I heard this question for the first time when I interviewed a man that was a dynamic, successful, business man, a Father and an inspiration for so many. I had asked him what motivated him and he said that he was on a journey to discover the best of who he could be. He said he needed to define himself and said he asks himself “Who am I”, and then pushed the question further by saying, “Am I the man that achieved this much and then gave up? Am I the man that earned this much and then gave up?” He then really pushed the boundaries of the question and asked, “Who do I tell my son that I am?”
This question, although not aimed at me, caused me to think deeply and question myself. Who was I and what did I stand for?
I look back on many things that shaped me and defined my thinking and my actions. My desires and my wants formed over the course of my life, has created the person I am. I am a product of my life to date, the choices I have made and the decisions I have not made as well. I am the person I had allowed myself to become. I have always understood that there is a difference between what I do and who I am. The problem with focusing on what we ‘do’, is that leads us to setting goals either long term or short term ones. Both long term and short term goals are good to have, but do not define who we are, they help us plan what we do.
Many people get caught in the trap of thinking about who they are, in terms of the way they relate to others and to pleasing others. This is also dangerous. The focus then is about being who these “others” want us to be.
For example, I had always wanted my Dad to be proud of me for what I had achieved. I wanted him to love me for what I was and not for what he had wanted me to be. My Parents were missionaries and were devoted to their beliefs and their religion. They wanted me to follow in their footsteps and would dearly have loved for me to be a missionary as well. If I had achieved this, they would have been proud of me. I knew that this was not what I could do. At first I rebelled against it and then I decided I wanted to go into business. I loved the concept of finding something to do that people needed, and giving it to them.
It was much later in life that I realised that I was still hanging on to my desire to have my Parents be proud of me. In particular I wanted my Dad to be proud of me. He had been brave as a missionary and left the safety of civilization in the 1940’s to travel to Africa and set up a missionary home in Nyasaland (now Malawi) where he faced many issues both physical and mental. I wanted him to see how much like him I was. I was also brave and had ventured into the unknown by building businesses and taking on projects that others had failed at. It had also brought physical and mental challenges with it, and I had overcome them and succeeded where others had failed.
Yet he never seemed proud of me. I always felt he was disappointed in me. Occasionally people would say that he spoke to them of how well I was doing, but he never allowed me to feel that he was proud of what I had achieved.
I eventually moved past it, although there is always that lingering feeling, but I didn’t allow it to dominate me and moved on. The ongoing effect of it, was to want a relationship with my sons that my Father had denied me. I was happy that they should be anything they wanted to be and I would support them in that process. I have endeavoured to do that with varying degrees of success.
If I have realised one thing from all of this, it is that knowing who you are is probably one of the most important aspects to success. Having goals and ambitions are very useful but the truth is that most goals are transient. They change because you change, or circumstances change, but what helps you develop and sustain a level of success is knowing what you stand for…Knowing who you are. As the world changes, people and organisations have to adapt, change and be flexible to meet the needs of the time. So adapting and changing is good and goals that set a direction but are flexible are important. What needs to be constant is about who we are as an individual.
Some may call this ‘values’ and that is certainly part of it. But the trouble with values is that it tends to be about attributes that drive behaviours. Who you are is more than that.
It is not about what we are, although that is relevant. What we are tends to describe the skills we have or the position we hold. For example, I am a Husband, I am a Doctor, I am an Entrepreneur, etc.
Who am I is deeper than what your values are and what you do, or the badge you hold. It has more about what you stand for. It has more to with how you may contribute, how you can influence and how you can develop the journey, more than the moment. It is really about your resilience, your passion, your intent and your commitment.
Sometimes ‘what’ we are becomes who we are. We get taken along by doing the demands of our job or the role we fulfill. A Doctor can get caught up in the day to day job of seeing patients, responding to emergencies and dealing with issues. A Father gets caught up in chasing homework, providing, listening, responding and doing what is expected from a Father. Although these are roles, they are the labels given to us by our society.
Knowing who you are is about intent. It is about your approach to what you do. It is about the type of person you are, whilst doing the things you do. Your intent explains who you are. Being a Doctor is what a doctor does… your intent is who you want to become as a Doctor. If you are being a Father, it is about doing what you do to fulfill your responsibilities as a Father. Intent is about what type of Father you become both in the present and for the future.
