Tag Archives: leadership

Coaching and Leading for the short-term and authenticity

Coaching and Leading for the short-term and authenticity

The short term gets a bad press.  A short-term measure is frequently seen as superficial, a temporary band aid solution that fails to address the deeper underlying problem. This perspective fails to recognise the fact that the short term regularly turns out to be long term. The things that we do now can and often do have a major influence on things down the track (in the longer term).

You cannot get to the longer term without going through lots of short terms, it simply isn’t possible. However frequently Leaders are criticised for not taking a long-term view, coaches and counselors are enjoined to take a longer term perspective.  However anyone demanding a long-term view should be made to spell out how that view articulates in the short term.

I think people are reluctant to spell out the short-term implications of a long-term view, because they feel compelled to produce a “complete” solution.  Often an honest and legitimate short term implication is that little will appear to have changed.

Short term is not synonymous with simple. However it is often necessary to simplify in any one short term action, simply because we are human and there are limits to what we can think and do simultaneously.  However doing lots of simple things reasonably contemporarily can add up to complexity.  Lots of short term actions can address complexity.

The corollary of this is that short-term strategies do not have to be over-simplified and rigid.  This is how short-term actions get a bad name. In our preoccupation to be seen to be doing something tangible, we can miscontrue a situation in overly simple terms which in turn begets an overly narrow, simplistic set of actions that may give the appearance of addressing a problem, but in fact is not doing so particularly effectively.

Imagine someone pitching the idea of aging.  The long term view is that our hair will go grey or just go and our skin will become wrinkled (Joan Rivers excepted).  But what about now? What is the short term effect of aging.  The true answer is that tomorrow you’ll pretty much the same as today, notwithstanding any major life events or traumas. And the day after, and the day after that.  If you’re lucky and the year after that.

The key to embracing BOTH the short term and the long term is to recognise that in a complex and changing world, it is not always possible to get  clear line of sight between the short term and the long term.  It may not be clear why events happening now have any meaningful connection with outcomes then. This insight means we cannot control and predict, we cannot know all, we are indeed vulnerable as Brene Brown points out here and in this knowledge we can be authentic leaders, coaches or counsellors.

Being aware and comfortable in discussing that the short term may not offer a complete solution to the puzzle, and indeed that in reality, neither does the longer term, rather what we are trying to do is intentionally and intelligently explore the mystery, is an important step toward authenticity.

Once you have a stated (long term aim, purpose or calling) you can be liberated into attempting lots of short term experiments.  The danger lies in attempting to apply planning techniques that work well in a short term situation like goal setting that demands a specific result by a specific time.  Imposing such specificity on longer term outcomes has the tendency to stymie short term innovation and experimentation, because it is always being held to account against a rigid set of criteria.

Short term actions may not only fail to appear to be moving things along, it may even appear to be going in the wrong direction.  Within the Chaos Theory of Careers, the long term is an emergent pattern (or state) that results from many many repeated short-term events.

Taking action in the short term without a sense of purpose, intention or calling may result in good longer term outcomes, but it relies a lot on chance.  Following an intentional, purposeful path may not result in a desired or even desirable outcome (there are no guarantees in life) but it does at least mean you are more likely to be prepared to follow hunches, hear calling, try things out and take action in the first place.

Placing demands on yourself and on others to articulate tangible and specific outcomes in the short-term or the long-term may result in such a jaundiced view of the short term, that you don’t bother even trying.  It is a failure to appreciate that trying and striving now can and does lead to places then.  The short term is the birthplace of action, but dont waste your time anxiously looking for results.  For some things, and dare I say, the most important things, the outcome or result emerges over time, and in some cases, those patterns may not be evident within our lifetimes.  That fact should not deter us from trying and trying now.

see also this post on calling and re-souling your career



Transform your Career by shifting: Shift 5 From Risk As Failure To Risk As Endeavour

Shiftwork is the work we have to do to manage, thrive and survive in a world where shift happens.  I’ve identified 11 shifts that we have to make (see here), so far I’ve addressed the first four, and in this post, I address the fifth shift.  The earlier ones you can read by following these links:

Shift 5 is from Risk as Failure to Risk as Endeavour.

Career Development tends to be focussed on career “success” and rarely is failure mentioned, written about or researched.  This tends to create an atmosphere where success is seen as something to be desired and achieved above all else.  Generally this is accompanied by the obverse message that failure is to be avoided, minimised, despised or feared. It is summed up in that popular motivational injunction that “Failure is not an option”.

Characterising failure in such resolutely negative terms is actually quite odd, given that we are surrounded and immersed in failures almost all of the time.  Most predictions such as economic ones, or pretty much all others in fact, usually fail (at least to some degree). Most restaurants fail, most businesses fail, most people are rejected during an application or promotion process.  Most of us fail to win the lottery or the raffle, our favourite players or teams fail to win every game, our favoured political parties fail to win government about half of the time (or a lot more!), our favourite films fail to win the Oscar, and so it goes.

