Don’t flick switches if you don’t know what they do

The first proper piece of career advice I got was from my Father just before I started my first job.

I was 16 years old, and about to start working as a glass-collector in the local golf club where my Father was an active member.

The Bar Steward, Mr Jones, was a notoriously abrasive man, and I think my Father sensed trouble. Mr Jones was hard work, but he wasn’t the only one: I was an awkward argumentative know-all with all the social skills of a wasp at a picnic.

To him, and to most people I suspect, I looked like I was aloof or arrogant, but actually it was more about my lack of self-confidence and my social clumsiness. My personality is the sort that doesn’t do small talk and doesn’t crave human company for the sake of it, and this means it’s all too easy for me to stumble, as a bull may stumble its way through a china shop, when faced with uncomfortable social settings.

Switchflicking

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If you’ve missed a flight recently, you’re not spending enough time in airports

In this post I tackle three big issues facing the frequent flyer.

A lot of the advice for the business traveller is based on three assumptions: speed is king, you need to keep working all the time, and you don’t need clean pyjamas.

I disagree; I’m not that kind of traveller.

We work incredibly hard most of the time, have lengthy commutes, and often return to a busy house with a long list of responsibilities. Travel is an opportunity to take care of ourselves, to have some peace and quiet, to meditate, to escape the hurly-burly senseless busy-ness of most of our working days.

So don’t feel the need to spend every waking second of travel on your laptop working at breakneck speed, use the peace and solitude to reflect and take a step back.

Early or late?

If you haven’t missed a flight recently, you’re spending too much time in airports

(Dr Jordan Ellenberg)

I don’t agree; I’m not that kind of traveller.

Ellenberg says that I could be doing something better with my time rather than idling it away in an airport terminal, that the “opportunity cost” of my arriving early is subtracting from all this productive stuff I would have been doing otherwise.

Well, Dr E, there are some mighty big assumptions in there.

If I waited until the last minute to get to the airport I wouldn’t be doing anything productive, I’d be standing around, glancing at my watch, and anxiously thinking about needing to get to the airport. At least if I’m already there I can relax and read and drink coffee, which is all I really want to do anyway.

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Social learning: three things we need when learning in groups

All you need to do to create a group is get some individual people and shove them together.

That’s it!

There is no additional ingredient required, no further information, just a bunch of individual people … and yet when that group forms, it is quite different from the sum of the individual parts.

The individuals within the group are different animals than when they’re on their own, they have different needs and will tend to try to satisfy those needs in different ways.

William Schutz came up with the Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation (FIRO) theory (way back in 1958) to look at this very question.

Seeing as most training is done in groups, I wanted to see how this applies to training and what specific concrete tools we can use to help with the group-identification needs of training delegates.

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The (overdue) death of the (unreformed) alpha

Overly masculine leadership styles are under siege like never before these days. Yesterday’s hard driving, high achiever with a sense of urgency and a ruthless streak has just two options – change or take cover.

(Mitch McCrimmon in How to Tame the Alpha Male Leader)

OK, I may not be the best barometer on this one, but I reckon there are few things more annoying in the workplace than other people trying to dominate and control.

It drives me nuts.

I don’t like being told what to do at the best of times, but least of all by an egomaniac enthralled with the cult of their own personality.

I am talking about the workplace alpha: an individual who needs to dominate and control other people at work.

That’s my definition, not the official one.

Continue reading “The (overdue) death of the (unreformed) alpha”