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Posts Tagged ‘learning’

on personal motivation


Last week I was musing on teams, but the question of what motivates the leader is always worth considering, especially when the leader is you. Just like everyone else leaders have bad days, even bad weeks, but have to hide that from the troops as best as they can because the rot will spread. Whatever is going on inside the world needs to see a positive attitude.

One of the hardest things that a leader has to face up to and find a way to conquer is fear. There is no getting away from it; everyone will be afraid at some point and failure is probably the biggest cause of fear. It is important here to look at failure from two perspectives; failures through a mistake, making the wrong call or whatever, is something that you should embrace because you can learn from these things. There may be bad consequences, but you still can look at why you made the wrong decision and do better next time.

The other form of failure comes from where you fail to act, to not do something that you knew needed doing, but just let it slide. The fear then move to the consequences and, let’s be honest, if you pull this one then you deserve what you get. You ought to learn from this too though, the lesson being that, as the leader, you have to face whatever the job throws at you. The old adage of if you can’t stand the heat then stay out of the kitchen was never more apt.

Motivation for a leader may come from material things; car, money, fringe benefits, power and the like. At the core should always be a desire to do the best that you can though and to improve all the while. Managing fear will come though all of that and one driver will be your ambition.

Looking back I don’t know where my ambition came from and it certainly rarely ever seemed to have any focus. As a small boy I wanted to be a coach driver; it seemed wonderful to me to be able to take people on trips that gave such pleasure whilst also getting to drive what I thought were the most wonderful vehicles. That faded to be replaced by becoming a pilot and that looked, briefly, as though there might have been a chance, but it didn’t work out. By then I had begun to experience the careers advice offered at school and had decided that I wanted to be a manager. I had no idea as to what they did, but going to work in a suit, having a nice car, an office and a secretary all seemed attractive.

Others had the same idea about me as I later came to understand and worked hard on developing me in that direction. I was an organiser in my teens and was given responsibility at school that I did not understand the significance of for many years. It was only when I was into the development of others that I started to understand some of the opportunities that I had wasted, or at least not fully grasped, in my younger days.

Eventually I made it, going all the way from the shop floor to the boardroom. The two things that seemed to drive me, and that I thrived on, was having responsibility and influence. They were my motivators even if it did take me time to recognise their influence. But I think that underpinning all motivating factors is that you need to be hungry for success and to do what you need to to earn it.

I did, at times specialise at work. I have four professional qualifications in IT, Purchasing Facilities Management and Logistics each of which was acquired when I was specialising in those areas, but the common thread was that I was a decent organiser, or manager, and got things done. I established a reputation through project delivery, but was equally successful at routine operations and still regard myself as a generalist rather than a specialist.

For me I was fortunate in that I had a lot of training along the way. The opportunities to learn were always grasped with both hands right from my first school days and I still, aged 68, will grab any opportunity to try something new that comes my way. How you motivate yourself is something that you must find. Don’t sweat it too much, but do try and see if you can understand what makes you tick and channel it to you advantage.

on the paradox of knowledge


I vaguely recall being told when I was in my late teens that the more we know the less we know and thought then that this was ridiculous. Clearly I did not then know enough.

Over my professional career there have been many occasions when my team and I have been engaged in planning something and have gone through that stage where our researches have led us to a point where we have more questions than answers; every answer that we seek leads to more questions and it is an iterative process that all project teams go through.

At some point in one of these project team meetings someone gave that long forgotten answer again; the more we know the less we know and it struck me that, far from being nonsense, it was actually true. It is aligned to another old adage about a little knowledge being a dangerous thing and I have had moments where I have made a fool of myself trying to use a new piece of knowledge only to find that what I knew barely scratched the surface.

Everything that you learn opens the door to more learning. I know now that this is what fuels my own passion for learning and it is so easy now. As a boy I had an old atlas of the world and a dictionary of similar vintage and these were my main sources of reference. No I have a tablet beside me for much of the time and, if not that, then a mobile (cell) ‘phone. With a few clicks I can check all sorts of facts and have been known to spend an entire evening digging through having started on one topic and been led to various threads from that.

The opportunity to learn is all around us these days and there is no excuse for not using it. Ignorance may be bliss, but I am a lot happier knowing things and seeking to know more. Hopefully I will never lose that urge to learn something new every day.

on opportunities to learn


Last week I was chatting on line with a former colleague who I first met when he was in one of the Belfast offices of the firm we both worked for. Amongst our reminiscences the Scottish office also came up and our conversation has sparked many memories of working with the top men in both locations. Read more…

on a question of discipline


I wrote in a midweek blog recently about keeping one’s skills current when on furlough or just unable to work. With the Covid-19 lockdown continuing (this is being written two or three weeks ahead of publication) another skill comes to mind; that of discipline. Read more…

on the leadership advice that no-one gave me


Last week I was asked what advice I could give to someone who was about to make the move up from the shop floor to their first management position. It’s forty five years since I had my own first go at taking that step and the memories of it are still painful today. Read more…

the art of handwriting

January 25, 2016 3 comments

To hear that a number of schools are ceasing to teach pupils handwriting saddens me. I understand that the generations coming through make use of portable devices to write upon, but I don’t agree that these things make the art of handwriting redundant.

I am of an age where we were taught to write with pen on paper. Lined pages where we would use two lines for a capital or tall letter and just the lower line for smaller letters, scratching away with a pen and ink as we developed our own styles around the standard form.

As we mastered to letters and how to assemble them into words we began to learn sentences, paragraphs and beyond and we began to understand grammar. There was a lot more to understanding our language than just writing out words, but the ability to write  helped a lot in communicating.

In my early years at work computers we beginning to make an impact. Computers then were big things that we didn’t ever see, but we had to cater for the people who fed the information and for about four years the majority of the writing that I did was to complete forms where there was a space for each letter (or number) and all letters had to be in capitals. When that job came to an end and I moved on to one where I was drafting contracts for one of the ladies in the typing pool to turn into a document that we could send out I had to pretty much teach myself to write all over again for I had not written a sentence let alone a paragraph for so long. It took me almost three months before I could manage legible joined up writing on a consistent basis and since then I have tried to keep up a regular writing regime.

The advent of the word processor was, to some extend, a boon in that it became so easy to redo something that you didn’t like the look of and then the ability to check your spelling and grammar were other benefits, but these things are not fool proof. As we used to say in the early days of computing; garbage in, garbage out and as someone who writes a lot (25,000 words is a slow week) it is easy to miss some of the silly things that can occur. Why else would so many people turn off predictive text?

Language is a living thing and it evolves all of the time. I don’t want to stop that, but if we lose the basic skills of forming letters and words I don’t believe that it is going to help. Over the last thirty years or so I have encountered so many young people coming to work for me who cannot do any basic mathematics because they have used calculators from an early age and have little or no understanding of how numbers work. They trust entirely anything that comes off a spreadsheet even when there is a blatant error. I see the loss of handwriting as bringing the same problems with words and it saddens me.

Change is all around us and it is inevitable, but not everything that we do brings progress. Each generation of children represents the future of our various civilisations and I don’t think that we should deprive them of basic skills. Sooner or later we will regret doing so.