How to Grow Old Disgracefully (and guilt free)

Grow Old Disgracefully









Here’s the question. At what age should you stop celebrating birthdays? Perhaps when the candles cost more than the cake? In May, I was 60 and went a bit crazy. Golfing outings in Wicklow with the regular 4-ball. Followed by 3 days with 9 musicians on 2 boats, navigating the Shannon, testing the outer limits of sleep deprivation and alcohol poisoning (confirmation: there’s no ‘closing time’ in Roscommon). Family trips to Canada and Portugal. Both official and surprise birthday parties. More new shirts than in a Penney’s Winter sale. A Travel guitar added to the collection. And on and on and on in what began to feel uncomfortably numb — a contradictory pull between gratefulness for the effort invested (by everyone else) and a feeling that there was too much fuss and materialism.

Vote Hedonism? So where does celebration end and indulgence kick in? How many musical instruments do you need, before thoughts turn to homelessness or some other social issue? At what point do you stop wanting new stuff and start enjoying old stuff? The root of the question is easy enough to trace. It’s Catholicism and the liberal sprinkling of guilt that underpins this particular religion. Growing up, we were informed that ‘It’s easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven.’ From memory, we heard that line about 42,337 times. As children, we took these stories literally, and honestly believed that it was somehow ‘wrong’ to be successful (I definitely should have been a Protestant). The irony that the institutional Catholic Church was itself massively wealthy, somehow got lost in the debate. I’ve now come to the view that my ‘indulgence’ does not steal from others. It’s a false dichotomy. On a political level, I subscribe to the Gary McGann school of thought. He argued (IBEC conference, 2016) that before wealth can be distributed, it first has to be created. But is this just a rationalization for selfishness? A thin veneer of justification to overcome guilt and make me feel good?

Creating Boundaries: In navigating this contradiction (coming to terms with modest success versus feeling a need to contribute), my personal recipe is as follows. Tandem Consulting offers a fixed amount of unpaid time to not-for-profit organizations. I also do some individual coaching outside of my immediate (middle-class) circle and give a fixed amount of money each year to specific charities. With that system firmly in place, I then buy as many golf shirts and guitars as I want. The good news is that they arrive with a special ‘guilt free’ packaging.

Useless Emotion: Guilt is the most useless of all emotions. It’s drains energy. It evaporates the feel-good factor when you do something for yourself or your immediate family. In the worst-case scenarios, it can create mental torment. And, here’s the kicker. It adds zero value. G is for giving, not guilt. Consider the following 2-step process. First, draw a boundary line around what, if anything, you want to contribute (time/money), something that feels comfortable and you can live with. Second, assuming that you deliver on the commitments made, consign guilt to the wastebasket of history. It should become something that ‘used’ to bother you. Past tense.

Now, be careful with that cork. Opening champagne can be dangerous.


Ps Lighter Notes

Vet Visit: Guy goes to the doctor carrying a Rottweiler and says: “He got sick this morning. I just gave him his normal feed and he’s been like this, completely lethargic all day.”

The vet takes the dog in his arms and says:

“I’ll have to put him down.”

“Jesus, why?”

“He’s too heavy.”

 Doctor Visit: Guy goes to the doctor and says: “This is a bit embarrassing.” The doctor replies that he’s seen all sorts and there is no need to be embarrassed.

 “Well, I don’t quite know what it is, but I seem to have a terrible smell all of the time. I shower twice a day and I’ve used every personal hygiene product on the market. Nothing’s working.”

Doc says: “Hymm. Tell me what you do for a living.”

Patient Says: “I’m an Elephant Bunger.”  

Doc: “I don’t really know what that job entails.”

Patient: “I’ve worked for Duffy’s Circus for 5 years. It’s not widely known that elephants have a ‘loose bowel.’ So, before each show I have to ‘insert a bung’ to stop them destroying the arena. Then, immediately after each show, I have to remove the bung. It can all get a bit messy.”

Doc: “Well, this is hardly a complex diagnosis. It’s simple. That’s where the smell is coming from. You will just have to leave that job.”

Patient: “WHAT! And give up show business” 

From Ger Coey: “Watched a program last night on how ships were built. It was riveting.”

On Getting Old….