Seeing failure only in terms of the risk it poses to our beloved pursuit of success is actually a very self-limiting perspective.  For one thing it immediately rules out the possibility that failure may actually contribute significantly or even be the major reason for later success.  It also rules out the possibility that valuable learning occurs when failure is appropriately reflected upon.

In a forthcoming paper (Pryor & Bright, 2011) we have identified 4 benefits of failure. These are:

  1. An Opportunity to Learn
  2. Encouraging Creativity
  3. Builds Strategy
  4. Personal/Spiritual Development

Opportunity to Learn

Put simply, Learning requires trial and error. Without the error, we never learn.  It seems odd to say it, but we learn less from success that success and failure combined. For instance suppose there was a machine that delivered gold coins if you put yellow tokens into it, but gave you nothing if you put blue tokens into it.    If you had 10 yellow tokens in your possession, you’d get 10 gold pieces and might conclude that putting tokens into the machine resulted in gold coins.  However if you had 10 yellow and 10 blue tokens you’d learn more, that not only do you have to put a token in, but it needs to be yellow.  You’ve learned more.

Failing early on in a process before too much time or effort is expended, maximises the time and resources left to leverage the learning that has taken place.  Aim to fail well and early for more rapid success.

Encouraging Creativity

The way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.  This general principle seems to be widely accepted in discussions of creativity. It practice it means establishing the conditions where people are encouraged to generate as many ideas as possible without paying attention to their value.  It is thought that such brainstorming type approaches is like panning for gold, you sift a lot of rock to get the gold.  In career development, as a general rule, the more strategies you try to land the job or promotion, the greater the likelihood of achieving this.

Builds Strategy

Once we accept that we might fail, it is easier to move forward and implement a strategy. By following Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice “that nothing will be achieved if first all objections must be overcome”, we can explore possibilities, despite the fact we might fail. If fear of failure is very strong, then we do not endeavour, and by so doing, we ultimately fail anyway in most circumstances.

Failing also helps to reveal the hidden contingencies in a situation that allows us to revise and improve our assumptions or models.

Personal / Spiritual Development

Failure is a great advertisement for our limitations to fully control, predict and know the world.  Not all failures can be sheeted home to a lack of effort, support or planning. Some “failures” are simply beyond our control.  For instance when we fail to get a job, it doesn’t always mean we made a mistake, rather it could simply be that there was an outstanding candidate up against us on this occasion.  We can be the safest of drivers, yet still get injured when another driver loses control, or a large animal jumps out in front of us.

Such a perspective allows us to appreciate the limits of our power and knowledge, and indeed of what is controllable and knowable. It can help us toward a greater degree of humility.

Risk, Endeavour and Chaos Theory of Careers

The case for the Shift from Risk as Failure to Risk as Endeavour, rests on the fact that we live in a highly complex and interconnected world where we simply cannot work out in advance all of the possible contingencies, and therefore cannot plan, prepare or control for every outcome, or even imagine every possible outcome.  This is the Chaos Theory of Careers (Pryor & Bright, 2011) perspective, and for this reason, failure needs to be seen as both inevitable but also desirable.


Pryor, RGL & Bright, JEH (2011). The Chaos Theory of Careers. Routledge. UK & USA.

Pryor, RGL & Bright, JEH (in press). There’s no success like failure and failure is no success at all”:  The value of failing in career development. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance.


Transform your Career by shifting: Shift 4 From Control To Controlled Flexibility

Shiftwork is the work we have to do to manage, thrive and survive in a world where shift happens.

I’ve identified 11 shifts that we have to make (see here) and the first shift (see here) and second shift (see here) and I provide some tips about how to achieve the third one here.  Below I address the fourth shift.

From Control to Controlled Flexibility

We like to believe that life is controlled. We need to believe that life is controllable, but we know that there are severe limits on our ability to control our lives. I write this in the aftermath of the second Christchurch Earthquake in New Zealand, the aftermath of the devasting floods in Queensland, Australia, the lethal mudslides in Brazil, and of course the ongoing human and nuclear catastrophe in Japan.

All of these tragic events are sombre reminders of our inability to fully predict and control our lives.  Norm Amundson and Gray Poehnell in their books Active Engagement and Hope Filled Engagement talk about the “crisis of imagination” that causes us to become stuck in our careers.  This crisis of limitation of imagination is also partly responsible for us failing to anticipate the impact of the natural disasters so many have experienced in 2011.

