Tag Archives: change

Learning To Let Go : Change Is Hard

When things are evolving, and change is afoot, people often hanker for the good old days. ‘Things were so much better back then…’. Were they really?

Leaky Pens

When I first left school I was a trainee draughtsman working at a house building company. I drew housing layouts, road and drainage section drawings, and more, on large sheets of coated film using a technical drawing pens. Expensive, high specification, high maintenance pens, the ink distributed perfectly in lines of uniform width. Except when they leaked and scratched, which was often. When the dam burst, and the ink leaked, depending on how much progress had been made, the choice usually boiled down to starting again, or letting the ink dry and trying to scratch and scrape the excess off the drawing film with a scalpel. It was easy to cut yourself during this part of the process, adding blood to the inky excess. Truthfully I can’t distinguish whether the feeling experienced on completing a drawing was joy in my work, or simply relief that me and my pens hadn’t leaked everywhere. Things were so much better back then…

Mutant Tea Urns

One of my earliest office jobs involved a myriad of fascinating duties. My day started by filling the clanky old hot water urn so that people could make tea and coffee at will through the day. This big steaming tin can, with its shiny spout and oddly ear shaped handles brought to mind a mutant, monstrous metal elephant head, steaming with rage. The mutant was hot, and I often burned myself on its metal skin. Things were so much better back then…

The DeathBringer 5000

Once my burn wounds were dressed, it was mailshot time. We used to send letters to our customers, and the envelopes containing the letters were hand printed, by me. As a new customer joined our ranks, I would stamp their name and address, letter by letter, onto a small lead plate and insert the plate into a metal surround and file it away. When the time came to correspond, I took a handful of these metal surrounds and loaded them into a stamping machine. I then inserted an envelope into the machine, pulled the handle and voila! A movement was triggered. A metal surround containing the lead plate went via an inkpad before being forced against the envelope, where it left its mark, a name and address. We might send a couple of hundred letters in a batch and this machine was hand operated and had the capacity for one envelope at a time.

I had to pull the machine handle downwards really hard to create the force to stamp the address. For some inexplicable reason, the big heavy handle had a hook built into it. One day, at around envelope number 146, my mind somehow drifted from the scintillating task, and I became nothing more than a part of that machine. Load, stamp remove. Load, stamp, remove. Load, stamp, remove. Just prior to experiencing the screaming pain which accompanies your thumb nail departing from your thumb, courtesy of being smashed through by a superfluous hook on the handle of the DeathBringer 5000 Envelope Stamper (for that was its name), my reverie was broken by an abundance of blood all over the place. The thumbnail grew back, the mental scars have never left me. Things were so much better back then…

We have enjoyed many improvements to the process of work. Our drawing pens are better, and complemented by technology. Our mutant tea urns are safer, and slightly less angry, and the DeathBringer 5000 is where it belongs, safely behind bars at the Tower of London torture section.

So if it is not the process we look so longingly back at, what is it?

More to follow…

Change Is Hard : Learning To Let Go was inspired by a conversation with Tim Gardner over a pint or two last week. Thank you Tim.

 

On Being Kind

Be Kind

An opportunity arose this week for me to give a talk at the Chartered Institute of Marketing. My friend Sukh had been due to speak, and for family reasons he needed to be elsewhere. I was therefore offered a chance to help a friend and stretch my creative muscles – thank you.

The brief for the talk was “how can marketers challenge the status quo within their organisations – specifically how to discover the hero inside yourself and become an agent for change within your own organisation”. I confess I’m not big on heroes – most of mine are flawed, and there’s a danger of aspiring to these seemingly mythical creatures. But change agency, that’s my life. It’s what I do, it’s what I am.

I didn’t have the luxury of time to build something from scratch and rehearse it, so I used my Principles of Work as the backbone for the talk. Relevant, simple, handmade visual aids. I am an artist (keep saying it, keep saying it – one day it won’t feel wrong).

I was on after Eamon Fitzgerald from Naked Wines who gave an interesting talk on how Naked Wines is changing the wine business through its angel investment model, and how employees are trusted to deliver a great customer experience. Eamon did a great job – nothing like a little gentle, self inflicted pressure excitement to get the adrenalin going.

