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sweep first, then sharpen the saw … into a knife.

January 23, 2015

Spending three days with a master knife maker like Barry Gardner is a real privilege though apparently not everyone who visits his workshop sees it that way.

I was more than a little nervous when I arrived on the first morning. Not a keyboard, desk or chair in sight and yet I was to spend three days working? I learnt a great deal during my time there, enough to come away with the clear knowledge that there is a great deal that I do not know. Three days of tuition does not a knife maker make.

And yet I felt at the end of each day that I had accomplished something real. Something I could be proud of. Starting with a piece of an old saw blade (and with a fair chunk of help from Barry) I produced this on the first day:

A handmade carbon steel knife

My carbon steel knife

On the second day, with his patient guidance and gentle encouragement I produced the thing I am perhaps most proud of (mine is on the left):

Forged damascus steel

Forged Damascus steel

On the third day, I walked away with a beautiful and functional knife that, like a new father, I show photos of to anyone who will stand still long enough. The patterns in the blade are a direct result of the way I interacted with the steel on the day before. It shows where I was tense and anxious and where I came to be more relaxed with the forge and the press. I can understand now how a person’s spirit can come to inhabit a blade:

A damascus steel blade

My Damascus steel knife

Along the way I received a lot of help but I have come away feeling like it is something I can do if I practice. Also knowing that traditional blade sharpeners would spend a decade training before they would be allowed to work on a live blade! It has reconnected me with what I think is a basic human need to work with and create with our hands. It has also reconnected me in a visceral way to the concept of mastery. Reconnected me to what it takes to not just be good at what  you do, but to be great at it.

And at the end of every day I swept.

It might sound strange but it was an honour to sweep Barry’s workshop. In the dojo sweeping is an honour reserved for the senior grades – to be given the responsibility of caring for the place in which you practice. And I did care about the space and that showed up in the way that I swept and in the pleasure I found in sweeping.

Old circular saw blades

Blades for blades

I know it will be a long time before I can replicate the quality of that first knife but I am not concerned. I am making preparations to be able to practice making knives here at home.

I can see it being something I will do for a very long time.

I found myself some old saw blades that I will recycle for the steel in my knives. The largest saw is 1 m in diameter so I should have enough to keep me going.

Before I start sharpening that saw into a knife though, I need to sweep.

 

 

 

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If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the insights that come from the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

If you would like to make a knife with Barry in the beautiful Barossa Valley in South Australia, he has a number of 1 and 2 day courses you can take. Be warned, he is booked out months in advance.

If you enjoyed reading this or my other posts and you would like to read more, you can subscribe and receive them via email simply by putting your email address into the Email Subscription box just on the right of my blog home page. You will receive a confirmation email (which some systems will think is spam so keep an eye on your junk mail) that you need to acknowledge to complete the subscription process.

After you have subscribed, send this post on to your friends. Go on. You know at least one person who should read this post and three more who could use a bit of shaking up… seriously. Do it now. You read this far so send it on! I promise they won’t judge you or think less of you if you do.

Announcement: Samurai Game, Brisbane, February 22

January 21, 2015

Great_SamuraiI am running a special one-day offering of the Samurai Game in Brisbane on Sunday, February 22.

This is what one participant had to say about their recent experience:

“As a participant in my first ever Samurai Game I can now understand why the world has embraced this experience to take people out of their comfort zones and enable them to explore their own everyday existence, values and morals. I would recommend this to any leadership team or business unit wanting to unlock that extra 1% in their team/organisation in order to achieve greatness. Paul has that unique ability to read his audience and push the right buttons at the right time. Do yourself and team a favour and do this, NOW!!”

                                          -Ken, General Counsel, Business Owner

More details are available in the flyer you can download here.

never fail at anything ever again with this proven strategy

December 30, 2014

Procrastinate. Yep. That’s the winning strategy.

If you never do anything then you can talk yourself into believing that you never actually failed.

Failed to do anything sure. But you never tried something and then failed and that is an important distinction.

That is the space I am in at the moment. It is almost like paralysis. I know there is stuff I can do. I know there are things I should do. There are things that I would like to do. Instead I signed up for a service that tells me everything I need to know about my Twitter followers. Fascinating stuff. It apparently allows me to go after the followers of the people who follow me and to unfollow the people I follow who don’t follow back. It has been especially useful in identifying the guy who followed me today (who led me to the service) and then after I followed him, unfollowed me! Clearly it was time well spent and it justifies not doing the things I should have done.