At the time of writing, it appears that the Japanese nuclear reactors had insufficient safety mechanisms to handle the tsunami.  Nobody had imagined an emergency on that scale.  This is not unusual.  On Nov 4th 2010 flight QF32 flying from Singapore to Sydney suffered massive engine failure on the brand new A380 super-jumbo.   Apparently pilots had been trained to deal with 2 systems failures occurring at the same time on this new plane.  The pilots on the day had to contend with 60 system failures and failures of some form or other in every system on the plane.  Apparently nobody had imagined that this could happen.

These stories point to the fact that very often our plans are confounded by events that are beyond are imagination, what Nassim Taleb terms “Black Swan” events in his eponymously titled book, events that arise from “what we do not know we do not know”.   Career planning is no less susceptible to this problem, and consequently we need to make the Shift from Control to Controlled Flexibility.

Controlled Flexibility means being able to address a situation in a flexible manner, but not one that is so flexible that there is no structure or one where the response becomes essentially random. Confronting the unexpected by taking random actions is  sure sign of panic. Rarely is such an approach effective, and if it is, it is due to pure “dumb” luck.

Controlled Flexibility requires us to understand that our plans are likely to need to be altered to a greater or lesser degree as we embark on our course and discover hidden contingencies along the way, or meet with completely unexpected challenges.  Armed with this understanding from the outset we can implement two general strategies: insurance plans and pro-active problem solving skills.

Insurance plans , the oft-mentioned “Plan B” is a very common approach to dealing with fluid or ambiguous situations. However the Plan B approach tends to work best in fairly simple and slow moving situations.  Too often, Plan B becomes irrelevant or ineffective as events develop.

Plan Bs too often are remarkably similar to the primary plan, meaning that they are only likely to apply if conditions change in only a small way.  Change of any significance renders the Plan Bs redundant.

Plan Bs can induce a sense of complacency in the individual or group who feel secure or insured against the worst outcome. This complacency reduces motivation to continue to develop plans or ideas about other courses of action.

A more sophisticated version of the Insurance Plan is Scenario Planning.  Scenario Planning involves the regular and in-depth exploration and simulation of different complex situations that may confront an individual, group or organisation.

A Scenario Planning session begins with imagining a problem.  Then the problem is explored to understand its structure, implications, severity and opportunities it affords.  Then personal or group resources are reviewed to understand what is available to address the problem.  The problem is most likely then broken down into logical components driven either by the structure of the problem or the availability of resources to address it. Then action steps are proposed and implemented to address the problem.

A key aspect of Scenario Planning is that it is dynamic and simulated.  This means that the initial consideration of the problem, the perception of the resources available and the initial responses to the problem have an impact on what happens next.  It allows the Scenario Planners to understand the impact of their initial thoughts and actions.   This information informs a second round of responses and so on, until the problem is fully explored and an effective strategy emerges.

All of this information, each step and decision, is debated and documented, so at the end of the exercise a complete record of the decision-making processes, decisions, outcomes and the final strategy are all stored ready for future potential use.

A critical feature of Scenario Planning is the importance of regularity.  Successful Scenario Planners schedule regular Scenario Planning sessions to explore new problems.   This is important because it builds up a library of explored and solved problems that become a resource to consult when confronted by problems in the future.

Regular Scenario Planning is also a potent way to develop the problem solving and planning skills of those involved.  For groups and organisations, it allows teams to learn from each other, and for corporate knowledge capture, enhancement, transfer and preservation. For individuals it helps to maintain an awareness of the need to be able to address complex issues in their careers at any time and without notice.

Shell Oil is a company that many business schools cite as a good example of the effectiveness of Scenario Planning.  Shell weathered the Oil crisis of 1973 when world oil prices spiked far better than many of their larger competitors.  One reason for their performance at the time was attributed to their management being able to draw on their Scenario Planning experience. They had already worked through a similar scenario and therefore were able to address the issue with more agility than their competitors.  Shell moved from being a middle-ranking to a world leading firm on the back of this.

The second Controlled Flexibility strategy is to develop Pro-active Problem Solving skills.  As we’ve seen Scenario Planning is a potent way to develop these skills, but there are many other methods available such as using DeBono’s Six Thinking Hats (White, Red, Black, Green, Yellow and Blue), or considering Sternberg’s (2003) Analytical, Creative and Practical Intelligence, or Gardner’s multiple intelligences (Spatial, Linguistic, Logical-mathematical, Bodily-kinesthetic, Musical, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Naturalistic).

What De Bono, Gardner and Sternberg are getting at, is that we need to pay attention to different, or in De Bono’s terms “parallel” ways of thinking if we are going to boost imagination and creative problem solving.  Their models give us some frameworks to encourage a broader engagement with a problem than simply falling into “argumentative thinking” (De Bono) or relying on Analytical (Sternberg) or Logical-mathematical (Gardner) thinking.