 “One of the hardest decisions to make in life is when to start your sixties.” Zsa Zsa Gabor

“I recently turned 60. Practically, a third of my life is over.” Woody Allen

“One day when I was 45, I went into the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea. When I came out, I was 68.” Thora Hird

“The greatest advantage of having babies in your 60’s is that you can both be in nappies at the same time.” Sue Kolinsky

“I’m at an age where my back goes out more than I do.” Phyllis Diller

“My mother is over 60 but she still doesn’t need glasses. Drinks right from the bottle.” Zero Mostel

“When you get to 60, you lose interest in sex, your friends drift away and your children ignore you. There are other advantages too.” Richard Needham

Check our website or call 087 2439019 for an informal discussion about executive or organization development.


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Organisation Change: You need to drill below the surface

Changing Culture: It’s more than a ‘Lick of New Paint’

It was a beautiful morning in the IFSC. The temperature reading in the car was a glorious 24 degrees (there might be some form of in-built thermostat in Irish people that makes 24 almost perfect). I walked along the river, then across the Sean O’Casey bridge. Right on queue, an enormous Seal was basking in the sun – sitting on one of the stanchions. I was half expecting someone to roller skate over the bridge, moving to the soundtrack of Beautiful Day from U2. A local coffee shop served up a smooth latte. Historically, coffee of this quality was only available in Rome. Dubliners now discuss coffee with the same reverent tones that my father discussed Guinness. A little later, I attended an event at the National Convention Centre, the epitome of architectural confidence about the future of the country.

When I was growing up, my first cousins lived in Sherriff Street. Despite the fact that I’m from a corporation estate in Cabra, we were afraid to visit. Sherriff Street was a no go and no hope area, drug addled, the off-campus section of Mountjoy Prison. Now it has some beautiful architecture. The social housing projects and the general environment are a testament to what can be achieved with good urban planning. We tend to forget the achievements of the Celtic tiger era (there were many) and even some upsides in the recession which followed…

Superior Value: We developed a new focus on value for money. Some of the Celtic Tiger arrogance abated (as exhibited by restaurants and plumbers).  We’ve had to relearn that stinging customers is a pyrrhic victory.

Customer Service: When the market tipped the scales at circa 50% of the former business volume, consultants came to understand who pays the bills. If you’re not ‘easy to do business with’, you are not in business. Pin-Stripe types who formerly sold hope are now signing on at Hatch 22 at the local employment office. You get asked back if projects deliver real value. The consultants who survived morphed into ‘resultants’. Long may it continue.

So, the Celtic Tiger has left us with some good stuff (e.g. the road to Galway) and some bad stuff (Ghost Estates). And the fall of the Celtic Tiger has reminded us of some old stuff including courtesy, the joy in having a good job and of doing quality work.

Social Re-Generation: But, to go back to the Sherriff Street story. It’s relatively easy to make physical changes to an area (assuming that you have the finances). However, it’s much more difficult to bring about social change. So, while the North Inner City is physically very different, a range of social problems still plague the area. In case you believe that the ‘class system’ in Ireland is a thing of the past, how about the latest wave of parties which are very much a working-class phenomenon. First it was Tupperware. Then Make-up parties. Then Ann Summers for a more risqué evening. The latest is Tattoo parties. Come along, have a few beers and leave with the name of your dead granddad emblazoned across your collarbone. Now, that’s what you call a night to remember.

Real Change: Organisation change follows a somewhat similar trajectory. For sure, you can re-write the Customer Charter or modify the manufacturing process. But to make real progress, you need to think about changing the culture – and not just the outward elements like the new apartments in Sherriff Street. You can’t steer a car by replacing the wing mirrors. Real change, requires swimming into the deep end of the pool. That’s why so many ‘organisation change’ projects don’t deliver sustained change. Like the Garda Reserve Force, organization change projects often produce lots of heated debate – but very little on-the-ground change. The ‘existing’ way of doing things presents a powerful pull to do nothing.

The trick is to understand the difference between surface and deep change and to know what levers to pull. Now, there’s a thought! Have a good one!


PS Mea Culpa! The priest joke (last blog) might have been a bit too close to the edge for some readers. I’m not deliberately trying to cause offence – just trying to lighten up your day. Just for this blog only – I’ve decided to chicken -out and go fully ‘PC’ on the jokes. Don’t worry – normal service will be resumed shortly!

PPS: Lighter Moment

Q: What have Christopher Columbus, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln got in common?

