As I look back on 2014, I have realised that is was a year that I will call the Year of Awakening. We think we know things and we think we have a frame of reference that is real and true.
I pride myself on being objective. I can take a step back and look at things from an objective stance, removing emotions and focusing on seeing things as others see them. I have worked hard at developing that attribute over the years. However, 2014 opened my eyes and made me realise that despite how hard I have worked at being objective, I still get drawn into things and lock onto thoughts that govern my behaviour.
For years I have laboured under the belief that the sometimes stormy relationship I have had with my Father was because of me and how I was. I blamed myself for not being a better son and being more understanding of him. In September we had found a level of peace between us and actually enjoyed some time together. Then on the 25th of September he had a stroke that nearly killed him. Doctors and Consultants said he would not last 48 hours, but he wasn’t listening! For over three months he remained alive, although steadily deteriorating.
What was interesting was the way his friends rallied to me and were reassuring to me. I think that the following comment sums it up: “Paul, I know your Father was a difficult man and very stubborn, and it can’t have been easy growing up for you” Wow, other people found him difficult and stubborn!!! I thought it was me! Now that was an awakening. I had no idea that people saw him in that light. The relief was like a weight lifting off my shoulders.
In another awakening, I worked hard for over twenty years to maintain a good relationship for the sake of my sons. I hated the idea they would be forced to choose between us at important stages of life. Many people passed comments over time that maybe my belief was one sided, but I believed that it was mutual and that despite everything we were still friends and would be there for each other. The awakening in 2014 was her turning against me at a difficult time. It was very simple really, she listened to what someone else said about me and without bothering to talk to me or hearing the other side of the events, she simply slated me. Wow, what an awakening! I realised that it had been me that had worked hard at maintaining our friendship and she had taken advantage of it.
I had been so intent on making it work, I had ceased to be objective any more. Others could see what I had refused to see.
As if that were not enough, I had the same awakening with my son. Once again, when I found out that what I had believed was actually not reality, I was stunned by comments of people that said they could see what the situation was. Don’t get me wrong, my son is a wonderful person in many ways. However, there is aspects of his character that I chose to ignore until events showed me I was not being as objective as I thought I was.
I have always believed that you cannot move to the next level in life until you have learned the lessons of the level you are at. So 2014 has been a year when I have had an awakening and it has made me wonder what else I am missing? If someone that works so hard at being objective and looking at things dispassionately, can be locked into things, then what else am I locked into?
So in 2015 I am pushing myself to be more aware and be prepared to challenge my perceptions. I need to be less willing to give people the benefit of the doubt and ensure that I am able to justify what I believe with consistent evidence, whilst at the same time be careful not to be cynical.
A year ago I said it was going to be a demanding and hard year in 2014. I had taken over as interim CEO of a company to turn it around and make it viable once again. My expectation turned out to be underestimated by a long way.
The turn around ended up being a lot more demanding than expected at a number of levels. I had to break off relationships with some of our Partners and suddenly dismiss another member of staff for unacceptable behavior. After this I had a complaint leveled at me to the Board and the Financial Director walked out locking everything in the company safe so we could not get at it. Although the allegations were false, it made for a difficult time with the Board. We moved premises, changed banks and finished putting in a new ERM system.
As difficult as it was, the result was good as we are back in profit and got a clear focus now. I have also put together an excellent team and we are achieving more with less people and the atmosphere is wonderful. More than that, I am enjoying working with some wonderful people. We had a great conference in October and had Alvin Law as our guest speaker and it was great to have him with us. We are so fortunate to have friends like Alvin and Darlene. That conference was the watershed moment and it has been so heart-warming to see people who finally get it and start stepping up to the challenge.
On a personal front, the year has been in some ways a lot more traumatic. We were delighted in December 2013 to welcome Holly into the family with David’s first baby. She has been a delight and is such a happy soul. Unfortunately David’s wife has decided to distance herself from us and that has made it hard for everyone and we do not get to see Holly very much any more. The worst of it is to see the pressure it has on David and the long-term impact on his health is a matter of concern to us. He is stuck between a rock and a hard place. I admire his loyalty to his family and most of all how he has not allowed it to effect our working relationship. He has been a star this year in the work we have done with the company I am CEO of. In some ways he has grown up a lot and it has done him good to be in a real working environment and deal with issues and people.
