This is my worst quality, but one of my best too… 

​My worst quality and greatest fault…I am…intense. Positioned on my tattooed right forearm, next to ‘grateful’ and ‘fallible’…and the word my eight year old daughter chose and wrote for me – But more about that in another post. 

‘Intense’ is awful, it means that it’s easy to live in your head. 

It means that you over analyse, you’re hyper sensitive, and that you see things many others don’t.  It means you are often too self aware, too self critical, and too intuitively conscious of other people. It means that you feel deeply, experience fully, and are prone to anxiety. 

You’re incredibly hard on yourself. 

You think too deeply when others see things and situations at face value. It means that you often have unrealistic expectations of others. 

Intense means that you don’t laugh at yourself enough, because you’re too busy berating your own faults. 

It means that criticism from others is a very tough thing to internalize. 

BUT….intense is also one of my greatest attributes…paradoxically for many of the reasons stated above, and for other reasons too… it means that I can understand others, feel and relate to their emotions. 

It means that I am a deep thinker and question life, I’m creative, that I can write, and paint, and express. 

It means that I can understand and speak of deep and vulnerable things that others can relate to but that not everyone can speak about to their closest circle, let alone to strangers.

It means that I am both my own worst enemy and my own best friend all rolled up into one. 

It is something my friends admire and love about me, but at the same time frequently despair about me. 

Some days I hate the gift…some days I am extremely grateful for the gift.

It is part of my human condition. It is a quality I need to temper and control so that it doesn’t control me. I know that as I continue to develop my sense of self worth I will feel the negative impacts less, as much of the behaviour lies in deep personal insecurities. 

It’s a constant and very real struggle, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

It is who I am. 

Mind you don’t trip over your ego

attitudeConceit and confidence are neighbouring traits and both start with a cee. But the swagger says conceit, and so do the hardened eyes. There is never a good reason to have an inflated ego. Let alone flaunt one.

We all know the type. That dude in the gym with the backwards cap, massive pecs, and no calves. With the aggressive demeanour you might innocently assume comes from an overdose of roids. He lumbers around the gym like he owns it, and won’t use any equipment unless there are mirrors positioned to give himself at least three angles of his lift. The only thing bigger than his ego are the chorbs on his biceps.

And then there’s the snappily dressed hipster dude with his labelled clothing and chapeau, talking loudly into his white Samsung S4 about the new Mini Cooper he’s ordered, and the apartment he is buying with the view over the city. He knocked a good couple of kays off the price because he knows a Seeff brother. They do sushi regularly at that hip spot where all the waitresses know him by name because he throws money around as often as the girl in accounts throws her name away at the company functions.

ego_logo2The list goes on and on. Egos are everywhere. You might even have one. The guy who parks in the disabled parking bay, the queue jumper, or the woman who brags about her kids before she’s even asked.  The lady who can’t smile because of all that makeup and enough Botox to make Tommy Lee Jones look young again.

The professional athletes, politicians, successful bankers and trophy wives. The Lotharios, head prefects, models, and superstars. Too cool for school. Immortal in their own time. Self-elevated, loved by the image looking back at them in the mirror. But blindly ambitious.

Quite frankly I couldn’t care who you are. You don’t impress me with your egotistic narcissism. In fact, truth be told, I lose respect for you no matter your crowning achievement. The otherwise impressive accomplishments and acclaim you might deserve are lost to me the moment your ego rears its ugly head. There are few qualities I find as distasteful.

donald trumpYou’ve Trumped me, and that’s no compliment. No contest. I don’t want that accolade. Your swollen ego makes me lose interest in you faster than JZ distanced himself from the The Gupta Wedding.

Wars are fought over ego. Poverty is created by ego. The ills of our world invariably find a beginning in one ego or another.  From the megalomaniac right down to the man who sees his wife as an object.

This is what I know, every single person on this planet is better than someone else. The tea lady is better than the welder because she can write. The receptionist is better than the driver because she has computer skills, but he in turn is better than the gardener because he can drive.

In other words, if the standard for having an attitude is a level of ‘better-than-ness’ then we all deserve to stare haughtily, straight through the eyes of the minions who are somehow lesser beings than us.

Staring with eyes that look, but do not see. Eyes that fleetingly search for symbols of worthiness, icons of wealth and position. Finding none, they glaze over, or find a watch or a phone to look at instead.

Therefore, by that definition there is always someone on this planet who has a right to see you as a little person.

In my eyes, your value is based on how well you treat those who do not and can not benefit you, how well you treat those who are the ‘little people’ in your world. How humble and grateful you are for the gifts and successes you have been granted or have worked hard for. They can disappear literally overnight, and who knows, you might become reliant on those you chose to spurn today.

simoncowellOr, you’d better hope that those who are above you on the ladder, and who’s asses you’ve become so accustomed to, find you as valuable once you can no longer serve a purpose.

