Close reading skills – time to practice

Close reading skills – time to practice

Close reading skills – I’ve joined a short on-line course from Sheffield University and Future Learn on the literature of the English country house. I’m sure the subject has been chosen with Downton House fans in mind. Simply, I thought it would keep me entertained on lovely, long, summer evenings.

The course started with a refresher on close reading and the lecturer chose a passage from Twelfth Night for us to work on. It’s a play I love and full of ambiguity. The action centres on the twins Viola and Sebastian, who are separated in a shipwreck. Viola (who is disguised as a boy) falls in love with Duke Orsino, who in turn is in love with the Countess Olivia. Upon meeting Viola, Countess Olivia falls in love with her thinking she is a man.

So, we practiced our close reading skills. First, we read the piece quickly for a general impression. Then, we read it a second time to confirm our first thoughts. This was followed by zooming in for key words and phrases that gave clues to the layers of meaning. It was an entertaining process, given Shakespeare’s propensity for hidden jokes and references.

I was left wondering about our obsession with speed reading. We prize how quickly we can scan the mass of text we encounter daily, be it in emails, discussion papers or reports. If we couldn’t scan quickly, we wouldn’t be able to cope at work or at home. But, we pay a price. I wonder, for example, how many corporate disasters might have been avoided, if we had the time to close read critical passages in progress reports on major programmes or to pick up the hints “between the lines” in management reports.

Have our senses and our judgment become numb from the volume of material put before us?

We need to be aware of the risk. There is a huge responsibility on authors and curators to flag up what they think are critical passages. But, at the end of the day, it is down to us and may be it is time to practice, practice, practice those close reading skills.

Working with a coach really can make your career zing! Get in touch at the email address below.
Wendy Smith, Career, life and Business Coach

Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in organisational development, management, coaching and personal development. That experience means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up new businesses or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues. You can contact her at wendy@wisewolfcoaching.com

Wendy has written a little eBook on how to get on with your boss and a book on job search – you can find all her books on Amazon at this link

         

Acting with integrity at work

Acting with integrity at work

Acting with integrity at work – here is a dictionary definition of integrity

1. Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.

2. The state of being unimpaired; soundness.

3. The quality or condition of being whole or undivided; completeness.

“I have found that being honest is the best technique I can use. Right up front, tell people what you’re trying to accomplish and what you’re willing to sacrifice to accomplish it.” – Lee Iacocca


The most effective way to behave in work and business (including large banks), as in life, is to act with integrity.  Note the definitions above which talk about wholeness, soundness and completeness – this is a definition of health?

That means being as honest as you can and being fair.  As Lee Iacocca says, tell your team the truth and tell them what you are doing about it.  Be a model for honesty, openness and fairness and show that you expect all in your team to follow

Be as realistic as you can about the risks    When you can, help your staff prepare for bad news.  But combine all of this with being scrupulously fair.  They will know if you play the favorites game or, for example, take the opportunity to pay off old scores if you have to  lay people off or reduce hours.  You will lose good will and that extra contribution you need from those who stay.

In the good times share bonuses fairly and for good reasons – nothing is more de-motivating than seeing a colleague who doesn’t really deserve it, getting a bonus. If the bonuses you pay will not stand up to public scrutiny – don’t pay them.

There are major advantages in acting with integrity in all parts of the business in  terms of competitive advantage.

  • The public, and that means your customers, are increasingly concerned about ethical standards
  • Customers and good staff are more like to be attracted and retained
  • Shareholders are more likely to invest in those they trust, now more than ever
  • Staff and your own morale will be higher
  • Your reputation will be something you can be proud of
  • (At its crudest) You stay out of jail and believe me in old age, the money will not make up for the shame.

Here are some ideas for acting with integrity! If you can’t get your head round it, hire someone to advise you on good governance – there are plenty of us around and it isn’t hard to put it in place.

Some principles for making decisions with integrity!

  1. Make sure those in management know how to step back from every critical decision before they make it and look at it objectively.
  2. Understand the risks in your own culture.  Monitor those likely to get swept along by excitement or urgency to the point where they lose judgment .   Personal power, ‘winning’, strategic plotting, high drama, etc. feel good – they are exciting – but they rarely lead to real long-term business advantage
  3. Strive for fairness and the long-term, and not short-term polarized ‘winner takes all’ outcomes that threaten the organization’s long-term survival.
  4. Learn from history and earlier situations. Reviewing how previous situations were handled, reduces the risks of making daft mistakes:  Also history is a superb store of already invented wheels, which can often save you the time and agonies of trying unsuccessfully to invent a new one.
  5. Understand the long-term consequences.  You need to build in time, and structures, to think through what these might be. Try to make sure there are no unforeseen consequences which work to your, and other people’s,  detriment. Ask;
    1.  What do I get out of this? If you directly address how you benefit it’s easier to spot biases and blind spots.
    2. If we do this, what will happen? Play out the effects of the  decision. Be alert to the impact on stakeholders you may not have considered.
  6. Make sure what you do is legal, but think about the spirit of the law as well as the words.  No one really respects or trusts someone who is known to “bend” the law and that includes your customers and share holders
  7. Consult widely –  not just your staff, but your customers, if you can,
  8. Above all, resist the delusion and arrogance that power and authority tends to foster. This is especially important to guard against if you live and work in a protected, insulated or isolated situation, as many large-scale leaders and decision-makers tend to do. Being a leader for a long time, or for any duration in a culture of arrogance, privilege and advantage, provides great nourishment for personal delusion. Many unethical decisions come from arrogance and delusion. Guard against becoming so dangerous.