One final point to make here, is that I am not promoting a view that career problems are a jigsaw puzzle that can be solved, rather I like the metaphor I read Dave Snowden using that we should see complex problems as mysteries.  We are NOT going to get THE correct solution, or THE complete picture. Rather we are going to see fragments of structure, and from these we can start to implement strategies and plans knowing that we are inevitably going to have to modify these strategies or develop completely new ones as things inevitably and unpredictably change.


So for career success, the first step is to appreciate the limitations of what we can control and predict.  The second step is not to respond by falling into helplessness or fatalism.  Nor should we settle for simple insurance plans like the Plan B strategy, but rather we need to commence and maintain a program of scenario planning, and secondly to work actively on developing problem solving skills.  Through these mechanisms we can develop controlled flexibility.



Amundson, N. (2009). Active Engagement. 3rd Edition. Ergon Press.

Bright, Jim (2008) Beyond Personal Mastery® http://www.beyondpersonalmastery.com

Bright, Jim (2008). Beyond Corporate Mastery® http://www.beyondcorporatemastery.com

De Bono, E. (1999) Six Thinking Hats. Back Bay Books.  http://amzn.to/ff5kLq

Gardner, H. (1993).   Frames of mind: the theory of multiple intelligences. Basic Books. http://bit.ly/glfSoE

Poehnell, G. & Amundson, N. (2011). Hope-filled Engagement. Ergon Press.

Pryor, R & Bright, J (2011). Chaos Theory of Careers. Routledge. London & New York. http://bit.ly/d1tK8R

Sternberg, R. J. (1985). Beyond IQ: A triarchic theory of human intelligence. New York: Cambridge University Press.


Transform your Career by shifting: Shift 2 From Plans To Plans And Planning

Shiftwork is the work we all have to do to manage, survive and thrive in the face of a world where Shift Happens.

I’ve identified 11 shifts that we have to make (see here) and the first shift (see here) below I give a few tips about how to achieve the second one.

Shift 2: From Plans To Plans And Planning

We all like to make plans. They make us feel comfortable, they give and sense of direction and underline a sense of purpose.  However in a rapidly changing world that is so interconnected that decisions and actions taken by people we’ve never met in a country we’ve never visited can turn our own plans on their head, we need to be continually planning, not relying on a plan.  Add to that the forces of globalisation, technological advances, plus social changes and you have recipe for undermining our plans.

Having just one plan can lead to inflexibility and it may leave you stalled when conditions make your plan obsolete.  Military General and President Dwight Eisenhower said “In battle plans are useless but planning is indispensable”.  In other words learning how to do planning is just as important or more important than the plan itself.

Here are some suggestions to improve your planning skills:

  • engage in scenario planning – think of lots of different possible outcomes, no matter how improbable and work out what you’d do in those situations
  • Consider for each scenario what would need to happen for me to: quit the plan; stick with the plan; revise the plan
  • listen to  and be aware of small “insignificant signs” what might they be telling you?
  • look at your current plan on a daily basis – is there a better one out there? how can I change it/refine it/finesse it/fine tune it?
  • think about what you know you know; what you know you dont know; what you dont know you know and most importantly what you dont know you dont know
  • identify emergency resources that you have (skills; attitudes; support; finances)
  • make a liferaft plan and mentally equip it with survival items (where I can go for support or shelter – e.g. my family; my friends; my boss; my lawyer etc)
  • be open to new information/opportunities/ possibilities
  • go beyond probability thinking (considering what will probably happen) and always consider possibility thinking
  • devote part of each day to developing new plans
  • resist getting into SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities threats) thinking while developing plans – let the plans develop fully before doing this
  • adopt a wait and see policy to see what emerges
  • ask yourself what else am I missing here
  • step into the shoes of your fiercest critic – what would they say about your plans – try your hardest to make their arguments
  • consider that other people can have a point
  • follow WC Fields dictum – “if at first you dont succeed, try again and then give up, there’s no point being a damn fool about it”
  • develop mini plans for the very short term that have little realistic downside and put them into action
  • regularly test the boundaries and extremes of your plans – where does it lead you
  • implement several plans at once, even if they are contradictory or paradoxical and monitor them

  • consider the value of small steps and reducing the timelines for your plans
  • consider moving from SMART goals (Specific Measureable Attainable Realistic and Time-based) to fuzzy goals – non specific, not necessarily measurable, not necessarily attainable and not necessarily realistic)
  • get connected and listen to feedback (note listen not necessarily automatically acting on it)

What are your tips for developing planning skills as opposed to have a plan?