The people who have the ability to singularly impress me are those who by all standards might deserve an attitude, but don’t have one. Their successes and good looks haven’t changed them. Their wealth and position are not the attributes which define them.

They know WHO they are. And who they are, has nothing to do with WHAT they are. If you’re one of those people, I like you already.

Is workplace loyalty dead?

loyalty I am not ready to hold a small sad funeral and bid farewell to a long lost idea and a forsaken ideology. The dearly departed: workplace loyalty.

I am not stupid enough to believe though that the days of the golden handshake are any longer a reality.

Traditionally the dog has long been the icon of choice to suggest unquestioning loyalty. But, truth be told, a dog isn’t exactly a great choice for the loyalty pinup pet.  A dog has no free will when it comes to where it lives, and cannot go out and pick a new owner if the current one stinks. A dog’s inherent nature is to blindly devote its allegiance to an owner regardless of how it is treated, which opens the door for a one way loyalty transaction. And let’s be completely honest here, a pooch doesn’t need a whole lot to be happy either.

piperboyandcat1But a cat, well a cat has choice. A cat can come and go as it sees fit. Better living conditions and food next door might well mean your feline is lost to you. If your beloved cat stays, it’s because it is happy and content. In return, your kitty will supply you with an endless supply of devotion.  Loyalty involves some sort of freedom to choose. A cat is a hard one to please, but get it right, and the cat will stay with you for life.

The days of staying with a company purely because it is the proper thing to do, and because the relationship is somewhat mutually beneficial are long over. That dogma has been replaced by another, a completely different one. In it’s harshest form, employees are hired to fulfill a function, and can expect to be paid in return, that’s it!

In fact, an article in the Cape Times, June 4th 2012 quoted a Gallup poll which cited that 75% of the workforce in the US  is actively disengaged, they are emotionally disconnected from their work.  It is estimated that the figures for South Africa are very similar. Seventy six percent of full-time workers, whilst not actively looking for a job, would leave their current workplace if the right opportunity came along.

The negativity which invariably accompanies disengaged workers is as damaging as the continuous staff turnover, time lost in training new staff, and loss of productivity. This negativity spreads like a cancer. Workplace loyalty has become a rare commodity, a casualty of this new normal. Employees are dispensable, companies are callous, and employees are disloyal.

Yet employers will state that one of the characteristics they would most like in their employees and the hardest to find is actually loyalty. The current thinking is that loyalty comes at a price, and is predominantly financially driven, which is its downfall. This thought process additionally emphasizes that employees seem intent on flitting from one position to another enabling them to build impressive CVs.

Perhaps many employers today are unaware that the average employee has taken a relatively new stance and the trend has swung in favour of a desire for workplace fulfillment, and a need to feel valued.  Of course the desire for financial reward has not diminished, but the typical middle to upper class worker is searching for job satisfaction as a primary need from the workplace.

The reason is that fulfillment and happiness cannot be compartmentalized, for instance; work in one box, family in another. Add to that the fact that our lives have all become so much more complicated, and it becomes easy to see that the distinguishing  lines between work and everything else have become very blurred. A job is an extension of our identity.  Lastly, the ease at which employees can perform a substantial number of tasks from home has also dramatically changed the landscape.

Thus the conflict between what employers are prepared to offer and do to retain staff, and the expectations and wants of the employees on the other hand, more often than not provide a stalemate. In my opinion there has to be a reciprocal exchange of loyalty. But which comes first?

Show me yours, and I’ll show you mine.

Loyalty (1)

My loyalty to the company is contingent on the company’s loyalty to me. But the party with tremendously more power is the company.

What is it that makes an employee feel that a company is loyal to them? The most commonly stated missing traits are an employer’s inability or disinterest in acknowledging a staff member. A lack of respect, being betrayed, taken advantage of, hidden agendas, inflexibility, lack of opportunity, and a lack of recognition for the contributions made are all important deciding  factors. The bottom line is that an employee wishes to feel like an important cog in the machinery that makes up the company, no matter how small that cog might well be.  It is a question of value.

An employee wants a certain level of compensation, benefits,  career development, and an opportunity for advancement. In return, an organization requires the employee to put the company’s interests first, ignore other job offers, meet long term commitments, share knowledge and expertise, and evangelize the brand. It seems like a doable wishlist on both sides, and it’s not a difficult concept, yet the imbalances are significant and hence a vast chasm opens up, each party at an impasse.

loyalty 2

Something to ponder on for those employees who are questioning their loyalty to a company that doesn’t seem to reciprocate. Consider that the most important loyalty is loyalty to oneself. Know what your value is, understand your worth, and do not allow your employers to exploit you. As soon as you compromise on loyalty to your own values, a lack of job fulfilment is likely. As I see it, if you find yourself in that position you have four choices;

1. Retain the status quo, and continue to be unhappy. Whine about it to anybody who will listen.

2. Exercise your choice to leave, and find a company who will value you and reciprocate your loyalty.

3. Readjust your expectations, make peace with them, and get on with the job. Use the position to further your career.

4. Challenge your employer in the best possible manner, and try to influence the change you wish to see in the company. (But be  prepared to dust off your CV and wait for your gradual ousting.)