Acting with integrity doesn’t just help you to sleep at nights but you also stand a chance of leaving a real legacy – someone who is remembered and respected in your community and beyond for a very long time!

Wendy Smith, Career, life and Business Coach
Wendy Smith, Principal Coach, WiseWolf Life and Career Coaching

Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in organisational development, management, coaching and personal development. That experience means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up new businesses or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues. You can contact her at wendy@wisewolfcoaching.com

Wendy has written a little eBook on how to get on with your boss and a book on job search – you can find all her books on Amazon at this link

         

LEADERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT; ACTING WITH INTEGRITY

Integrity

Integrity

Dictionary Definition;

1. Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.

2. The state of being unimpaired; soundness.

3. The quality or condition of being whole or undivided; completeness.

“I have found that being honest is the best technique I can use. Right up front, tell people what you’re trying to accomplish and what you’re willing to sacrifice to accomplish it.” – Lee Iacocca


The most effective way to behave in work and business (including large banks), as in life, is to act with integrity.  Note the definitions above which talk about wholeness, soundness and completeness – this is a definition of health?

That means being as honest as you can and being fair.  As Lee Iacocca says, tell your team the truth and tell them what you are doing about it.  Be a model for honesty, openness and fairness and show that you expect all in your team to follow

Be as realistic as you can about the risks    When you can, help your staff prepare for bad news.  But combine all of this with being scrupulously fair.  They will know if you play the favorites game or, for example, take the opportunity to pay off old scores if you have to  lay people off or reduce hours.  You will lose good will and that extra contribution you need from those who stay.

In the good times share bonuses fairly and for good reasons – nothing is more de-motivating than seeing a colleague who doesn’t really deserve it, getting a bonus. If the bonuses you pay will not stand up to public scrutiny – don’t pay them.

There are major advantages in acting with integrity in all parts of the business in  terms of competitive advantage.

  • The public, and that means your customers, are increasingly concerned about ethical standards
  • Customers and good staff are more like to be attracted and retained
  • Shareholders are more likely to invest in those they trust, now more than ever
  • Staff and your own morale will be higher
  • Your reputation will be something you can be proud of
  • (At its crudest) You stay out of jail and believe me in old age, the money will not make up for the shame.

Here are some ideas for acting with integrity! If you can’t get your head round it, hire someone to advise you on good governance – there are plenty of us around and it isn’t hard to put it in place.

Some principles for making decisions with integrity!

  1. Make sure those in management know how to step back from every critical decision before they make it and look at it objectively.
  2. Understand the risks in your own culture.  Monitor those likely to get swept along by excitement or urgency to the point where they lose judgment .   Personal power, ‘winning’, strategic plotting, high drama, etc. feel good – they are exciting – but they rarely lead to real long-term business advantage
  3. Strive for fairness and the long-term, and not short-term polarized ‘winner takes all’ outcomes that threaten the organization’s long-term survival.
  4. Learn from history and earlier situations. Reviewing how previous situations were handled, reduces the risks of making daft mistakes:  Also history is a superb store of already invented wheels, which can often save you the time and agonies of trying unsuccessfully to invent a new one.
  5. Understand the long-term consequences.  You need to build in time, and structures, to think through what these might be. Try to make sure there are no unforeseen consequences which work to your, and other people’s,  detriment. Ask;
    1.  What do I get out of this? If you directly address how you benefit it’s easier to spot biases and blind spots.
    2. If we do this, what will happen? Play out the effects of the  decision. Be alert to the impact on stakeholders you may not have considered.
  6. Make sure what you do is legal, but think about the spirit of the law as well as the words.  No one really respects or trusts someone who is known to “bend” the law and that includes your customers and share holders
  7. Consult widely –  not just your staff, but your customers, if you can,
  8. Above all, resist the delusion and arrogance that power and authority tends to foster. This is especially important to guard against if you live and work in a protected, insulated or isolated situation, as many large-scale leaders and decision-makers tend to do. Being a leader for a long time, or for any duration in a culture of arrogance, privilege and advantage, provides great nourishment for personal delusion. Many unethical decisions come from arrogance and delusion. Guard against becoming so dangerous.

Acting with integrity doesn’t just help you to sleep at nights but you also stand a chance of leaving a real legacy – someone who is remembered and respected in your community and beyond for a very long time!

Wendy Mason is a Life and Career Coach.  She helps people have the confidence they need to be successful at work and to change career while maintaining a good work/life balance. You can email her at wendymason@wisewolfcoaching.com

The Leader with human flaws!

"Skeleton of human (1) and gorilla (2), u...
You are a human being!

Fact: nobody gets everything right 100% of the time!

So you are the leader! And thank goodness you are a human being too.  You can feel, you can relate and, guess what, sometimes, just sometimes, you can get it wrong.

Now because you are a leader many of your decisions have potential to resonate throughout the organization.  If you don’t have the insight to put the right arrangements in place, one bad decision can put the whole organization at risk.

But if you have the right governance arrangements in place, no single decision you make should be able cripple the organization or put your staff or customers at serious risk.

But it is up to you to put that governance in place!

If you do it well, it will not result in needless bureaucracy; nor will it erode your accountability for the decisions you need to take.  The right approach should free you up and allow you to be entrepreneurial, without undue risk.

But I believe putting governance arrangement in place is an art form – make sure you are well advised and that those in your governance structure are carefully chosen.

Then remember the old 80/20 rule – the Pareto Principle.   For entrepreneurs and business leaders this usually means:

  • 80% of your profits come from 20% of your customers
  • 80% of your complaints come from 20% of your customers
  • 80% of your profits come from 20% of the time you spend
  • 80% of your sales come from 20% of your products
  • 80% of your sales are made by 20% of your sales staff

Make sure you stay clearly focused on the most significant areas of your organization – the 20% that really counts..  Find the key 20% and hone your decisions in those areas to perfection.

Then, with good governance and clear focus you will ensure that your organization doesn’t suffer a fatal fall as a result of a poor decision from you.

Wendy Mason works as a personal and business coach, consultant and blogger. She has managed or advised on many different kinds of transition and she has worked with all kinds of people going through personal change. If you would like her help, email her at wendymason@wisewolfcoaching.com or ring ++44(0)2084610114 or ++44(0)7867681439 .

  • The Pareto Principle and Its Application in Six Sigma (brighthub.com)
  • The Pareto Principle: Does the 80/20 Rule Apply to Your Life? (blogs.sitepoint.com)
  • An offer from Wisewolf – A simple but very effective form of personal and professional development. (wisewolftalking.com)

SPONSORING A PROJECT? HERE ARE SOME QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF!

If you are the senior manager responsible for a project, here are a series of questions to ask yourself at the start to ensure success!

  1. Are the objectives and benefits achievable? The project may be very well intentioned and it may sound very grand but can your organization actually do it (even with advice) and will it be worthwhile?
  2. Is this the right investment for the organization at this time and how does this project fit within the existing programme of projects and competing priorities for the organization. It may sound right but you may have a lot of other priorities right now – can the resource be made available?  Will some other project already underway make this project redundant even before it starts?
  3. Who are the stakeholders and do they agree on the  objectives and benefits? What other parts of the organization and the supply chain will you be dependent on?  Will your  customers appreciate the benefits you plan?
  4. Is there anything novel in terms of process or technology and can you cope with it?  This particularly important for IT based projects – leading edge is one thing – bleeding edge quite another? If it is IT and you don’t know the difference then definitely take advice!
  5. Are you clear about the scope – is there a project brief that describes the project in full and from a business perspective? Do you understand where the boundaries of your project are?  What is  in and what is out?  If you don’t know, you may find it very difficult to know when you have a success and also to control your costs!
  6. Does the project fit well with  your organization’s  strategic initiatives, frameworks and architectures? Does this fit well with the overall direction of the organization, is it compatible with your existing service contracts – if it is IT,  will it fit in with your existing systems?
  7. Have you tested the underlying assumptions within the project brief and business case? Have you really challenged the team on the assumptions they have made – are they being realistic and do the figures really stack up?
  8. Does the project have an agreed set of performance measures against which performance can be measured during the life of the project, and at its conclusion? How can you ensure the right quality is being delivered!   What will be the key milestones and how will you know when you have got there?
  9. Does the business case reflect the full cost of the project including associated business change costs? Buying an IT system for example is not completing a project – what about   the cost of training you staff? What about the cost of the time they spend training?  How much will you pay for support? How will funding be tracked?
  10. Are you confident that you are the right person to sponsor for this project? Do you have the knowledge needed – if not,  have  you the time to learn – can you find a mentor?  Have you got the time to do it?  Are you senior enough?  Will you have to refer key decisions further up the line?

If you would like advice on any of this then Wisewolf Consulting will be happy to help!  You can contact us at this link