Diary of a loser – by Simon Says, Motivational Speaker, Coach & Horse Doctor

Coaching – Simon Says, Motivational Speaker, Coach

I have received an unusual request by a motivational speaker, who I must confess I have never heard of, but assures me is an International legend.  He asked me if he could use this space to share his year with you. So Dear Reader, thanks for reading me in 2010, please come back in 2011, and for now in the spirit of seasonal generosity I hand over to this interloper…

demotivation motivational poster

Diary of a loser – by Simon Says, Motivational Speaker, Coach & Horse Doctor


Simon Says is the world’s leading self-acclaimed thought and feelings leader.  Having spoken to many people including psychiatrists, correctional officers and judges, he is well placed to share his insights and wisdom, which are always at the leading edge of recently published self-help guides and tweets.  He brings his extensive knowledge culled from channel hopping and waiting at the Dentist and packages it neatly into a 45 minute powerpoint template.  Simon Says will leave you speechless, and if you think you know nothing now, just wait until you’ve heard Simon Says!

January. Kindly invited to give a Keynote to the Dumfrieshire, Scotland Octogenarians Annual Gymkhana.  The title of my motivational talk, kindly sponsored by Viagra, was “Up and At em!” Unfortunately, in attempting some of my engaging team bonding exercises, the lady at the top of the human pyramid, Agnes bunting, 87, fell 10 feet headlong into the green chartreuse punch.   She put up a brave fight as paramedics tried to drag her out of the punch bowl, and managed to break free several times returning to the bowl and consuming half its contents before passing out.  Alas George Windbreak, 92 and Harold Bongers, 97, who recklessly formed the bottom of the pyramid were unable to keep it up giving us the rare sight of a synchronized coronary.  The organizers, rather rudely I felt, prevented me from proceeding with the high ropes exercises but at least they offered me a bonus if I would leave immediately.

February. On to outback Australia and the Lightning Ridge Opal Diggers Annual Fossicking Fete and Chutney judging contest.  I gave them my “Success? In you dreams” talk. I tried to get creative, like Norm Amundson, by using a metaphor.  My metaphor linked the opal prospectors to truffle pigs. Curiously my use of metaphor did not elicit the same overwhelming positive audience response that Norm routinely enjoys.  Although some of the audience laughed and clapped as I was chased from the stage by a pack of dingoes let loose by some miners who evidently hadn’t got into metaphors in a big way.

March. Was invited to speak at the Trappist Monks Biannual Variety Performance and Telethon.  The title of my talk was “Brain Science: a whole new income stream for motivational speakers”.  My speech was greeted with silence, which I took as a positive but the telethon was not such a success as the several callers made police reports about hearing nothing but heavy breathing on the lines.

April. LA international airport.  Nasty moment in the Airport motivational bookstore as five self appointed ‘thought leaders’ tried to blind each with their laser pointers while squabbling over the last copy of the international bestseller(self designated) ” Emotionally intelligent customer focus/leadership/life lessons/parenting/logarithms and everything: lessons from Brain Science” by renowned thought leader and Master Major General in Fijitsu-based Neural Pathway Nerve Architecture(r) and Baltimore’s most preferred plumber, Trent Triteman.

With all of them going for the only win win that counts, things got dirty. Fred Facile-Bender, could not make his voice heard and died of Lack of Attention Deficit Disorder.  Sheena Simple-Sooths temporarily blinded by her own PowerPoint projector stumbled into a remainder pile of her own book “I know better than you, you idiot” and choked to death on indigestible prose.  The inevitable Gen Y expert Pieter Band-Wagon, made it clear he wanted it and he wanted it right now, and promptly wet himself and was sent to sit in the Naughty corner (quite appropriately on top of an unsold pile of Tony Tonsure’s “ 7 Lessons God learned from me”).  Mary-Lou Touchy-Feel saw her opportunity, and with fangs bared (recently upholstered in Beverly Hills) and ears pinned back (also care of Beverly Hills) dived headlong at the remaining copy, and was concussed when she collided head on with the ego of George Monetized-Banal-Utterings  III Jnr.

Luckily for me I managed to distract George with the old ruse of a fake dollar note and a mirror.  George was unable to resist the lure of an easy dollar and an admiring audience in the mirror.  I was about the grab that last copy of the book, when George was hit by a bolt of lightning. It was a close run thing, and the lightning had to spend a week in hospital recovering.

Sadly the resulting clash of ego and lightning released so much energy that last copy was completely obliterated.   So I suppose it is back to the Reader’s Digest and Christmas Crackers for my key messages for my keynotes.

May. Went to a Himalayan retreat in Wembley, North London to learn from the great Teacher, His Holiness the Lada (aka Monty Parsons, second hand car dealer and silver dealer).  Was most impressed by the Lada’s teachings. First he said that there were four planes:  the back plane (where we obsess about money); the premium back plane (where we delude ourselves we dont care about money); the business plane (where our Managers control our money) and the front of the plane (where the Lada likes to sit after we have given him our money).  He says spiritual enlightenment only comes after spiritual boarding which apparently involves making a left turn on entering the plane.