The solution lies in the hands of the organization, and in my view that solution is not about a special ‘program’ or a company initiative, although these can certainly be beneficial.  Its a culture that spreads right from the top. Don’t think that middle management can handle this one on their own.

How the CEO conducts his or herself is the catalyst, and it filters down. It’s approaching every single person in the company and imagining that they have a sign hanging on their chest that says ‘I am important’, and making sure that they are valued.  It doesn’t need to cost money, but it certainly costs effort. The rewards will always outweigh the costs. Always.

tandem2The tandem bicycle is perhaps one of the best analogies to illustrate the importance of reciprocal workplace loyalty. Anyone who has ever ridden one will tell you that it takes two.  The rider in the front is in control, they steer the bike, utilize the brakes, change the gears. The rider at the back plays a big role in balancing the bike and powering the bike forward, but  realistically the person at the back can use the person in the front for a free ride. Just by turning over the pedals with very little effort, the bike will limp along, never reaching maximum speed nor climbing potential. It is damn hard! But the greater the motivation of the person riding at the back, the more effort he or she will put into the ride, and the greater the result.

Look after me and I will look after you.

“Make business decisions that favour employees over any and all considerations” @samanthaperry

In the same manner in which an employer scrutinizes a prospective employee’s CV, considering how long on average that person stays in a position, so it has become important for that prospective employee to gauge how long the staff retention time frame of the company is.  The higher the turnover of staff, the less likely it is that the company is good at  loyalty best practice.

It’s not for nothing that the companies that are voted “best to work for” are routinely also some of the most profitable. Is your company on the South African Best Employers 2012/13 List? Loyalty matters as much as it ever did. Both ways. If you want more value from your staff  show them how much you value them. Money is a fraction of the answer, loyalty needs to be earned.

Stop giving lip service to creating a fantastic place for your employees to work, and focus instead on actually doing something about it. Consistently.

Loyalty is a culture, a crucial culture, and it starts right at the top.

Thank you for reading my thoughts, please feel free to challenge my thinking, comment or share 🙂 Find me on Twitter @thewrightrich

The casual worker and the street corner.

20130402-172020.jpgIf you were to keep a regular eye on a busy intersection where casual workers congregate in the hopes of finding employment, you would no doubt learn lessons that are profound and applicable to all entrepreneurs who rely on attracting business. One such busy corner is on a regular run route of mine, and I have spent a number of months observing the dynamics with interest. Essentially the types of individuals looking for a job can be defined into two categories. Firstly those who arrive really early. They are dressed neatly, and have a sense of purpose. The air of expectation is high. They stand close to the road where they can be seen, and there they wait. Most days these people will be picked up by a contractor looking for casual labour for a full day’s work. The wage is standard, as are the hours and average conditions. Very often a specific contractor will come back time and again looking for a particular worker. Sometimes the worker will end up with a full time job. That’s the success story.

The second category of worker is very different. Only arriving at the intersection after eight or nine am, this person often looks more like a loiterer than a worker. They will sit against a wall, and congregate together looking like they have no real purpose nor intention for being there. This labourer works fewer days than not, although the rewards are greater for work actually done. The worker will be paid for a full day, although most often the required job takes only a couple of hours or half a day. The type of work is frequently of a lighter nature and the type of client providing the ’employment’ is one looking for labour for an odd job, and therefore comes back infrequently. The chances of repeat business are slim.

Which category do you fall into? Hopefully the first category of entrepreneur.

20130402-172123.jpgThe lessons to be learnt are simple. The strategy of the first category of labourer is clear. Step 1: Understand the market before doing anything. Watch and learn from those who are already successful, and repeat what they do. Step 2: Identify the kind of client you want to attract. Clients that will give you repeat business, that you can rely on, and clients that have a regular pattern are those you really want. Step 3: Become predictable. Be present at the same corner at the same time every day. Be seen. Even the best client who comes to look for you will not wait for long if you are elsewhere. Dress for the job that you want, and have a sense of purpose. Step 4: Deliver work that is of a high standard and build a relationship with your client. Give value.