I was fortunate enough to have come across some great influencers and some great reading at an early age that helped me define a good part of ‘who I am’. Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If” influenced me greatly and still provides a compass at times. The book ‘The Fountainhead’ had a massive influence on my thoughts around what it means to be a person of integrity. During the war in Rhodesia, Professor Christie and his amazing wife Phillipa did a great deal to help me understand what it means to face up to hard choices and what ‘passion’ really means.
Knowing what I stand for has helped me make some tough decisions and guided me through many emotional ups and downs. Over the last two years as CEO of a company I was asked to turn around, there were times I was challenged with which way to go. I often found there were two options. One was what I ‘felt’ was the best way….the other was the way I would advise a client if they were in my position. I decided that if I was to maintain my integrity as a speaker, coach and business advisor, then I would always have to choose the way I would recommend to my clients. Staying true to who I am, made the hard choice the clear choice and has served me well.
Do I know who I am? I think I am still evolving and learning as I go, but I also believe I know more about who I am than most do in their whole life. For that I am grateful.
A friend and man I respect, Dr Terry Paulson, asked me this year for my thoughts in preparation for a speech he was giving in Canada in December. I sent him a list of the principles that serve to guide me in being who I Am. I share them with you:
I alone am responsible for the choices I’ve made and will make in my life
I am a citizen of the world, not of a country
Everyone has a right to their belief, but not to practice it in a way that harms anyone else
Governments are of laws and not of men
Work is about adding value, not making money
Killing animals for sport is not manly
Mother Nature on the surface may appear cruel, but she is caring for the whole family, not just you
It is not about work/life balance, it is about work/life integration, and that is a matter of choice
If you are not prepared to work, then don’t expect to eat
Different cultures are to be respected and learnt from, not to be dominated or judged
Listen, it is the best skill you can acquire
Seek to understand all perspectives…it does not require you to adopt them
Happiness is not what you get from life, it is what you bring to your life
Your job is to love your children regardless, it is not their job to love you
You own your own motivation, never give that up
Trust first, until proven wrong
Charity is about helping people help themselves
Find ways to add value, the reward is sweeter
Be prepared to turn your hand to anything, but stay loyal to your passion
If you need to tell people who you are…then you aren’t
The two most important things to care for are your integrity and your health
As 2016 begins, I share these few words to all who may be interested and I ask you “Who are you? How will people remember you when you have left this world?
Thank you to Abidin M Faiz Nur for the great photo
For Lorna and I, 2015 started off really hard when my Dad died, having never recovered from a massive stroke in September of 2014. The Christmas break had not been relaxing as we were constantly waiting for that phone call from the Nursing Home.
The service for Dad was very nice and an opportunity to tell people a bit about the man that many never knew. His life was in two parts. The early life and the adventures he had as a missionary in deep and dark Africa, and then the second part when they moved to UK. Since his passing, hardly a day has gone by that Lorna and I have not thought of him. He wasn’t an easy man to get on with, but we do think of him and miss him.
In February Lorna and I came to the realization that for the first time in the twenty five years of being together, we had nobody depending on us any more. We agreed that it was time for us to be focused on what we wanted in life and it started with us agreeing that Lorna would join me for my annual trip to Australia. I put it back until September because of things that were happening at work, and we both flew out for two weeks ‘down under’. We were exceptionally well cared for by our friends Debby and Lindsay and we managed to do things together despite me having some work as well. One of the highlights was to climb Sydney Bridge, a definite must for anyone visiting Sydney. It was also a great pleasure to attend Drew and Martine’s wedding while we were there. It was truly wonderful.
One of the other highlights of 2015 was to fulfill one of my desires to have Tim, Penny and our grand daughters come to visit Canada. We wanted to show them the life we had in Canada and they agreed to come out for two weeks. We got to take them to a lot of places and the weather was perfect. They saw Niagara, took a steam ship on the lakes in Muskoka, visited Algonquin National Park, canoeing, CNN Tower for dinner, cycling to Toronto Island, Adventure Park, Water World, and so much more. The girls loved our swimming pool and are like little fishes in the water. They seemed to enjoy the visit and we loved having them. Scratch that one off the bucket list 😀
As far as work is concerned, it has been a largely rewarding year, but unrelenting. Neither of us can say it was an easy year. We worked hard and there were challenges and times of stress. The company that I was asked to turn around has done well. We won each of the major contracts that were up for tender or extension. That on its own was a significant mile stone and provides security for the next few years for the business. The first full years accounts showed a significant profit and we can say with confidence that we are in a stronger place now with some really good opportunities available to us. I have agreed to stay on for another two years as CEO and embed the things that we have started. So I am going to have fun until December 2017.