June. Was invited to MC the “Get a Grip” Skydiving Challenge for the terminally anxious.  Unfortunately my impromtu speech in the jump plane entitled “Failing Successfully: if you are not failing you are not trying hard enough” was taken to heart by several of the audience on the first dive.  However at least this freed up some spare chutes for the subsequent dives.


July. Rejection!  I was invited to speak at the Beating Your Own Online Addictions Conference held in MoneyBags Casino, Las Vegas.  Would you believe the organizing committee withdrew their invitation saying my proposed talk “Getting Off Online” was not what they had in mind.


August. Received a huge number of invitations to the top parties.  Elton’s Annual Ball, the Oscar’s party, New Year’s Eve in Times Square, and the opening of the Empire State Building.  It is amazing what memorabilia you can pick up on ebay


September. I was on television!  I didn’t realize they’d started televising local court matters.  Anyway I thought the fine was a little steep, especially as I had no previous convictions for streaking at a sports event, and still have no memory as to how I managed to end up in the middle of Fenway Park Baseball Park in nothing but Red Socks.  At least what attire I was wearing was appropriate and probably a good thing I didn’t pull that stunt at the Giants stadium…


October. Spent the whole month on Twitter.  Now suffering from Twitter twitch.


Nov. My last gig of the year. School speech day.  My children are no longer speaking to me though, as they claim it was the Principal who was supposed to be giving the speech and I was supposed to sitting with the rest of the parents.  None the less I think they appreciated my talk “Why education is for losers: don’t waste your time”.


Dec. Had planned on spending a relaxed and happy holidays with the family.  Embarrassingly the family I had chosen challenged me on the second day and I had to admit that they did not know me.  However they did not throw me out immediately. Oh no!  They insisted on searching my room and luggage beforehand.  I felt this was an outrage, as I had planned to gift the silverware they discovered to my self-managed charity – Largesse Intended To Totally Lousy Engagement Speakers of Distinction – LITTLE SODS.


Oppositional Thoughts…Volume 4

Here is Volume 4 of my Oppositional Thoughts…They are designed to gently puncture some of the slightly precious life advice out there, and to complexify overly simplistic homilies, that make life appear a lot simpler than it is in reality.

You can find Volume 3 here and Volume 2 here and Volume 1 here

Oppositional thoughts…There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you..never read Dan Brown obviously….

Oppositional thoughts…if you enrol in a stunt academy do they put you on a decelerated learning program?

Oppositional thoughts…Life has no limitations, except the ones you make…so if I jumped off a building I could fly if I tried hard?

Oppositional thoughts…Letting go of your dreams results in mediocrity….not if you had the dreams I’ve been having….

Oppositional thoughts… Why do I feel like I need a stiff drink after hearing a “sobering account”?

Oppositional Thoughts.Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.sorry, what was that again?

Oppositional thoughts…Let go and it will be yours forever…I let one go and it’s true, it hung around forever…

Oppositional thoughts…Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter…unless they are the police or a judge….

Oppositional thoughts…”Arrogance, immaturity & lack of experience are unattractive at work”..so presumably save all that for your friends

Oppositional thoughts…procrastination explained…later, perhaps tomorrow

Oppositional thoughts…I don’t have a career story, actually it is just a sentence. I got life….

Oppositional thoughts… Impossible is a word to be found only in the dictionary of fools. -Napoleon Bonaparte” ..before lose & Waterloo

Oppositional thoughts…flash mobs are all very entertaining, but I wish they would stop flash flooding

Oppositional thoughts..I was sitting in my underpants when I opened the job offer letter. I was so excited, they asked me to get off the bus

Oppositional thoughts…I saw this man with the worst wig ever, I was so helpless with laughter, that the panel terminated my interview

Oppositional thoughts…you know when a job interview is going badly when they tell you to put them back on….

Oppositional thoughts…when I read that reality is perception I could not believe my eyes

Oppositional thoughts…I was busy completing an online job application, when my supervisor interrupted to continue my 1st day induction…

Oppositional thoughts..I was doing a stress imagery exercise at work with my eyes shut. It failed when my fare grabbed the steering wheel

Oppositional thoughts…@davidawinter #question yourself..why does he want me to question myself, can’t he be bothered asking me questions?

Oppositional thoughts… After six hours of questioning myself I reluctantly had to let myself go due to a lack of evidence or witnesses

Oppositional thoughts… what if I did it all because the lady loves milk tray, and then I discover it was all a Twix?

Oppositional thoughts…after my marathon effort all I heard was snickers and wispas. It mars my efforts to Hershey said I was fruit and nut

Oppositional thoughts…only a fool tries to climb the corporate ladder.  Smarter folks take the stairs, and the smartest take the elevator

Oppositional thoughts…employee engagement is just intention, but employee marriage is commitment. Is your employer prepared to do it?

Oppositional Thoughts…In life you are either a passenger or a pilot, it’s your choice…but on a plane, one of those is called hijacking

Oppositional Thoughts…the harder it is to get into a school the better it is…Mine must have been brilliant, I needed a Judge to send me.

Oppositional thoughts…authenticity is essential for professional speakers and that goes double for the ghost writers of their books…

Oppositional thoughts…There are no mistakes in life, just lessons…but what if your life has been one long playtime (trans: recess)?

Oppositional thoughts…be thankful for what you have…but I have deeply ingrained ingratitude, should I be grateful for that?

Oppositional thoughts…Life is 2 short 4 U 2 B pulled down by negative, jealous, cynical people…so how long would be about right?

Oppositional thoughts…live badly today, for tomorrow it will become your past and make the present seem better than what went before…

Oppositional thoughts…there’s always a way if you are committed…Well first I got myself committed, but there was no way out after that

Oppositional thoughts…to succeed at work try something new each day, and if that fails you can always try actually working

Oppositional thoughts…I tried it out, but was told by a policeman to put it away or risk getting arrested…

Oppositonal thoughts… It is never a good idea to have your work spread over many fields lest people confuse it for manure….

Oppositional thoughts…I have been described as the superglue of our team..not to be trusted near lavatory seats and always the sticking PT

Oppositional thoughts…getting into medicine: careers seminar. . ? It is simple to get into medicine, just push down and twist the cap

Oppositional thoughts…I worked hard to get my team engaged, but now I am, having second thoughts about marrying them? Big of me or bigamy?

Oppositional thoughts..Work on what you love and it won’t feel like work.. I used my life partner as my desk, but the pens kept rolling off

Oppositional thoughts…Just because there is a screen between us doesn’t mean you, or I, are less human.. just that one of is incarcerated.

Oppositional thoughts…”If we don’t start, it’s certain we can’t finish.” Not True. I didn’t start and the boss said I was finished!

Oppositional thoughts..if you believe you can do it, the odds go way up..True.  I believe I can fly: odds of me being an idiot went way up

Oppositional thoughts…do you remember how unique you once were?…true everyone was unique once except me…..

Oppositional Thoughts…be nice to the people you meet on the way to the top…if you are not serious about getting to the top that is.

Oppositional Thoughts…SWOT – Silly Way Of Trying…to convince everyone that the future is less complex and more ordered than it really is

Oppositional thoughts…to be a good singer you need to be able to hold a note, but the only ones I held were to ransom….

Oppositional Thoughts…I finally found myself, but when I found out what I was doing, I wish I hadn’t bothered.

Oppositional Thoughts…I thought I’d found myself, but I was unable to pick myself out at the identity parade

Oppositional thoughts…Identity Parade…is that like a Mardi Gras parade for people with multiple personalities?

Working with a terminal illness

My late Aunt Sylvia Cox was an inspiration to me. She was not only my Aunt, she was a teacher at my High School.  Her enthusiasm for life and her naturally exclamatory style engendered a sense of fun and a sense of the possible in those around her.  Whether it was taking us for “puddle rides” in her ancient Morris Minor Traveller which involved swerving alarmingly across country lanes to hit puddles of water that would splash up through the hole in the floor of the car, or fitting 3 adults and 2 children into a Lancia Fulvia 2+2 sports car for a 3 hour drive to the Pleasure Beach at Blackpool, she was always innovative and fun.

When soon after retiring she was diagnosed with cancer she decided to keep in touch with her friends and family around the world using Skype.  She was the person who introduced Skype to me when she called me on it and told me!  She also used Skype to keep us all informed of her progress, which may have been difficult for her, but was something I was very grateful for. I am proud that a techboy like me was introduced to a new technology by his retired and ill Aunt.  It spoke volumes about her attitude to her terminal illness.

In many ways the passing of Steve Jobs reminded me of the similarities between my Aunt and the CEO of Apple.  They both faced questions of who to tell and when and how about their condition.  And they both used I.T. as part of that communication strategy.  I never thought my memories of my Aunt would be modified or linked in any way with Steve Jobs, which just goes to show how a person’s memory and life continues to grow and inspire one years after their passing.

For those still in the workplace living with a diagnosis of a terminal or chronic condition, not only do they have to deal with their emotional response to their condition, they have the very real dilemma of deciding what to tell their boss and work colleagues. Not everyone will want to be as open as my Aunt was with her colleagues, friends and family.

There are two ways of looking at this situation, the formal or legal one, and the career development approach. I have no ?legal training and so what I can say about this from a formal perspective is limited and readers are strongly advised to take advice from appropriately qualified independent legal advisors. If you are a member of a union, they should be able to assist.

The first point to make is that you have a duty to notify promptly your employer of your illness or incapacity and of the estimated duration of the absence as a condition of any sick leave you are going to take. Employers have a right to demand an explanation for unexplained absences from work, indeed I am told by lawyers that it could be argued that under Occupational Health and Safety laws employers who do not inquire into absences may be abdicating their duty of care to their employees. Consequently you should expect management to request information about any absences.