If this unnecessary pressure on us was not enough, my Dad had a sudden stroke and is now under observation in a Home. At ninety, he has had a good run, but he was independent and living on his own. Then suddenly he is at deaths door and should not have survived (according to the medical team) and now in a regressive state where he does not know who we are and is heading to a vegetative state. I have come to terms that he is not going to come back but it is still hard to see him: tiny, in a shriveled state who cannot communicate, has to be fed, etc. We strive to keep him comfortable and wait. That is all we can really do now.
Often when I have a really busy year, Lorna has an easier year and visa versa. However, that has not been the case this year. Lorna has had a very busy year as well and so we have often spent time apart….more than normal. The pressure on both of us has been very hard. Lorna was very close to my Dad and of course she was very close to Holly as well. Loosing both has been extremely hard for her on top of us being apart. But we are soul mates and have an unconditional support of each other that transcends these things. We are fortunate to have one another and we love and cherish the time we do have together. In some ways all this has made us stronger and, ironically it has helped us to focus on ourselves and our future.
The wonderful part of the year has been to see Tim and Penny and the two granddaughters Lucy and Amy settled and in such a good place. They have had a few hard years with a lot of ups and downs and challenges. They have broken through and both have good jobs they are really enjoying, and the girls are growing up so well. They are a tribute to the way they have parented the girls and we are so looking forward to having them for their holiday in 2015 in Canada. That will be a real joy for Lorna and I.
The farm has been neglected this year although we did get to spend a bit of time on it at stages in the year. There has been some memorable times in 2014, including taking Lorna to Algonquin National Park, being joint MC with David at PCMA conference in Montreal; speaking at the CAPS conference and doing something totally different, and of course seeing some of our really good friends like Kit Grant, Ulana and Juri, Mike and Joanne and others.
What about 2015?
I have agreed to stay on as CEO for another year and get some of the things I started up and running. So my focus will be more on ‘business development’ this year and driving the international element. I am fortunate to have a good team in place that can keep things moving forward, and I am delighted to have Ruth Regan as my fellow Director now. She is a real pleasure to work with, and along with Kathy Leahy, Rob Barlow and others, I know 2015 will be a good year.
On the development side, I am excited about the opportunities and delighted to have Gary Swarebrooke on board to get projects off the ground. On both sides of the business, David continues to do great work and will have a significant impact in 2015. We have moved past the worst and can now get back to being innovative and create some interesting stuff. I am also looking forward to working with our good friend Lindsay Adams with our plans for Australia and South Asia. Of course I have my speaking and advisory business as well, and that is going well and continues to get stronger.
2015 will be the year we leave Grantham as our UK base. We are selling up our properties there and buying something smaller in the Nottingham area. Having got a bit more focus on our future, we may also sell the farm in Canada and do something different. So it will be a bit of consolidation whilst still planning a significant growth, year ☺
As you know, we don’t do Christmas Cards any more but we do wish all our friends a wonderful Christmas and Festive Season, and Happy New Year. Lorna and I wish you all the best for 2015 and may your year be everything you want it to be. Hopefully we will get to see you at some stage, but if we don’t, please keep in touch.
Love and best wishes
Paul and Lorna
The death of a young man on the streets of Ferguson is certainly tragic and sad.
However, the outbreak of violence, looting and criminal behaviour does not do credit or should be a fitting memorial to a young man despite his background or life. Worse than that, the protest is for totally the wrong reasons.
Everyone seems to be missing the point.
First of all, Michael Brown was hardly an example of common sense a law abiding citizen. At the same time the officer was hardly showing common sense or following sensible protocol when confronting Michael Brown. First of all a police officer allowing ANYBODY to approach them while they are in a vulnerable position of being sat in their vehicle, is not sensible and probably taught in Police School to avoid. Having got themselves trapped in the police vehicle and then attacked, was pure stupidity and showed the naivety and lack of experience of the police officer.