In August we had a reality check moment when we realized that the farm was now a noose around our necks. We simply did not have the time to spend up there any more, and it was taking up time we could otherwise spend enjoying doing things we wanted to do. It has been bought on the basis that David and his family would be moving over and would live on the farm. That plan had collapsed. As much as we loved the farm, it needed our attention and we could not give it the time. It was a hard decision, but once we made it, we knew it was the right thing to have done. So it went on the market and three years and one week after moving in, we packed up and moved out. We had some good times there and we will miss all the things we had enjoyed so much about being there, but we are also happy that there are other adventures awaiting us.
Tim has settled into an excellent job and is doing very well indeed. Penny is doing extremely well in her job and it is a real pleasure to see her enjoying her career again. She is a clever woman and I admire her taking time out of her career to bring up the girls until they both started school, but I equally admire her determination to be focused on rebuilding her career. I hope they both will now have a chance to have a more stable life after a number of years of ups, downs and challenges.
Both girls are doing very well and Lorna and I do love seeing them when we can. Both are bright, Lucy is a very caring child with a soft heart. She also can be a bit competitive and is doing very well indeed in her table tennis. So proud of her. Amy is very artistic and always making things. She has a mind of her own, but she is lovely to spend time with.
David is doing well with his work. He is totally infatuated with his daughter, Holly, and it is lovely to see them together. Sadly his wife is still the same and satisfied with having split up the family. Unfortunately she is immature and a very vindictive person. We are restricted in how often we can see Holly, and that is hard on both of us at times. Whilst I can largely accept that this is who she is and take comfort in the knowledge that what goes around will come around, Lorna struggles with the being stabbed in the back by someone we did so much for.
Having said that, we are grateful that David does not add to the problem by being difficult with us and we still work well together. David is in a difficult position and is unwilling or unable to deal with it at the moment. I feel for him and the situation he has got himself into. He deserves a lot better.
One of the other highlights of 2015 was Lorna’s brother getting married to Tamara. Tamara is a lovely woman and they make a lovely couple. The wedding was different and simply wonderful. They are both so happy and they are making great progress with the house as well. It is really great that Paul (Lorna’s brother) has found himself such a lovely girl after the way he was treated before.
Lorna’s Mum and Phillip have a place in Spain and spend as much time as they can over there. Phillip is now talking about retiring and so we will see what happens in the year ahead.
This festive season we Lorna and I will be taking a bit of time out and relax. We need that time to recharge our batteries and just enjoy being together. 2016 does not look like it is going to be any less busy, but at the same time we are excited by the opportunities we have in front of us. I am working with a great team at Excellence Squared Ltd and we have some great opportunities ahead.
Some of the Team at Excellence Squared Limited:
We wish all our friends and colleagues a wonderful year ahead and we really hope we get to see you at some stage. The blessing of Facebook is that we are able to keep track of each other, but we miss not seeing you.
Happy New Year from Lorna and Paul
If you believe it…..you will look for the evidence to support your belief
If you focus on it….it will influence your thinking and behaviours
If you try to convince others….your mind will start to close to alternatives
If you get angry when others do not agree with you…you will have lost all sense of objectivity
If you believe there is no other way…you will let thoughts of retaliation find a fertile incubator
If you seek to force others to believe you…you will loose your integrity
If you resort to plotting to deceive others…you will become what you hate in others
If you maintain an open mind….you will learn so much from others
If your principles are respect and honesty…you will enjoy your learning
If your discussions are challenging but positive…you will find people worth knowing
If you practice tolerance…you will find others respect you
If others respect you….you will find they want to walk with you
If they want to walk with you…you will discover the leader within you
If you seek intelligence…you will find great knowledge
If you seek to develop skills….you will learn how to apply knowledge successfully
If you seek wisdom…you will bring balanced perspective and apply subjective judgement
Leadership is like driving a car. If all roads were straight, dry conditions and no other people on them, it would be so easy.