Any line of work needs to be viewed as a long term prospect for any real returns to materialize, and requires hard work. There are NO shortcuts, and the ‘fast buck’ is unsustainable. A strategy is imperative. You will always find work by default, and might be paid well for an easy job from time to time. But regular viable work requires a design. A design that centers around repeat business, a loyal clientele, and service excellence. Oh, and did I mention hard work…

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. Feel free to comment, or share the blog on your social networks. Just click the ‘share’ button below. You can find me on twitter, @thewrightrich, or on Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/wrightstuff01

If you don’t love it, you won’t persevere.

“There were tiIMG_0923mes when I wanted to give up”. Have you ever heard that from any self motivated entrepreneur?  Of course you have, I bet that every single successful entrepreneur has been through at least one patch (some I am sure go through regular patches) during which time they wanted to throw in the towel.  It’s one of the most important things that distinguishes those who ultimately succeed, and those who give up.  Those who persevere generally succeed, but it’s practically impossible to keep working hard, to keep persevering, if you don’t love what you do.

Steve Jobs once said about success, “it is so hard, that any  rational person would just give up, unless they love it, unless they are passionate about what they do. And you have to do it over a sustained period of time. Often times the ones that were successful loved what they did, so they could persevere when it got really tough, and the ones that didn’t love it, quit. Because they’re sane, who would want to put up with this stuff if you didn’t love it”.

Perseverance is having the ability to just keep doing the right things over and over again, and very often there are no immediate results. Nothing to reward you for your continued efforts and hard work.  When it’s that hard, and results are as scarce as intelligent goldfish, negativity is overcome by focusing on the finishline, that ultimate goal, or even smaller stepping stones,  and the feeling you get from doing what fulfills you.

per·se·ver·ance  (as defined by Dictionary.com)

Noun
  1. Steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.
  2. Continuance in a state of grace leading finally to a state of glory.
Synonyms
persistence – tenacity – pertinacity – assiduity

I have a passion for endurance sport. Somehow, hours spent on an uncomfortable saddle excite me.  The same concepts of loving what you do and success are true in training for an Ironman event. There are days when it is so hard just to get out of bed, so hard to put some running shoes on and head out the door. You know it’s going to hurt, you know you feel tired and flat.  In fact, you feel you are going backwards and not making progress.  It is so easy to skip the session, the results are nowhere to be seen, and you figure, ‘ what is the point?‘.  You feel more despondent than Albert Einstein did the day his teacher told him he’d never amount to much, and when Michael Jordan did the day he was dropped from the high school basketball team.  See where I’m going with that?  A winner looks beyond the present, and overcomes the tough times.  As an athlete, each session builds on the previous one, and cannot be seen as an individual goal.  It’s the culmination of hours and hours of training, planning sessions, training at varied tempos, and being consistent that will enable you to arrive on race day in peak condition.  Also true is that more often than not, it’s only the first 20 minutes of the session that are bad, and the longer you continue, the more you realize why you do it.  You get out of bed because you know that you will love it when you’re done, and you know that it’s the only way to reach your goals.

20130317-233656.jpg

And so too, it is in our jobs. The rewards only come after hard work, consistency, and the sustained effort of doing the same things over and over, persevering in the tough times.  So what then does it mean to love what you do?

I believe that each of us is defined as a human being by certain things or needs that are not only very important to us, but that if these defining needs are not met, we will not be happy.  For instance, I am defined by the fact that I am a father. If I do not spend enough time with my daughters I am an unhappy camper.  Likewise I need to exercise, it makes me happy and I feel good about myself.  Another of the needs which define me is my need to teach or coach, and lastly I have a need to be creative.  If my job satisfies my teaching and creativity needs, and leaves me with enough time to spend with my daughters and time to exercise, I will be satisfied.  Simplistic I know, but yet so true.  Steve also said that, “if I wake up on 3 or 4 consecutive mornings thinking that this is not what I would want to do if these were the last days of my life, it is time to change what I do.”

Loving a job means feeling fulfilled, being challenged, having fun, and above all it’s knowing that this is exactly what you want to do because the act of performing your job makes you happy.  The spin off is that those you interact with in your job, for instance colleagues and clients, will respond very positively to your obvious enjoyment of what you do.  And lastly, success will follow you, even if it is not immediate.

If you are trapped in a job you don’t like you know what it feels like to have the life sucked out of you, and you know how hard it is to motivate yourself to work at all. Sometimes that is just life, and it’s a stepping stone or a mid term goal.  You might be a victim of circumstance.  Even more reason then to make sure that all of your other boxes are ticked and that you happy in the other things that define you.  Work towards change, life’s greatest truth is that nothing is forever.20130317-233509.jpg

I would rather spend long 15 hour days working hard in a job I love, than only working for 15 minutes a day on something I hated.  First figure out what defines you, then chase that until it becomes your reality.

Are you having fun?