you didn’t enjoy the match.
PS: Lighter Note: This week we have a religious theme…
An elderly man was quite unhappy because he had lost his favorite hat. Instead of buying a new one, he decided to go to church and swipe one. When he got there, an usher intercepted him at the door and showed him to a pew where he had to sit and listen to the entire sermon on The Ten Commandments.
After church, the man met the preacher in the vestibule doorway, shook his had vigorously, and told him “I want to thank you preacher for saving my soul today. I came to church to steal a hat and after hearing your sermon on the 10 Commandments, I decided against it.”
Preacher: “You mean the commandment’ I shall not steal’ changed your mind?”
Old Man: “No, the one about adultery. As soon as you said that I remembered where I left my hat!”
The Request: I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn’t work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness!
Bear With Me: A priest, a minister, and a rabbi wanted to determine who was best at his job. So they each go into the woods, find a bear, and attempt to convert it. Later they get together. The minister begins:
“I found a bear by the stream,” says the minister “and preached God’s holy word. The bear was so mesmerized that he let me baptize him.” Then the priest says:
“When I found the bear, I read to him from the Catechism and sprinkled him with holy water. Next week is his First Communion.”
They both look down at the rabbi, who is lying on a gurney in a body cast. “Looking back,” he says, “maybe I shouldn’t have started with the circumcision.”
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