I am feeling very uncomfortable about the antagonism towards the Confederate flag in the USA. The flag is part of the history of the country and you cannot walk away from it just because some crazy person or persons do some irresponsible and irrational things that are both illegal and morally ridiculous.
The killing of people in a church and the burning of churches is just terrorism that is no different than ISIS. I would not condone the broadcasting and use of the ISIS flag because it depicts what they stand for. However, adopting another flag as a sign of a groups terrorist cause, is not a reason to ban it. These people are too scared to use their old Nazi and KKK flags and so adopt the confederate flag instead.
What does the confederate flag now stand for? By the fact it is on Dukes of Hazzard car probably means that is stands for traditional Southerners who are wild, independent, down-to-earth, slightly crazy people that probably invented the expression ‘No Fear’! It doesn’t mean racist, bigots, with no principles and moral values that are seeking to exert their power through torture, fear and discrimination.
People are in danger of letting the confederate flag become something it is not, by reacting negatively to it. Yes I do feel that flying the confederate flag in the wake of the killings, was not a good idea, and someone should have raised the American Flag on the same pole as the confederate flag to show the respect for history as well as for the current country. Attempts to blame the confederate flag for the evil behaviour of a few, only hands them the flag. If you are giving them the flag, you are part of legitimising them.
It is easy to complain and point fingers at what is wrong. It is easy to cause discontent. It takes a better level of thinking to show respect. It takes a great strength of character to seek to unite and it takes principled people to not be dragged down into the mire of conflict.
This has probably been one of the most fascinating elections in living memory. Nothing, but nothing happened the way it was thought it would and the landscape is now not dissimilar to a world war one battle field, parched, rising smoke and littered with bodies!
I am not going to repeat the list of casualties and the events that people know well. I would like to take a moment to make some ‘leadership’ points that struck me. Nick Clegg is probably the man I feel most sorry for. I think he made an excellent Deputy Prime Minister and in years to come his Party will lament on their stupidity in not supporting him better than they did. Having said that, as much as he was good a Deputy Prime Minister, he was not effective as the Leader of his Party and he did make some mistakes. He is one of those people that make an excellent Number 2 and not the Leader at the top.
However, he made a very interesting and perceptive comment in his resignation speech. He said; “Liberalism in UK and Europe is not faring well in a world of fear”. This is a very true statement, and the Party needs to really consider this carefully. The truth is, in a world where there are threats like ISIS, Al Qaida and other forms of terrorism, people do not trust the Liberals to make the right choices. They are simply not seen as strong enough to stand up to these forces.
So what about Labour? Ed Miliband is not a Leader and should never have been elected in the first place to represent his Party. He has the amazing ability to talk a good talk and made some clever statements at times, but he is like a street fighter and not a professional boxer. He can fight a good fight in the back streets but struggles with the rules of the game when in the ring. A statement was made at the beginning of the campaigning that found seed in many people’s minds. The statement was something like, “If he can stab his own brother in the back…”. He lost Scotland after that. Scotland didn’t want to vote for David Cameron but they certainly did not want Ed Miliband.
He also made some major gaff’s that showed his immaturity as a leader. His commandments in stone were cheap, tacky and smacked of publicity seeking and of no real substance. His comments about being called to Downing Street to discuss Syria and standing up to Cameron and Obama, was embarrassing to say the least. However, the biggest issue was ironically at its clearest in his resignation speech which came over as though he was still campaigning and not imparting some wisdom to his Party of where they need to focus now. Having reversed Labour from the re-invention of Labour under Tony Blair, which he did with such pride, he still does not recognise that this was the wrong thing to do. The striking difference in the two resignation speeches from Labour and Liberals showed how little Ed Miliband understood the real issues and what people are thinking. He is totally out of touch and set Labour back as badly as Michael Foot did years ago.
The term “Customer Service” has become overused, and in many cases becomes an excuse to explain frustration when something goes wrong. Organizations have started using different terminologies in an endeavour to appear better than competitors or to rally their people and breathe new life into their customer approach or activities. New phrases have appeared including, Customer Excellence, Customer Engagement, Customer Journey, Customer Satisfaction and many others.
