Happy Australia Day. Is that what we’re supposed to say? Anyway, yesterday was full of Aussie cliché’s for me:
The sun was out. I laid in the hammock and listened to music while Maria read in the sun. We rode our bikes along Merri Creek and enjoyed the smell of gum trees. We watched the tennis. I barbecued lamb and wrapped it with tabouli and tzatziki. I walked around the house with my shirt off (sorry … bad image). It was a great day.
The music I was listening to wasn’t Australian though. I was immersed in the soulful lyrics of British Dido. One of her tunes is the best articulation of contentment I have heard.
“just this life, i need no other
just this day, i need no more
just this moment, let it all stop here
let it all stop here, i’ve had my fill.”
This land is often referred to as the lucky country. Cliché? Yep. True? You betya. We are blessed with extraordinary lifestyle opportunities and freedoms. But maybe I’m really just thankful that in this lucky country I feel like a lucky bloke. So much to live for. So much goodness and beauty around me.
And yet life is fragile. Hence my resonance with Dido’s wisdom. Just this life. I’d had my fill.
I’ve written before about the happy tension between ambition and contentment. Dido helps me. Whatever I wish for. Whatever I slave my guts out to achieve. Whatever I hope for in the world, and my world … if I don’t have anything past today … I’ve had my fill.
May your Australia Day be fill you up.
The Boomtown Rats anthem immortalised the common sentiment that Monday reminds us about some of the most depressing things about life. Unfortunately it remains the norm that Mondays ushers us back into a world that dehumanises us and forces us to check out the things that have energised us over the weekend.
For some years now I have been thinking and experimenting with my colleagues about what it takes to cultivate organisations that create a different working reality for people. As I walked along the street to Don Vincenzo in Brunswick Street where I’m sitting now, I imagined that everyone I saw was energised to be up early on Monday morning and looking forward to what they will be doing through the rest of the week. The cynical will think I am fantasising, and perhaps I am. But I know we can move a long way from where we are now.
It is time for business to recapture its role as providing a valuable service to the community, not just in its mission rhetoric, but in its enacted reality. Shareholders are only one group of stakeholders. We typically spend our best energies at work. Life is too valuable for that to be wasted. Think about what the world would look like if people of goodwill could make their primary contribution to society via their vocation, rather than only in their discretionary time.
At Ergo we call organisations that provide opportunities like this ‘generative organisations’. Authentically generative organisations offer a work experience like this not just for a privileged few at the top of the management pyramid, but to the entire workforce.
We are pleased that during 2009 we will be working in partnership with Deakin University to explore more deeply the concepts and practices of generative organisations. Stay tuned for more on this as the year rolls on.
It is some years now that my friend Donald suggested I read the formative “Happy Mondays‘, I hope yours will be / has been a good one.
I only met Sir Ebia Olewale once. I was with my colleague Mohan when he caught up briefly with him before Christmas. But half an hour with Sir Ebia left me with a lasting impression.
Seldom have I interacted with someone who was so focussed on ‘the other’. It is challenging to quantify what demonstrated this; to say that he asked questions, kept constant eye contact and that he was totally relaxed with himself, do not do the encounter justice. I believe it had been more than a year since Mohan had seen him, yet he asked intelligent questions about Mohan’s world as if it had been yesterday.
Alongside Ross Garnaut in their shared role as Directors of The PNG Sustainable Development Program.
If this is rare in a human being, it is doubly so in a leader of Sir Ebia’s standing. As minister for Justice in 1975 he served on a special select committee and played a major role in preparing PNG for independence. I have heard him referred to as one of the founding fathers of the nation. He held various senior offices including deputy Prime Minister, played an important role in developing tertiary education in PNG as Chancellor of the University of Goroka and witness the first multi-racial election in post-apartheid South Africa as a member of the Commonwealth Observer Mission.
Those who knew him had their worlds rocked yesterday when he passed away unexpectedly. If a person can leave a lasting impression after such a brief encounter, I can only imagine the loss to those with whom Sir Ebia had substantial relationships.
People like Sir Ebia call us to live beyond mediocrity. They remind us that greatness is not about self importance and public image. Greatness is about character – humility and grace. I am grateful for my chance meeting with this unassuming man that influenced a nation.
(some details of Sir Ebia’s roles were taken from an article in The National newspaper, page 3 on 14/01/09.)
Corporate team building sometimes happens in the kitchen these days. I often hear about the team cooking as an alternative to paintballing, go-carting, rock climbing etc. I too was thinking about cooking and leadership yesterday.
Maria and I catered for a decent size group of friends yesterday. The weather was good so the deck came into its own … but it was the juggling more than half a dozen recipes that got me thinking. More so than usual, I was sticking to the written law according to the foodies who had written the 3 different books that we had based our gourmet lunch journey on.
Normally I like to ‘feel’ the flavours and judge proportions accordingly. But as the kids joked about the scenario in the kitchen, I was running backwards and forwards to the written word instead of following intuition. Everything turned out great.
Leadership can be similar. Even those of us who are experienced leaders regularly find ourselves in times of heightened stress and activity. At such times it doesn’t hurt to go back to tried and true, more formulated responses to what we are dealing with. Refreshing ourselves with the ‘basics’ of communication, meeting management, planning etc can be really helpful so we can rely on solutions that we know have worked in the past rather than winging it.
I write while travelling. This has allowed me to do some refresher reading on the topic in which I will be buried with a customer over the next few days. Very helpful. Whatever the challenges you are facing at the start of this year, why not dig out some pre-loved material that will help you get oriented.
I just got off a plane and was watching an advertisement for Cirque du Soleil‘s upcoming shows. One of the shorts features a human pyramid doing jump rope. What amazing and skilful coordination and strength. Some people find solo skipping difficult enough, but it is a piece of cake compared to what I just saw.
It is easy to get things done … if we don’t need to work with other people.
I have long loved Karl Albrecht‘s axiom: “Intelligent people, when assembled into an organisation, will tend towards collective stupidity”. It continually fascinates me how challenging it seems to be to work effectively and efficiently with other people. Yes, we can design and implement good processes, systems and protocol – these are crucial – but at the end of the day, organisational effectiveness tends to be a function of the ability of people to operate together. It is not as easy as it should be for our efforts to add value rather than contribute to collective inefficiency.
Like you, I sit here on the brink of another year. At Ergo we have high expectations. Firstly for our clients – our expertise and commitments are to improve organisational effectiveness, whatever that looks like. We will continue to work hard to help leaders cultivate alignment of daily activity with organisational priorities.
And for us, in response to developments through 2008 we will be evolving … more on this later.
Meanwhile, have a great start to the year and give lots of thought to the collective intelligence of your team. Happy team skipping.