To return to the scene ALONE after the first altercation, was once again pure stupidity. The Officer is alone, there are two suspects, there are plenty of witnesses watching….. everything about it was screaming, don’t deal with this on your own. Call for back up. Make sure back up is on the way. Don’t walk into this on your own!
But the inexperienced officer with what is now a bruised ego decides to deal with it himself. Now he steps out the car and confronts the youth and we all know what happens next. Very sad indeed. Did the officer break the law? No. Unfortunately being naïve, stupid and not following your training or protocol is not illegal. So there is no crime committed by the Police Officer.
So what do we have? Michael Brown acting inappropriately at least, behaving stupidly and showing a complete lack of common sense. A Police Officer acting inappropriately, behaving irrationally and showing a lack of common sense. You can be as upset as you want that the Officer shot the young man, but he DID NOT BREAK THE LAW. In fact if anyone broke the law in the altercation, Michael Brown was in the wrong for attempting to assault a Police Officer. And it is absolutely true that the young man should not have died for what, at that stage was a misdemeanour.
So what is the real issue here?
The real issue is the lack of trust the Public has for the Police Service. This is an issue across the country. The Police are seen as enforcers of the law and not keepers of the peace. It is true that the Police have the full force of the law behind them and that is a lot of power to have in their hands. However, they are seen as wielding their power like a ‘right’ rather than a back-up when needed.
A Police Officer should be hanging on to their common sense long after the members of the public have lost theirs. But the public don’t see that happening. They see the Police wielding their power, and it is often seen as doing it to inflate their own ego and not because they are doing the job required of them.
I am not sure where the fault lies here, but I will guess it is not in one area alone. I suspect the training given to Officers needs a complete rethink. I suspect the way officers are performance managed and even disciplined needs a rethink. I do know one thing for certain…..Leadership is at fault. The culture and attitude of the Police comes from the top, and the communication and perceptions of the community comes from lack of clear Leadership.
Two young men have faced tragedy. One lost his life literally and the other lost his figuratively. He now has to live his life knowing he needlessly killed a human being because of his arrogance, stupidity and lack of common sense. He will always be known as the reckless person incapable of showing sound judgement. I believe he has resigned, and I bet he was encouraged to do so because no Police Force wants that sort of reckless person on their force.
When will society wake up and realise that these incidents are an outcome of a bigger issue?
To the protesters I say this: Protest not against the single foolish Police Officer or the single incident. Rather protest against the culture of the Police Force and Leadership that has allowed it (even nurtured it) and certainly condones it. You are wasting an opportunity to make a real statement and instead showing yourselves in a bad light when resorting to violence.
Real change happens when the right conversation is held in public. Start that movement NOW. Start talking NOW. Force discussion NOW. Create a following of people behind a change and reform in the Police Service across the nation, NOW. Become an example to the world of how a good Police Service should be run and led.
To Protect and to Serve
This week I wanted to hire a van to move things from one of our offices. I phoned up three local hire firms. All were very polite. I have used Enterprise a number of times in North America (having moved away from being a gold card Avis member) and so decided I would go with them. They also advertise on their website “The company that is famous for its excellent customer service”.
The booking service was good and the guy was trying to be helpful but he was not grasping my needs at all. Anyway, I booked the vehicle and decided that I would go down to the depot the day before to go through the booking and make sure it was ok. The depot is 500 yards from my office.
I get to the depot and there was definitely a cheery atmosphere and a young lady greeted me very nicely and in a welcoming manner. I explained that I had a booking and I wanted to run through it with her. My desire was to book the vehicle through the company name as it was a company that was paying for it.
I am not going to bore you with the sequence of events but everything I asked about, she answered ending with “OK?”. It was very obvious that it was not OK and that I was trying to make a point that she was not prepared to engage with me how we could accomplish a result. I eventually had to say, ‘please stop saying “OK” when you can see that it is not ok and not what I am wanting’.
I found out that this lady was Branch Manager!! How anybody makes Branch Manager that things that a joyful tone is all that makes excellent customer service, is beyond me. She even said, “Are you wanting this booking or shall I cancel it?”.