In all sectors, and most specifically in the service sector, the relationship a business has with its customer is very important. In fact it is vital to the success and performance of the business. The problem is, every industry is different and their customers have different expectations. Added to that is geographical and cultural differences, which all have an impact on the way a business is run.
A study done by Bain & Co asked senior managers in selected companies to rate their organizations customer service. 80% of these senior managers believed that their organization gave excellent customer service. When the customers of those same organizations were asked about the level of service they received, only 8% believe they received excellent customer service.
A study by Michigan Business School compared the performance of a S&P general tracker fund with that of a general portfolio of S&P companies awarded high American Customer Service Index (ACSI) ratings. The results show the dividend returns per dollar invested in each fund as consistently higher in every case in every year, for the 5 year period over the recession.
If organizations are going to deal with their customer relationship, they need to differentiate the terminology in a meaningful way that allows an organization to consider what it is seeking to achieve and what relationship it wants with its customers.
What is Customer Service?
If you take time to think about it, the term customer service is non-descript. It does not say if the customer service is good, bad, adequate, dynamic, or any other descriptive word you wish to use. It simply implies that you give a service.
Customer Service is the way you interact with the customer. It is what the customer gets at a basic level with no definition or further description. If any person or organizations have a relevant product, service or skill, provides an acceptable environment or physical appearance and meaningful dialogue with the customer, then a service can be provided for a customer. Of course, cost or value for money could be included, but even these are a bit above the basic three needs to provide a customer a service.
- Relevant product, service or skills In order for there to be customer service, there has to be a product, service and/or skill that the customer may want or make use of.
- Environment or Physical Appearance There has to be a place that the service is provided. It can be a physical place but it also be virtual by being on the web or in the cloud.
- Meaningful Dialogue The interaction with the customer has to happen to transfer information and possibly make a sale.
The important point is to understand that most of the above can be achieved by good systems and processes, and hiring the right people. In fact, a lot of it can be scripted. For example, in a restaurant the script can require the server to ask if your meal is ok within three minutes of receiving your food. This is an example of customer service being scripted.
So, provided you have a product, service or skill to offer, a place to offer it and the means to have a transaction with the customer, you are providing customer service. It is up to the organization to decide the level of that service by ensuring it has the right systems, processes and people to deliver what is desired.
What about Customer Satisfaction?
Of all the words used in relation to dealing with customers, “customer satisfaction” is the most misused, misrepresented and misleading in most cases. In fact it is often a misnomer. The reason is because it often assumes that we all desire the same level of satisfaction. What would satisfy one customer may not satisfy another. People are different. It also assumes that the customer knows what they want. Working for customer satisfaction is probably a worthless goal because it is too general.
“If I asked the customer what they wanted, I would have tried to create a faster horse”
⎯ Henry Ford
In many cases it is largely nothing more than random feedback. Typically an organization collects data through a questionnaire/survey completed (normally with some sort of grading) by their customers. However, the organization does not know what those customers expectations were in the first place! So the data is random data with no sound basis to enable meaningful improvements.
As a result, it becomes a useless method for the organization to use as a differentiation with their competitors. It does not provide comparable data that can help identify areas for improvement.
Worst of all, this means that it is not meaningful as a means to drive a business or improve performance. If data cannot be used to differentiate or improve performance and drive the business forward, then it has to be asked….why do it?
So customer satisfaction is an overused term that creates the wrong impression in most cases. This does not mean that surveys should not be carried out and feedback should not be obtained, it means that approaching it with the terminology “customer satisfaction” is misleading when what really is needed is feedback that ensures improvements.
By taking the time to examine how effective companies approach the relationship they have with their customers, we have managed to identify the meanings behind the words being used. These successful organizations understand the value they offer and the way they want to relate to their customer.
Customer Excellence: Customer Excellence is where an organization seeks to differentiate its basic service. It may be driven by a desire to create a differentiation from their competitors. It may be that the product, service or skills have a unique element or feature that takes it to a level of excellence. It is about providing what your TARGET customer wants, in the order they want it.