A: They were all born on major American holidays!

Dog Day Afternoon: Last week I brought the kids to the Zoo – but they only had one animal, a tiny dog. I think it was a ‘Shih Tsu.’

2 Left Feet: Did you hear about the guy who had 2 left feet and went to the beach? He bought himself a pair of flip-flips!

2 More Minutes? The attached clip about growing up in Dublin is worth a look…

Check our website or call 087 2439019 for an informal discussion about executive or organization development.

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Plotting Your Career Success: Ladders Versus Expanders

Career Races are mostly run in a Zig-Zag Line

The last time I met Ray Gamell was about 3 years ago in Abu Dhabi. I was passing through the city on a different mission and called to see him for a chat about Ethihad Airways. I’ve admired Ray for many years and was doubly delighted when he was recently announced as the interim CEO of the airline, having been promoted from the role of HR Director. Ray demonstrated leadership from his earliest days in the Irish Army, in Intel, Ulster Bank and, more recently, in the Middle East. It’s nice to see the Good Guys winning (at least sometimes).

Formal Apprenticeship: Contrast that with a conversation last week with another excellent HR practitioner. A new HR Director had been appointed – an internal promotion, but someone from outside the function. My lunch-buddy was making the point that this just wouldn’t happen in finance or marketing. His thesis: people ‘serve an apprenticeship’ within a function and get rewarded by seizing the top spot on the functional ladder at some point. Accountants eventually become Financial Comptrollers, then Finance Directors and so on. But was he correct? Should you stay within your own discipline or ‘jump across and do something else?

Pfizer Leadership: For the past 3 years, Cathy Buffini and I have been working with the senior engineers across Pfizer globally. There’s no ‘parish pump politics’ at play here. It’s definitely not about who you know. It’s not even about what you know. It’s all about what you deliver. As part of this engagement, we’ve interviewed a range of senior executives (engineers and others) about their careers – the good, the bad and the ugly. What worked. What didn’t. Tripwires that could have been avoided. Key Point: So many of the engineers ‘crossed-over’ into other functions (Manufacturing, Quality, HR) that we lost count. And they also moved internationally. In other words, they were expanders (moving sideways as parallel opportunites presented) – not ladderers (waiting for the next more senior position in engineering to open up). The route up the corporate mountain is often a zig-zag climb, seldom a straight line.

Your Career: In thinking about your own career, you might do well to consider the ultimate destination, sometimes referred to as the ‘step after next.’ Like playing chess, you need to think two or even three moves ahead (in the corporate world, the pieces move around the chessboard suprisingly quickly). Every year (for the past 6 years) MERC Partners publish an ‘Executive Expectations’ survey which always makes for interesting reading. In the latest (2017) survey 59% of executives stated they were much more open to switching roles. People are starting to ‘get it.’

One Caveat: But, there’s one thing to be mindful of. According to Sir William Osler (a Canadian physician,  one of the icons of modern medicine): “The best way to take care of tomorrow, is to do today’s job superbly well.” Even if your current role is somewhat modest and falls short of being a dream job, you need to over-deliver on this. Career success is the ability to manage a dual-timeframe. Planning for tomorrow – while making sure that you deliver today. My personal belief is that the ‘best time to apply for a job – is one year before it’s advertised.’ In other words, you apply for a promotional role, in advance, by delivering a brilliant performance on the job you hold today.

Alternative Strategy: Of course, you can always pursue an alternative strategy. You can tell your boss: “I’m underperforming in my current role, because it doesn’t really suit me. But hey, as soon as I get promoted I will ‘over-perform’ in the new (more interesting, more complex, better paid) role.”  Good luck with making that sale!

Get Wide: In thinking about the future, don’t just see tomorrow as a linear expansion from what you studied or where you are today. Don’t allow a study choice you made as a teenager, set the boundaries on your life. There’s a world of career possibility out there. Go ‘wide’ and grab it.


PS Lighter Notes: This week’s offerings are from Larry McGivern (look away now if you are of a nervous disposition!).


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 Are Probably The Family Dog!


A heavy-set girl served me in McDonald’s at lunchtime.  She said: ‘Sorry about the wait’.

I said: ‘Don’t worry, you’ll find a way to lose it eventually’.


A 10-year-old Irish boy stands crying at the side of the road.  A man passing asks:

‘What’s wrong, lad?’

The boy says: ‘Me ma died this morning.’

‘Oh bejaysus,’ the man says.  ‘Do you want me to call Father O’Reilly?’

The boy replies: ‘No thanks mister. Sex is the last thing on my mind at the moment.’

Air Stewardess (from Aidan Cahill):  The blonde flight attendant saw a suspicious looking couple on board, so she reported it to the Captain immediately.

“Sir, I think we have a case of human trafficking! There is a very
pretty, hot  female passenger on board, who looks quite
frightened. The man she is with is fat and looks like a
lecher, very sullen, mean and dangerous!”

The captain responds: “Patricia, I’ve told you this before. This is Air Force One…”

Check our website or call 087 2439019 for an informal discussion about executive or organization development.



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Here – Kitty, Kitty: Tell me what you are great at!

“Would you like to share my lunch?”

It was one of those nights. A combination of music, fun and a large drop of alcohol had ‘opened up the emotional pores.’   We were flying without wings. Eventually, the conversation turned to the maddest/most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done (and would be happy to share). As the Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohan said: most people have a public life, a private life and a secret life! (these high heels are killing me).

Isle of Man: One of the group told the following story. Some years back, he’d attended the Isle of Man TT races, the biggest biking event in the calendar. He’d travelled to the venue in a large camper van – which just happened to have a ‘half-door’ – similar to an old farmhouse you’d see in rural Ireland. They parked up at the side of a main thoroughfare. As the night was balmy, the ‘half-door’ was left open to let in air. But, this was misconstrued. People kept calling over to the Caravan asking for a menu, looking for late night food. So, in a moment of inspiration, they opened two tins of Kitty Cat (food for his cat in Dublin was stored in the caravan) and they fed the masses. Apparently, the cat food went down a ‘bomb’ (they suggested that it was an old Turkish Kebab recipe). People complimented them on the unique flavour and the fact that they were distributing free food! So outrageous, it’s actually funny.

Your Biggest Secret: In kicking off that conversation about the ‘maddest night in history’, I was inspired by a great talent. Irv Yalom is perhaps the world’s best-known psychotherapist. Yalom has conducted an experiment in 14 different countries asking his patients: “What’s the one thing that you would not want this group to know about you?”

Faced with this question, most people immediately think of some drunken escapade (like the Cat food story) or some sexual indiscretion. But, when you discount those one-off stories, the issue that stands head and shoulders above everything else is as follows: ‘I wouldn’t like this group to know that I’m not as confident as they think I am.’ In other words, a red thread of insecurity is hard wired into most of us – across all cultures.   At times, almost everyone feels insecure and unsure – despite our (sometimes) outward bravado. For some, it’s a constant dread. It’s as if the air leaks out of our ‘confidence tyre’ and continually needs to be pumped up.

Building Confidence: In the executive coaching world this issue continually resurfaces. I meet executives who, by implication, are smart enough to get into senior roles. Many have 2 kids, 3 cars and 4 houses. Most have more degrees than a thermometer. But what do they want to talk about? Deficiencies. Things they are ‘brutal’ at. Where they’ve screwed up. And so on. I have to work hard to remind them that their success brought them into the room in the first place. We focus on what’s working really well, alongside what’s broken. In the great song W.O.L.D. (about a regretful DJ), Harry Chapin sings:

“Sometimes I get this crazy dream to just drive off in my car

But you can travel on 10,000 miles and still stay where you are”

In other words, we ‘carry the world inside our head’ – regardless of where we live or our external circumstances. In terms of building happiness, gaining confidence is Job #1. This is not narcissism or false bravado. It’s about building an inner security, a quiet self-belief. And, here’s the bonus. If you acquire this, you have a good chance of passing on confidence to your kids through role modeling.If confidence is on your worry agenda, do something to fix it.

Some people are so busy rescuing others, that they don’t look after themselves. In your mission to ‘save the world’, working on yourself is an excellent starting point. As they say in the airline safety demonstrations: Put your own mask on first.


Ps Lighter Notes: Eclectic mix of stuff today… from the pen of Aidan Cahill (look away now if you are sensitive…) 

A Woman’s Dog is Drowning in the Sea. A passing German Dwarf

dives in, pulls out the Dog, resuscitates it & saves its life.

“Are you a Little Vet?” Asked the Woman

“A Little Vet?” said the German Dwarf. “I’m f**king soaked”!

Blond Jokes (Brunettes secretly love them): A blonde gets a job as a teacher. She notices a boy in the field standing alone, while all the other kids are running around having fun. She takes pity on him and wanders across the yard.

‘You ok?’ she says.

‘Yep.’ he says.

‘You can go and play with the other kids you know.’ she says.

‘It’s best I stay here.’ he says.

‘Why?’ says the blonde.

The boy says: ‘Because, I’m the goalie’

Tim O Neill suggested the following Oxymoron’s…

  • Clearly misunderstood
  • Exact estimate
  • Small crowd
  • Pretty ugly
  • Only choice
  • Act naturally
  • Found missing
  • Fully empty
  • Seriously funny
  • Original copies
  • Happily married (that’s his personal favourite)

 From Cillian Mooney (there’s hope for that lad yet!).

 Wife says to her Programmer husband: “Go to the store and buy a loaf of bread. If they have eggs, buy a dozen.” The husband returned with 12 loaves of bread.

 My friend said to me: “What rhymes with Orange?” I replied: “No, it doesn’t.”

“I told my girlfriend she drew her eyebrows too high. She seemed surprised.”

Check our website or call 087 2439019 for an informal discussion about executive or organization development.

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Leadership In Action: Telling Great Change Stories

Leadership & Storytelling are linked

Do you remember any nursery rhymes from when you were a child? Here’s one that sticks in my mind. It was sung to us as we were going to sleep:

“Tell me a story

Tell me a story

Tell me a story

And then I’ll go to bed

You’d better give in, you said you would

You’d better give in and I’ll be good

Tell me a story

And then I’ll go to bed.”

It was a bit of fun at the end of each day – a tradition that I was happily able to keep alive with my own kids when they were younger. They claim zero memory of this but can vividly recall all the arguments!

Easter Eggs: A couple of weeks back, my sisters were talking about the fact that minding younger children can sometimes feel relentless as the kids can be fairly demanding. One sister relayed the following story about a neighborhood Granny who’d died just before Easter. It’s always difficult to know how to explain death to children. Some of the adults in the family were trying to explain loss to her 8-year-old grandson, helping him make sense of this. After listening intently, the child replied: “It’s not that bad really.” When asked to explain (they assumed that the answer was going to be about ‘old’ people dying or something involving ‘going to heaven’) the child said. “It’s not really sad because she bought me a huge Easter Egg before she died.”

There you go. Sorted! What can you do only marvel at the sheer depth of self-interest. It’s only the fear of costly litigation that stops me telling you several ‘adult’ versions of that Easter Egg story.

Self Interest: One of the downsides of becoming an Executive is that some people (a) feel they can talk about themselves without pause and/or interrupt others as often as they want (b) that they could have been a stand-up comedian – as minions always laugh at their punch-lines and (c) they are ‘entitled’ to excellent service in every area of their life. I sat (embarrassed, but said nothing), as an executive recently sent back her coffee 3 times – until she achieved some exact ‘consistency’ of the frothed milk (it was a mystery to both myself and the waiter).

Story Power: Now, I could have made the point that all kids (and some executives) are inherently selfish. But, because we all know that anyway, the delivery needed a new twist. Telling the Dead Granny/Easter Egg story brings the selfishness point alive. But, it can’t be the ‘same old stories’ all the time. Being in the ‘storyteller’ role is a bit like being Elizabeth Taylor’s 7th husband. Broadly speaking, you know what to do, but you have to make it interesting!

Water Charges: The biggest Irish political story over the past 2-3 years has been the effort to make citizens pay for water. We pay for electricity. We pay to have our bins collected. We pay for gas, coal and wood. But water was a new charge to be imposed. The sheer uproar this caused, the levels of protest generated, the impact on the Irish political landscape and so on will be the subject of dissertations for years to come. In a recent book (The Million Dollar Decision: How Education Changes Lives), I wrote about this in some detail. Space considerations won’t allow a repeat of all of the arguments here. But at the heart of this debacle, the ‘story’ of Irish Water became hopelessly confused. Was this an environmental issue (‘polluter pays’ principle), an engineering issue (“We need to invest in new water infrastructure”), a way to increase general taxation (“The right-wing government sticking it to us again”) or a response to a legal European Union Directive (The Water Framework)? These points became hopelessly entangled in a myriad of counter-claims: the water system would be ‘privatized’ as in the UK; Denis O’Brien was ‘pushing’ this agenda with his friends in Fine Gael as he owned the company installing the meters; widows and orphans would be ‘cut-off’ from water supplies and would not be able to live the hygienic life that we’ve all become accustomed to. The pushback from the politicians was that ‘water’ had become a conduit for every ‘left-wing whinger’ in the country along the lines of the Rex Hudler quote: “Be a fountain, not a drain” And so on, ad infinitum, the dialogue of the deaf continued.  And still rolls on.