Ok, so much for the formalities, how in practice can you maximise the chances of keeping your job while at the same time dealing with the emotional shock and upheavals that accompany a diagnosis of a chronic or terminal condition??The first point hardly needs making it is so obvious, but you are likely to be in a highly emotionally charged state around the time of medical investigations and diagnosis. When under such stress, we do not make the best decisions, and understandably our focus is on ourselves, our well-being and our loved ones. The employer generally ranks very low?in our priority list, however the remuneration they provide may well rank as important. Consequently you need to give yourself the best chance possible of communicating clearly with your employer. Try writing out or talking out with a sensible friend, what you want to tell your employer. This will help you collect your thoughts and communicate?more coherently when the time comes. Take a little time to gather your thoughts about work and to decide on your strategy.

Do not be tempted to quit in an emotional state. Think through your actions. If you are going to require the financial support of a regular income during the course of your illness, the stresses of continuing to work need to be balanced against the stresses of being unemployed and being financially insecure. Even if you do not need to work?for the money, think very carefully about the sense of social support, recognition and social contribution that can accompany work. Do not throw away such things lightly.

Despite your personal circumstances, the reality is that work goes on for your employer, and they have a responsibility to their other employees, customers and shareholders. Consequently, you might want to consider framing your discussions with your employer in terms of how you are going to continue to meet performance expectations. Do not be tempted to personalise the situation or become resentful if the employer seems to be coldly indifferent to your circumstances. If your goal is to continue to make a professional contribution, then you need to behave professionally. You are likely to be treated a whole lot better if you maintain a dignified and supportive approach to your colleagues and boss, than if you simply “trade” on your illness.

Openness in communication with your manager is an essential for most people at work. Understand the nature and course of your diagnosis and ask your medical advisors about how your illness and treatment is likely to affect your performance at work. Test yourself so that you are fully confident you know as much about the impact of your illness as possible and remember there are no stupid questions if you do not know ask your doctor and ask again for clarification it is part of their job. When you fully understand the nature of your illness, plan out how you see this translating into your work situation. How long realistically will you be able to continue with your duties? What modifications to your duties or workplace will be required, when and for how long? What are the realistic best and worst case scenarios relating to?work? Once you have set out these parameters you are in a good position to have a meeting with your manager, where you can set out all of this information for them.

If your condition is one that is not likely to impact upon your work or your work colleagues, or not for a long time, then your condition is not a work-related issue at this stage and there is no obvious reason to inform your managers about it. However if your condition is going to impact upon your work, or is going to be plainly obvious to your managers and colleagues you should not delay in discussing the matter with your boss.

You need to decide on a preferred “communications policy”. In other words, you need to decide who you want to share?your diagnosis with. Some people will prefer to limit knowledge of their condition to a manager and no one else, whereas others will want the information disseminated more broadly. You need to discuss this with your manager and make it very clear what your preference is. Remember your manager may well have an obligation to report your case?to their superiors and so on.

Even if you have close friends in the workplace, your boss should still be the first (or a very close second) work colleague you inform. The last thing you want are rumours starting and your boss hearing second- hand. Your goal is to get your boss on-side as a supporter. Schedule a meeting at a quiet time, such as the end of the day or early morning when there is less chance of interruptions. Indicate that you want to discuss something of importance, and that you will need at least 30 mins to an hour. Indicate that you need to see them reasonably urgently. After the meeting, follow up with an email, or a note (keep copies of either), politely thanking them for their time and setting out briefly your understanding of what was discussed and what was agreed.

My golden rule of all communications is to get it in writing. Keep a dated written record of all meetings, and communications with people at work. Write up notes as soon as possible after face-to-face meetings or even?corridor conversations, and date them. Keep the records up to date and limit your entry to the facts of what occurred do not include any defamatory opinions or reflections. If someone reduced you to tears, say so, but do not write down a lot of personal attacks about the other person. Why go to all this trouble? Simply to cover yourself in the?event that the employer becomes unreasonable or reneges on an agreement.

If you fear that being open with your boss is likely to result in your sacking, it is likely that your boss would also sack you for any regular or long absences for treatment, so unless the impact of your illness is not going to impact on your work, you have little to lose in informing your boss (and lots to gain, because you are actually helping your boss to manage you better).

Finally, I have known cases where the most irritating, anti-establishment employees who were convinced their boss hated their guts, found after diagnosis of a terminal illness that the boss became their greatest supporter. Most people (and that includes most bosses!) are compassionate, reasonable people, but like most people, they can be cold-hearted or unreasonable if approached in the wrong way. Be honest, be proud and be positive. Nobody and no employer could ask for more.

(Dedicated to the memory of my Aunt Sylvia Cox)