I mean I haven’t exactly done nothing all day. I also changed the format of the widgets down the right hand side of this blog. Updated the messages that go to new subscribers as well. Changed the menu options and re-jigged the pages to add some new content and links. You noticed right…

But all that activity falls into the category of stuff that I know I can do. Easily.

None of it fell into the category of stuff that I should have done today, the stuff that I had planned to do.

I know why. It isn’t easy. I am doubting that I can do it well and I don’t like to think of myself as a failure.

So I don’t. I don’t do it and then I can’t fail at it.

Empty TrashAnd I seem to do that more than I want to admit (not a surprise I suppose if you think about it). I have done a bit of cleaning up lately and finding a large number of things I have started. Not finished. Prototyped. Trialled. Completed the proof of concept. Determined as something I could do. And then left to be forgotten.

Not in a “I can’t remember where I left my keys last night…” kind of way but in a deliberate “Delete” & “Secure Empty Trash” kind of way. That is one thing I am good at and I know why.

It hurts less.

The pain of a missed future opportunity is easier to bear than the pain of a future failure so I choose the missed opportunity. Tomkins would describe it as avoidance of anticipatory shame. I anticipate the possibility that failure in the future could be such a large a blow to my ego, my sense of self-worth, that I procrastinate to avoid it ever happening. I find other things to do and eventually something else pops up that is interesting enough to seem to call for a prototype (or easy enough that I know I cannot fail) so that I am able to forget the thing that I am afraid to do. Then all I have to do is deal with the shame around the missed opportun… a blog post! That is what I will do, write a post about procrastination. Missed opportunity deleted and waiting for me to empty the trash in a few days time!

So yes I am aware of the irony surrounding my writing this post. It is something I can do. But it also feels a bit like confessing my sins will help me to find a way to be better at being ok with failure.

I think that will be my resolution for tomorrow. To fail more often. To get practice at trying, at making the journey all the way until it ends. Terrifying.

***

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the insights that come from the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

If you enjoyed reading this or my other posts and you would like to read more, you can subscribe and receive them via email simply by putting your email address into the Email Subscription box just on the right of my blog home page. You will receive a confirmation email (which some systems will think is spam so keep an eye on your junk mail) that you need to acknowledge to complete the subscription process.

After you have subscribed, send this post on to your friends. Go on. You know at least one person who should read this post and three more who could use a bit of shaking up… seriously. Do it now. You read this far so send it on! I promise they won’t judge you or think less of you if you do.

Improve the results of your next performance review by 17.3%

December 23, 2014

Researchers at Harvard Business School have shown that transparency produces value. Put another way, seeing your customer clearly results in better service. Customers are not only happier when they can see the people performing the service for them (a 17.3% increase in satisfaction actually) but the people who are performing the work also feel more valued. The increase in satisfaction comes in part because the customer has an increased understanding of the effort involved in producing the work – so much so that in follow on studies customers coming to collect their orders rated the service higher if they had to wait and watch their order being filled than if they simply collected the completed order and left without waiting.

That’s right. They had to wait but they were happier with the service. And the people performing the work were more satisfied and sought more opportunities to improve.

Think about the implications of that in your workplace. How many people in your workplace have clearly defined customers for their work? What sort of contact do you have with the people who provide you with what you need to get your job done?

They seem like questions that should be easy to answer, after all everyone knows who they are doing their work for right? Wrong.

I had a conversation with a business analyst who was busy collecting business requirements for an IT project. He was doing a great job talking with people across the business but when I asked him how he knew when he would be finished all I got was silence. We had just identified there was no customer for his work. Aside from the obvious concerns from a project management point of view, think about his level of motivation coming to work each day and never ever seeing a customer. What motivation was there for him to do better?

There are two simple steps you can take if you want to avoid being that person or having people like that in your organisation. The are the same steps you can take to improve your customer’s satisfaction with your work.

Do you have a list of tasks or to-do list? Is there another list – a list of all the things you need before you can do those other things? At the top of your to-do list cross out “To do” and write “Services I am providing” and then beside each item write down the name of your customer. On the top of the other list write “Things I am a customer for” and beside each of those items write down the name of the person who you think is providing that service.

Then go and create transparency and value by having a conversation with the people on your lists about what they are expecting and what you are expecting and how delivery is progressing.

I guarantee you that your level of service will improve and their level of satisfaction with your work will also improve (maybe not by exactly 17.3% – actual results may vary!). I also think it is a pretty safe bet that at least one of the people you think is providing something you have on your “Things I am a customer for” list doesn’t share your view. You don’t need a Harvard Business School study to tell you that you will not be a happy customer if you are left waiting for service that never comes. And that is not good for anybody’s performance review!

***

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the insights that come from the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

If you enjoyed reading this or my other posts and you would like to read more, you can subscribe and receive them via email simply by putting your email address into the Email Subscription box just on the right of my blog home page. You will receive a confirmation email (which some systems will think is spam so keep an eye on your junk mail) that you need to acknowledge to complete the subscription process.

After you have subscribed, send this post on to your friends. Go on. You know at least one person who should read this post and three more who could use a bit of shaking up… seriously. Do it now. You read this far so send it on! I promise they won’t judge you or think less of you if you do.

 

saying no just isn’t easy

December 12, 2014

With a full calendar and hardly a minute to spare many of us are in danger of being overwhelmed by the amount of work we have taken on. We all know that the quickest way to create some space and take a breath is to just say “no”. From William Ury’s best seller “The Power of a Positive No” to the advice of well-meaning friends we are told that we shouldn’t be afraid to say no. But many people are.

Saying no isn’t easy.

Dealing with our emotional response to thought of saying no is one thing, dealing with how other people react to being told no is a completely different thing all together. We want to be seen as being more than just competent. We want to earn the trust of our colleagues and we need to get the work done. So we say yes with the consequences that the important but not urgent works slips further behind, we rush to produce work of a quality below what we are capable of and we fear we will burn out if this continues much longer.

One of the things I have said yes to recently and I am glad I did was the opportunity to spend some time with a group of female leaders and get to the heart of why we often struggle to say no and what action we can take to make it easier.

It was a great session with a lot of nodding going on as I shared the framework provided by Silvan Tomkins to understand and identify our emotional reactions to saying no and being told no. Not surprising as it is truly intuitive. It is the stuff that you didn’t know you knew!

I took the opportunity to capture the content from that session and create a 30 minute on-line, video based program. It was (and still is) very much a learning experience for me but I satisfied with the result. I am currently making the course available for free and I wanted to let you all be some of the first to experience it. Problem is that at the time of writing it has been live for just 48 hours on Udemy.com and there are already 480 students enrolled! My apologies about that, I just didn’t expect it to be so popular.

I would like you to take the course for free as a thank you for supporting my blog just follow this link: Saying no just isn’t easy

I would love you to check out the content and leave me a review. Let me know what you thought was valuable and what you think I could do to improve the course or add new content. And feel free to share the link with your friends. I have plans for many more courses so I am keen to learn as much as I can from this first one.

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If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the insights that come from the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

If you enjoyed reading this or my other posts and you would like to read more, you can subscribe and receive them via email simply by putting your email address into the Email Subscription box just on the right of my blog home page. You will receive a confirmation email (which some systems will think is spam so keep an eye on your junk mail) that you need to acknowledge to complete the subscription process.

After you have subscribed, send this post on to your friends. Go on. You know at least one person who should read this post and three more who could use a bit of shaking up… seriously. Do it now. You read this far so send it on! I promise they won’t judge you or think less of you if you do.

 

looking a bit backwards – Part 5 – means not ends

December 11, 2014

This is the 5th in my looking backwards series examining what corporations have forgotten in the last 50 years. It is based on a document I found from 1968 entitled GUIDING PRINCIPLES AND OBJECTIVES IN EMPLOYEE RELATIONS. The earlier piece on the value of credit and criticism can be read here

In this day of e-mail, text, iMessage, MSMessenger, Yammer, Facebook, Twitter and intranets you would think organisations would have communication covered. Employees should be better informed about what is going on in their organisation than at any other time in history. It is clearly not the case as I have lost count of the number of times I have asked the people I meet what they have got coming up in the next few months only to have them tell me:

  • that they do not know,
  • that they do not know what role they will be in or who they will be reporting to,
  • that they do not know if they will have a job, or worse
  • that they do not know because their position has been made redundant.

As an occasional series I tend to forget that I have the wisdom of my 1968 Corporation to draw on to provide some perspective. Today I am looking at the last three elements of the first section entitled INDIVIDUAL RECOGNITION which sets out management’s responsibilities in ensuring that each person, whatever their job, has the opportunity to develop their talents and receive recognition for their successful efforts.

Means not ends

You can see the consequences of forgetting these three principles playing out in many places around the world at the moment but for me it is showing up most clearly here in my home State. It doesn’t seem to matter whether you work for Government or for a private corporation at the moment – both seem to have chosen to ignore them.

One of the worst examples that I have heard of is a team of Government employees having spent weeks wondering what the future holds for them  being told on Thursday to attend a mandatory Friday 9 am meeting. It was common knowledge that the meeting was being called to tell them they were no longer needed.  Assembled anxiously as a group it was left to a senior manager to announce to them that there was nothing to announce and they should go back to work.

A mandatory meeting to announce there is nothing to announce!

The particularly vigorous media criticism of Government job cuts the night before may or may not be the reason for the announcement that there was nothing to announce, but the result was a group of employees who were expected to continue working productively knowing that they were not being kept informed of their personal status or of the circumstances which affect them or their group. I know of similar meetings in the private sector that have followed the same script.

Which begs the question, why does this keep happening?

My 1968 Corporation knew the answer was means not ends.

MEANS an agency, instrument, or method used to attain an end (or result): The telephone is a means of communication. There are several means of solving the problem.

I think the answer lies in section 1.7.  … systems, organisational structure and associated procedures should be put in place as a means of implementing the successful efforts of those by whom and for whom they were made rather than as ends in themselves. Casting this principle aside, many who see themselves as leaders today seem to believe that changes in organisational structure (making people redundant, changing reporting lines, shifting or embedding resources) is all that needs to happen. Once it is eventually announced and people have changed desks, changed their email footers and changed their roles then that is apparently the end. Change implemented.

Perhaps the worst example of this is the organisation that periodically ranks itself against others in their sector or industry and decides they have too many people. Positions are cut, contracts ended, people are hurt, lives are disrupted. There are no changes to systems as the organsiation longer has the people needed to develop or effectively implement those changes. It wouldn’t matter if they did because those employees who remain in the organisation have taken on up the slack and are too busy to help make those systems serve them. Few of the benefits of the new structure or system are realised beyond short-term cost savings, management sheet responsibility for this failure to poor project teams or, perversely, poor systems for project management.

A few contractors and part-timers are employed to help ease the load, then additional full-time positions are justified and before long it is suggested that the organisational structure needs to be reviewed. Someone thinks it is a good idea to benchmark against other similar organisations …. and so the vicious cycle continues.

Some days I do wonder if the leaders of our 1968 Corporation, who looked forward to the advances we would make in the 50 years since, would look at how we operate today and conclude that we are looking more than just a bit backward.

***

This is the 5th in my occasional series looking backwards to find a way forward series examining what corporations have forgotten in the last 50 years. The first piece in the series can be read here.

If you enjoyed reading this or my other posts you can subscribe and receive them via email simply by putting your email address into the Email Subscription box just on the right of my blog home page. You will receive a confirmation email (which some systems will think is spam so keep an eye on your junk mail) that you need to acknowledge to complete the subscription process.

After you have subscribed, send this post on to your friends. Go on. You know at least one person who should read this post… seriously. Do it now. You read this far so send it on.

don’t waste your life living in this moment

November 25, 2014

It is the thing to do right now. Be mindful! Be present in this moment! Look at all the good things you have right now and be grateful for them!

Dangerous advice.

It starts out harmless enough. Being present brings into your awareness just how wonderful this moment is. And this moment. Then comes the gratitude. “Life is actually pretty good…”

That is the sting in the tail. That is the point you should be very careful.

For many the next step is “Wouldn’t life be great if it could be like this all the time!”

Nobody wants to be present to the pain, to the suffering, to the parts of our lives that suck. We don’t feel like being grateful for those moments. We want them to pass as quickly as possible.

Living in the good moments becomes a trap when we start trying to make the current moment permanent. As soon as that happens you are living in the past and trying to recreate something that is forever gone. That is the moment when you begin wasting the rest of your life.

Don’t do it.

Be alive.

***

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the insights that come from the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

If you enjoyed reading this or my other posts and you would like to read more, you can subscribe and receive them via email simply by putting your email address into the Email Subscription box just on the right of my blog home page. You will receive a confirmation email (which some systems will think is spam so keep an eye on your junk mail) that you need to acknowledge to complete the subscription process.

After you have subscribed, send this post on to your friends. Go on. You know at least one person who should read this post and three more who could use a bit of shaking up… seriously. Do it now. You read this far so send it on! I promise they won’t judge you or think less of you if you do.

 

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