Storyboarding Change: Managerially, there is a lesson for all of us in the water charges mess. You can’t bring about change unless you can ‘tell the story of the change’ in a way that represents a compelling truth. Compelling = it has to have a blinding strategic logic. Truth = it has to be believable. Screw up the ‘story’ and nothing happens (or worse i.e. you go backwards). When faced with making the ‘case’ around an internal organization change – you essentially face the same dilemma as Irish politicians trying to introduce water charges. While there are normally arguments for the ‘new’, sometimes, there are compelling arguments to stick with what exists today (the old).

Bottom Line: Learn how to tell your story well. Becoming great at storytelling is leadership in action. Get yourself some media training and learn how to do this. In my experience, CEO’s either ‘make their case’ or ‘pack their case.’ The choice is yours.


PS Story of the Week: Met a guy last week who grew up in a ‘poor’ area.  He said: “Our house was so small, that when my mother peeled onions, the bloke next door was crying.”

PPS Lighter Note:  Subject: From Amie Mooney in Australia. The Irish abroad seem to be ‘more Irish’ than those of us left here rusting in the rain. Here’s a few from my daughter….

Be Discreet: Six retired Irishmen were playing poker in O’Leary’s apartment, when Paddy Murphy loses $500 on a single hand, clutches his chest, and drops dead at the table. Showing respect for their fallen brother, the others continue to play while standing up. Michael O’Conner looks around and asks:

“Okay, boys, someone’s got to tell Paddy’s wife. Who will it be?”

They draw straws. Paul Gallagher picks the short one. They tell him to be discreet, be gentle, don’t make a bad situation worse.

”Discreet!!! I’m the most discreet man you’ll ever meet. Discretion is me middle name. Leave it to me.”

Gallagher goes over to Murphy’s house and knocks on the door. When Mrs. Murphy answers, Gallagher declares, “Your husband just lost $500, and is afraid to come home.”

“Tell him to drop dead!”, says Murphy’s wife.

”I’ll tell him.” says Gallagher.

Fight Back: 
Into a Belfast pub comes Paddy Murphy, looking like he’d just been run over by a train. His arm is in a sling, his nose is broken, his face is cut, and bruised, and he’s walking with a limp.

“What happened to you?” asks Sean, the barman.

“Jamie O’Conner and me had a fight,” says Paddy.

“That little f**ker O’Conner,” says Sean, “He couldn’t do that to you, he must have had something in his hand.”

“That he did,” says Paddy, “a shovel is what he had, and a terrible lickin’ he gave me with it.”

“Well,” says Sean, “you should have defended yourself. Didn’t you have something in your hand?”

”I did,” said Paddy, “Mrs. O’Conner’s breast, and a thing of beauty it was; but absolutely useless in a fight!”

Guinness is Good for You: Brenda O’Malley is home making dinner, as usual, when Tim Finnegan arrives at the door:

“Brenda, may I come in?” he asks. “I’ve somethin’ to tell ya”.

“Of course, you’re always welcome, Tim. But where’s my husband?”

“That’s what I’m here to be telling ya, Brenda. There was an accident down at the brewery”

“Oh, God no!” cries Brenda.

“Yes, your husband Shamus is dead and gone I’m sorry”

Finally, she looked up at Tim. “How did it happen, Tim?”

“It was terrible, Brenda. He fell into a vat of Guinness and drowned.”

“Oh dear Jesus! But tell me true, Tim, did he at least go quickly?”

“Well, Brenda, no. In fact, he got out three times to pee.”

From the irrepressible Joe Kenny… The “Agony Aunt’ Column

Dear Abby,

I have never written to you before, but I really need your advice. I have suspected for some time now that my wife has been cheating on me. I’m seeing the usual signs – phone rings but if I answer, the caller hangs up. My wife has been going out with “the girls” a lot recently, although when I ask their names she always says “Just some friends from work, you don’t know them.” I try to stay awake and watch for her when she comes home, but I usually fall asleep. Anyway, I have never broached the subject with my wife.

I think deep down I just didn’t want to know the truth. But last night she went out again and I decided to finally check on her around midnight. I hid in the garage behind my golf clubs so I could get a good view of the whole street when she arrived home from a night out with “the girls.” When she got out of the car she was buttoning up her blouse, which was open, and she took her underwear out of her purse and slipped them on.

It was at that moment, crouching behind my golf clubs, that I noticed a hairline crack where the grip meets the graphite shaft on my Ping G30 driver. Is this something I can fix myself, or should I take it back to the PGA Superstore?


Concerned Golfer

Check our website or call 087 2439019 for an informal discussion about executive or organization development.


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 The Leadership Conundrum: Doing the Right Thing Takes Effort

In Portugal, Nicole (our youngest) was doing an overnight at Pony Camp. Linda and I had a ‘night off’ and could eat where we wanted to – for a change. Duas Passoes is a recently renovated fish restaurant, affording beautiful sea and sunset views. Having pre-holiday made a vow to ‘eat healthily’, this was my moment to shine. I chose Dorado from the extensive fish menu. It never occurred to me to ask how it would be served…

Full-On: When the fish arrived, I started to work on it. Hey, no-one told me that Dorado have 15,267 bones (something like that anyway). I’m not sure if this would be labeled a gastronomic experience. More like a practice session for an intricate branch of micro-surgery. To make matters worse, I couldn’t remember if Linda understood the subtleties of the Heimlich Manoeuver. After a half bottle of Pino Grigio, I wasn’t confident of a well-executed rescue (assuming she’d want to perform this). I ended up essentially ‘pulping the fish’ into a sort of baby food consistency to avoid choking. The next night, I had a burger,  focusing on conversation rather than evisceration. I know, I know. Philistine.

Management Rewards: It struck me afterwards that the same broad principle applies in management. Most managers want to ‘have the rewards’ but some are not prepared to invest the time to get this. Often they are afraid of the unpopularity of the quest. They look for easy solutions, low hanging fruit, quick fixes – the ‘fast management’ equivalent of fast food. It’s reminiscent of the quip from Charles Handy: “Governments often know what they should do, but not how to get re-elected after doing it” (The Second Curve). But, as managers, we don’t have to get ‘re-elected’ so we can’t use that particular excuse. Most of us have not cultivated what the author Tim Ferriss described as: “Developing  the habit of letting small bad things happen.” (in order to stay focused on BIG issues).

Doing the right thing requires effort. Sometimes very unpopular effort. The best leaders understand the need to install ‘water meters’ and then figure out how to make them work. You can’t select the ‘nice bits’ of your job, pushing the other bits to the side of the plate and ignoring them. Leadership is a package of elements – not all of them palatable. We all enjoy  the ‘fillet of leadership.’ But figuring out how to remove the bones is why we’re paid the big bucks. And that’s what makes our jobs so fantastically interesting. When you tackle the difficult issues, the intellectual and emotional stretch felt is both a frustration and a reward. It presupposes that you’ve ‘chosen’ the right issue from the managerial menu.  In the poem: ‘The Time Before Death’, Kabir offers one great line: “If you don’t break your ropes while you’re alive, do you think ghosts will do it after?”

Go out there and don’t be afraid. Fillet that fish!


Quick Apology: The last ‘blog communication’ sent was a repeat of an earlier communication. I could blame a technical hitch or some outsource provider – but it was my own fault. Sorry about any confusion caused and thanks for keeping up with the blogs.

True Story: Giving Feedback (Ouch!) My brother Anthony, coaches a junior soccer team in Winnipeg. The main coach, a Scottish guy, is what might be described as a straight shooter. He has tons of experience coaching soccer at all levels. During one team meeting, this young kid wouldn’t stop asking questions. “Can I play up front?”: “We’ll see”; “I could play in the middle”: “We’ll work it out!”; “I used to play at left-full. That would be a good position for me”: The coach, exasperated, said: “Listen kid, someday you are going to go home and all the lights will be out in your house because your parents will have moved and not told you!”

PS Lighter Note: Some Sayings These are the printable versions…

  • If at first you don’t succeed, blame your parents.
  • Money can’t buy happiness. It can, however, rent it.
  • A financial wizard is someone who lives within their income.

Yorkshire Humour: Sticking with the international flavour, how about a couple from Yorkshire…

The Cat: Man from Yorkshire takes his cat to the vet: “Ay up, lad, I need to talk to thee about me cat.”

Vet: “Is it a tom?”

Yorkshireman: “Nay, I’ve browt it with us.”

The Dog: 
A Yorkshireman’s dog dies. As it was a favourite pet he decides to have a gold statue made by a Jeweller to help him remember the dog.

Yorkshireman: “Can tha mek us a gold statue of yon dog?”

 Jeweller: “Do you want it 18 carat?”

Yorkshireman: “No I want it chewin’ a bone yer daft F**K!”

The Chemist: Bloke from Barnsley with piles asks a chemist: “Nah then lad, does tha sell arse cream?”

 Chemist replies: “Yes, Magnum or Cornetto?”

Check our website or call 087 2439019 for an informal discussion about executive or organization development.


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Training Tricks: Keeping Everyone ‘On Board’

Training course participants have become ever-more sophisticated consumers. It’s the ‘MTV’ generation – an expectation of sound & vision, content and entertainment. They want lots of time to catch up on emails; some want to ‘stay connected’ to the Mother Ship at all times – pleading either importance (“You’ve no idea how much pressure I’m under”) or crisis (“If we don’t get this deal over the line, we’ll be wallpapering the factory with P45’s”). It’s tricky to manage. Participants on training programmes are essentially customers and have to be respected. But…having people coming and going can be disruptive – both for them and for others on the course. While there’s no absolute answer to this dilemma – in the past I’ve distributed the following note to new people joining a programme. See what you make of it…

Nxxdxd Vxry Much

Xvxn though my typxwritxr is an old modxl, it works quitx wxll xxcxpt for onx kxy. Thxrx arx 46 kxys that function wxll xnough, but just onx not working makxs thx diffxrxncx.

Somxtimxs it sxxms that training groups arx somxwhat likx my typxwritxr. Not all thx kxys arx functioning propxrly. You may say:

“Wxll, I am only onx pxrson. It won’t makx much diffxrxncx”

 But, you sxx, to bx xffxctivx thx group nxxds thx activx participation of xvxry pxrson.

So, thx nxxt timx you think you arx only onx pxrson and that your xffort is not nxxdxd, rxmxmbxr my old typxwritxr and say to yoursxlf:

“I am a kxy pxrson and am nxxdxd vxry much”

Your Team: You don’t have to be a trainer to use this idea. Perhaps its time to tell your own crew – that everyone needs to ‘get back on the oars’.


PS Lighter Note: What’s for Lunch?

A large organization had recently hired several cannibals. After conducting a lengthy ‘Welcome Aboard’ orientation the Human Resource Director congratulated the cannibals and said, “You are all part of the team now! You get all of the benefits we have discussed and you can enjoy our company cafe free of charge! But please don’t eat any of the other employees.” The cannibals promised they wouldn’t.

After a few weeks the cannibal’s boss seemed very pleased, but also a little worried. She said: “You’re all working very hard, and I’m satisfied with you. However, one of our secretaries has disappeared. Do any of you know what happened to her?”

The cannibals all shook their heads, “No.”

After the boss had left, the leader of the cannibals was a bit angry and said, “Okay, which one of you dummies ate the secretary?” A hand rose hesitantly in admission.

“You fool!” said the Chief: “For weeks we’ve been eating managers and no one noticed anything, but no, you had to go and eat someone important!”

Inspirational Messages for you and your team…

If you do a good job and work hard, you may get a better job… someday.

The light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off due to budget cuts.

Doing a job RIGHT the first time gets the job done. Doing the job WRONG 14 times gives you job security.

Rome didn’t create a great empire by having meetings. They did it by killing all those that opposed them.

We put the “k” in “kwality”.

Teamwork means never having to take all the blame yourself.

Suggested lunchtime conversation with Millennials: “The elevator to success is out-of-order. You will have to take the stairs i.e. one step at a time.”

Check our website or call 087 2439019 for an informal discussion about executive or organization development.


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