I’m on my feet, and in the moment I decided to pass the hero challenge back to the audience. I invited them to talk – not about their heroes as individuals, but rather to discuss the behaviours that heroes demonstrate. We were in a large room at the University of Westminster – there are an abundance of whiteboards on the walls so I asked people to transcribe the essence of their heroes conversations for all to see. In those moments, we cocreated a story.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I added this to the mix…

Simple does not equal easy

…and off we went.

I’ll not bore you with the detail, but the time passed in a blur – we covered listening, experimenting, presence, leading by example, cocreation and more. Above all – three things stood out.

Small things make a big difference. The importance of gentle, repeated persistence.

Taking responsibility – in fact, embracing it. Absorbing negative feedback and blame, offering thanks in return, and finding ways to improve myself, yourself first. Don’t get me wrong – this is really hard – and if you can endure the initial desire to protect yourself and shift from apportioning blame to taking responsibility – you, and those around you will discover and do great things.

Kindness – in particular the ability to be kind to yourself. You know I struggle with this – and last night I had surges of imposter syndrome, even though people were smiling with me, talking, taking notes and cocreating an engaging environment. And in my head, the occasional scratch at the door of doubt…why am I here…why are they listening…I’m not good enough.

The talk over, I stayed a while for some informal Q&A, as did Eamon. People were kind to me, and I lent heavily on the words thank you as a way of accepting that kindness.

I got home late – and this morning in my inbox there’s some lovely feedback:

Hi Eamon and Doug

Many thanks for two riveting sessions tonight – it’s not just me saying that, I’ve attached the results of the feedback survey and you’ll be very pleased to see a plethora of 5s for both of you. Two of the best sessions of our current events season!

Someone, I don’t know who, added this.

Loved Doug’s speech. Innovative and simple content made it perfect. Truly inspiring.

Normally I’d come up with a dozen reasons why I don’t deserve this, but not today. To the person who sent this note, I say thank you for your kindness, I am happy things went well.

 

Nail Varnish : Change is Hard

While visiting Manchester recently to take part in the 2015 CIPD conference, I had my nails done. I wasn’t driven by anything in particular, beyond the simple curiosity of trying something different, so I booked myself in for a manicure and off I went. The woman who painted my nails did an excellent job (sorry I cannot remember her name but here’s a link to the salon), and as she worked we talked, and I learned that although plenty of men come in for a nail clean up – I was the first in 18 months who had asked for their nails to be painted. Job done – I left and almost immediately ruined one of my new nails. Looking after these bad boys is hard work! I dashed back and after a quick repair I went on my way again.

Purple Nails

Matching nails and conference bag – on brand 😉

As I headed back to the conference I began to feel extremely conscious of my new fashion accessories and I became aware I was hiding them from view. I checked myself and tried to act naturally, at least as naturally as the first client in 18 months to have a nail makeover can.

As people spotted my nails, I began to receive feedback. The first person who saw them looked straight down their nose, blasting me with a first class Paddington Bear stare, before exclaiming ‘What on earth did you do that for?!’ I fumbled some kind of embarrassed response and excused myself. Others told me I was ‘brave’, and some folk told me they thought my nails looked great.

I kept my nails on for a few days (well I had invested £15 in them) and I was really interested in how I, and others, continued to react. My own prejudices surfaced a few times when I hid my nails from view as, with no evidence, I judged how some people might respond, based on nothing more than a split second analysis.

Nail Varnish

Sunday breakfast – shortly before the demise.

My nails were returned to their former unglory a few days later – this photo above is their final outing. For me – what started as a bit of curious fun, turned into an observation of how we respond to change, and to difference.

My experience reminded me of this excellent story by Bob Marshall, A Difficult Message to Hear. His poignant tale is of his own Mum, who when faced with a need to change her lifestyle for health reasons, chose not to. Marshall uses this powerful example to illustrate just how hard change is, and yet we have come to expect, and demand change from people in an organisational context, almost as if it were as simple as flicking a switch, or turning a tap.

My own ‘lifestyle change’ was simple to apply and simple to remove, and as far as I know, has had no lasting affect on my health. The experience has had a lasting affect on my learning though, through the simplicity of a manicure I’m reminded:

We often rush to judgment
We often react suspiciously to difference
We often find change hard