Customer Experience: Customer Experience is where the organization focuses on aspects of the service they deliver so as to create something for their customer that manages the customer’s perception. It may be that the organization identifies touch points that it wants to ensure an experience for the customer. It can be a series of touch points. It is about ensuring that at a certain point (or series of points) the customer perception is guaranteed or exceeded.
Customer Engagement: Customer Engagement is different from anything else. In this case the organization has a different view of the customer altogether. The organization is seeking to develop a relationship with the customer by setting the customer as an equal. This is not a serving relationship, it is about where your value meets the customer’s needs in a way that surprises them. It is about delivering the value you offer in a way that takes the customer along with you. It can include training and educating the customer in a way that improves their life. Customer engagement is about the relationship that your staff and the customer are allowed to have
I am not a big lover of statues but I do understand their significance. Over centuries there are people that have done significant things, whether it is Ghandi, Mandela, Churchill, Lincoln, Hitler, Stalin, Mao or others. Some of them did great things of good and others not. The point is that they did exist and did make major contributions to the world. In every case there were some people that hated them and some that loved them.
This week students at a university in South Africa got their way and had the status of Cecil John Rhodes removed. For them this is some sort of moral victory. In truth it is an example of their immaturity. You don’t create the future by trying to remove the past. The past is just that….it is the past. Cecil John Rhodes made a major contribution to Africa. He may have been part of building an Africa that was racist, but he was still a building block in the creation of modern Africa.
A mature approach from students would be to have demanded that a statue of Mandela or even Rhamaposa was erected next to Cecil John Rhodes to show the way Africa has developed and moved forward DESPITE and because of these people.
The defacing of the statues was, at best childish, but sadly ranks them alongside ISiS in the destroying of the great Buddha’s in the Middle East. These students are so focused on overcoming their past, they are in danger of replicating their past. They are so focused on “demanding retribution” for the way white people treated black people, that they are starting to become the white people they hate.
This week Mugabe said that he did not want to see a white face. An outstandingly stupid comment to make, but not surprising. Mugabe hated racism. Yet he is now the most racist person in the world. He has become everything that he hated all those years ago. Mr Mugabe, if you hate whites, then why do you like to wear western suits, nice white shirts, beautiful ties? Why do you like cricket and embrace the trappings of colonial power with their buildings and systems? You hated white people for the same reason white people hated black people all those years ago. You are still frightened of them and it is time to face your fear and get over it!
We should all be careful of what we hate, because it can consume us and turn us into what we hate. It is better to regret the past, learn from it and build a future, than to hate the past and accidentally end rebuilding the past all over again with different labels.
This is obviously not an setting that Cameron is good in and he started out very hesitantly. When he did get into his stride, Burley was not giving him time to answer the questions fully. Miliband did well in many ways, and he employed a useful strategy of taking the sting out of questions by simply agreeing that Labour had got it wrong in the past. He did a good job of coming over as personal (talking about the issue with his brother) and he tried to come over strong and certainly will have surprised some people.
In terms of Content, Cameron had a lot more content and answered questions well. Miliband lacked content as he always does.
In terms of Personality, Cameron was still the more mature of the two. Disciplined and calculating in his presentation and answers he was the Cameron we all know (love him or hate him) and consistent. I lost count how many times Miliband said “the point is….” He was too intent on making his point and not answering the question. He came over as the kid who sits in the class with his hand in the air saying “Me, me….please Sir me”.
In terms of Leadership, Cameron was more of the Statesman and portrayed a steady hand with a sense of strength, that was just below the surface and behind that smile. He was more disciplined. People like consistent, disciplined and strong enough. Miliband lacked the Statesman and leadership style is still an unknown with him. When tackled on being strong enough, his example of saying “No” to President Obama about Syria was laughable. Having said that, die hard Labour supporters will have loved him and he gave them something to feel good about. The undecided voters will not have been won over by Miliband in terms of leadership ability and will still lean to Cameron as the better leader.
Think of it this way, who would you want leading the country against ISIS? Who would you want negotiating against a Republican President? Miliband still has not shown he has a leadership style worthy of the job of Prime Minister
Overall, Cameron came over as a steady hand and Statesman, Miliband came over as the ‘wannabe’ Alex Salmond! The winner was most definitely Jeremy Paxman
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