I walked away very unhappy with the service I was buying and paying for. I did not cancel but went back to the office to think about it for a while and not make an emotional decision. Eventually I went on the website and that did it for me. I noticed that they had section called Business Rentals!!! So all I needed was to be directed to the business rental section and I could have got most of what I needed. What is more, I would have been locked in with them.
The lesson is, don’t treat all customers as the lowest customer who is going to try and con you, return your van with scratches and have their payment bounce. Treating customers as your lowest common denominator means you will attract your lowest common denominator. Take the time to understand the client and discover that you may be facing someone that could bring in significant revenue to your business, is actually honest and above board in his dealings and has the resources whereby you are guaranteed your money without any doubt at all.
Time to look for a new hire company I think. Sad really, when the North America
Enterprise is really good L
P.S – Enterprise: Friendliness is not all that is required for excellent customer service. Friendliness is part of ‘standard’ customer service.
These days it is very common for me to arrive at a meeting or event and find out that people know things about me. They have looked at my profile on LinkedIn or at my website to discover a bit about me before we meet. I have to be honest and say that I do the same. A recent Board meeting I was attending for the first time had me looking up the other Board members to find out who they were and anything I could about them.
There is an old expression that talks about first impressions, and it is true. But I would add to that now and say a lot of your first impression are being formed before you meet the person. They are getting a measure of you before they meet you. It is often the little things that are making that impression. Email addresses that are @aol or @hotmail or @sky say a lot about you without anything else being said!!!!
I took the time to look at some of the profiles on LinkedIn. A lot are out of date. Many are not customer focused at all, they talk about who you are and not what value you offer. And the biggest sin of all is having no photo!!!! People buy people and anyone looking at your profile wants to know what you look like. If nothing else, get a good photo (preferably professionally done) that speaks to the person looking at you on your profile.
There is so much I could say but I came across this excellent article that is worth reading and reflecting on.
Enjoy the article: http://m.entrepreneur.com/article/232959
Many years ago I read this and marveled at how simple it was but so powerfully true in its simplicity:
Feed a man and he will eat a meal. Teach him how to fish and he will eat for the rest of his life.
Each human being has needs and what makes us unique is that our needs are OURS. We learn differently, we enjoy different things, we operate differently, we find different things funny, we love different things and we certainly live differently. No right way and no wrong way.
Yet I see schools giving prizes to everyone indiscriminately and recently heard about “no rankings” so that some do not feel inferior to others.
I recently read this article:
“An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class. That class had insisted that socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.”
The professor then said, “OK, we will have an experiment in this class”. All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive an A…. (substituting grades for dollars – something closer to home and more readily understood by all).
After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.
The second test average was a D! No one was happy.
When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F.
As the tests proceeded, the scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.
To their great surprise, EVERYONE FAILED and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed.
People need a reason to make an effort. People want to know how they are doing. People want to be rewarded. Mastering these three can create internal motivation. Failing to Master them or allowing others to care about them for you, will promote de-motivation.
Part of Mastering anything is getting it wrong before getting it right. In fact, getting it wrong a number of times before getting it right. Mastering is working at something to perfect it and then working at it to refine it.
Any attempt to stop this process or short-circuit it, will deprive the person of the necessary steps to mastering……and most importantly deprive them of realizing this and learning the process of mastering anything.
Self-discipline is the basis by which personal success is built.
The article went on to become slightly political but there is still a lot of truth in what was said.
- You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.
- What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.
- The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
- You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!
- When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.
Taking away the obvious political element, there is a lot of truth in this. It does not mean that there is no role for Government and it does not mean that some support it not very valuable. In fact it fails to point out that failure to give education is often the route cause to many problems.
Equally, withholding the discipline of learning how to take ownership for your own motivation and progress, is criminal and does society at all levels a dis-service.
I also read this bumper sticker this year:
“A child that is taught to hunt and to fish won’t beat up old Grannies”
P.S – If you want to contact me about writing an article for you, or speaking about this at your event, please feel free to contact me below: