Work v Life – from Hugh MacCleod

With apologies to all my sincere friends, no offence meant. If you take yourself so seriously that you can’t cope with even the slightest hint of criticism then you really ought to get out more (or find yourself a life coach).

I dislike the phrase “Work Life Balance”; it co-exists in that unreal world of “Life Coaching” where “Quality Time”, “Alignment” and “Fulfilment” are made to appear easy to achieve and where you “can have it all”.

Frequently used by people who have done a weekend NLP or correspondence course they give the whole of coaching a bad name.

I am a coach and I was a dentist. You cannot be a successful dentist (& I was) without considering the whole person. Am a successful coach? I’ll go with Thomas Leonard’s view: “‘The best coaches don’t think they are. And some of the weakest coaches think they are great“.

‘You can not coach an individual without regard for the whole person, so some of the time I must be considered to be a “Life” Coach but it’s not a phrase with which I am comfortable.

My belief goes with the opening words of M. Scott Peck’s book The Road Less Travelled, that Life is Difficult and the sooner you get used to it the better. I have no time for the “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” just read this one book, it’ll change your life, everything will be hunky-dory and we’ll all live happily ever after. Rees’s take is Men are from Earth, Women are from Earth – now just deal with it.

Work is a huge part of life, the most successful and happiest people I know work extremely hard, they spend large amounts of their lives doing what they call work. But (& it’s a bloody big but)  they make sure they enjoy what they do whatever it is.

Regular readers of this blog know that I am a big fan of Hugh MacLeod his writings and drawings as featured in Gaping Void. So as we head into a new year this struck me as being an appropriate cartoon.

The Monday Morning Quote

The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times…

the best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”

Mihály Csíkszentmihályi

Merry Christmas

My love of, and enthusiasm for, “popular” music used to be frowned on by my parents and some of my friends. I am from a generation that was told that The Beatles “will never last”, that  The Rolling Stones “were unspeakable animals who should be locked up” and “you can’t take music performed seriously by people called The Who, The Kinks or The Grateful Dead.

Often the people who were quick to criticise loved Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra or the saccharine sweet synthetics of the 1950s. Doubtless they would have told me that White Christmas was a “proper” song for Christmas.

They were wrong. Once the sublime opening salvo of Once in Royal David’s City from “A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols” is discounted “A Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues & Kirsty MacColl is THE Christmas Song.

I first heard this version of the song on RTE Radio 1 last year. Adapted and performed by Gerry McCardle with Colette Proctor it goes to show what a wonderful wordsmith Shane MacGowan (not forgetting Jem Finer, who co-wrote it) can be.

I hope that you have a peaceful Christmas and get set because 2011 is going to be full of challenges.

The Nativity – The Digital Story

Merry Christmas one & all, do try and leave your keyboards alone for a few days.

Update your complaints procedures.

I’m in demob mood, it’s the eve of Christmas Eve and there has been an excess of serious stuff to deal with for most GDPs this year. Please take some time away from your profession and resolve to see the farcical in the excesses of bureaucracy that are threatening to take the joy and spontaneity out of your life.

Just imagine how much fun you could have slipping this example of your typical response to “feedback” from your patients into your practice manual, ah well you can but dream! (Thanks to The Word newsletter for this)

H&S hasn’t reached West Cork yet

The big freeze hasn’t passed West Cork, inspite of being “kissed by the Gulf Stream” as the tourist brochures would have it there have been very low temperatures and snow falls.

At one of the dental practices in Skibbereen, the practice owner was quite concerned about the weight of snow on the flat roof of the building. Taking a tip from the Father Ted book of management he got his dental nurse to get up there with a brush and clear it.

Nice to see female emancipation hasn’t got past Bandon yet.

You can only think of this.

Or was it this?

The Monday Morning Quote

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career.

I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed.

I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.

And that is why I succeed.”

Michael Jordan

The Christmas Party – more risk in 3 hours than in 365 days.

Christmas Parties – the dos and don’ts.

Everybody, but everybody, has a story about a business Christmas party that has gone wrong. What seems innocent and a piece of fun after a few drinks can have repercussions for the life of the company.

My uncle, who owns an engineering company, got to the point where the business had grown so large that he had to maintain his distance from the rest of the workforce, something that didn’t gel with his leadership style. It took just one individual getting lubricated enough to lose his inhibitions and tell my uncle in no uncertain terms what was wrong with him, his management style and the company generally to prove the point. Thereafter he invites the workforce to have a drink with him when they finished for the holiday period, he attends for half an hour, makes polite and measured conversation ensures there’s enough of a float behind the bar to keep the diehards going for a few hours and then makes his apologies and disappears.

I know of one dental practice owner who was effectively “blackmailed” by an employees after an ill advised kiss and cuddle during the Christmas “bash”.

Do you invite partners? My advice there is to ask the team members if they want them to tag along, in my experience most of them are happy to leave partners at home as they can inhibit the fun. They’re not part of the in-jokes and they often resent the (male) practice owner or associate who spends so much time with their (female) partner with whom they have a close working relationship no matter how professional it is. There can be a problem with the partner of the owner resenting the amount of money that is spent on a good “do” as they can see it as money that could have been spent on themselves.

It’s time for a confession – I made my first “move” on the person who is now my wife and business partner at a practice Christmas party 25 years ago. It worked and we were both sensible enough to not let things get in the way of our working relationship. But I think we are the odd ones out.

So here’s the official party (ouch) line from Peninsula.

At this time of year many businesses look at having an office party, but there are always concerns about just what will happen at these parties and to what extent the company is responsible.

There are always risks when you put people together in any form of gathering which increase when it is a social gathering and increase further if alcohol is served. Where this is a company organised event the company can be held liable for the activities of its employees if problems were reasonably foreseeable and the company has not taken all reasonable steps to prevent them. Drunken behaviour at a party where the company is providing alcohol is predictable so you need to take steps to manage this and ensure that your employees know what is expected of them. Send a memo round to all staff reminding them that as this is a company function they are expected to behave in an appropriate manner and that the company has authority to deal with any issues that occur at that event. Set out that any unacceptable behaviour, including breaches of the bullying and harassment procedures, will be subject to the company disciplinary procedure in the same way as if they occurred during normal working hours.

You should actively encourage responsible drinking. Try to limit the amount of free alcohol available to each person and ensure that bar staff are instructed to refuse to serve alcohol where appropriate. Consider allowing unlimited soft drinks to all employees but limit any free alcohol to a responsible level. It shouldn’t be necessary for your staff to get drunk in order to enjoy themselves.

While it may not be overly popular with your managers, consider having designated non-drinkers from the management team who will be responsible for dealing with any issues that occur at the party before they get out of hand. It is also worth reminding all members of staff with supervisory or management responsibilities of the dangers of getting into compromising situations with junior staff members.

Remember the dangers of anyone drinking and driving and it is worth reminding all workers of the obligation not to drink and drive. It is important to stress that anyone who drinks and drives in a company vehicle will be subject to disciplinary proceedings.

You will also need to deal with the added issue of people who overindulge at the party and then are inexplicably struck down with a totally unforeseen malady the next day and are not able to work. Clearly set out to all staff that any inability to attend work due to self inflicted illness will be treated as a conduct issue. However, by far the safest way to minimise this problem is to try and hold any party on a day when most if not all of your staff will not be required to work the following day.

Some good news from Haiti

The rather serious young man in the picture is Jose Dessources. Shortly after our son, William, was born Susan & I decided to sponsor a child through Plan International. We were allocated this little boy who is now 17 the same age as our son. He lives in Haiti and looking back at the correspondence over the past decade and a half or so has been a sobering experience.

Haiti seems to have been through all sorts of natural disasters from hurricanes through earthquakes to epidemics.

The response to these has been has been painfully inadequate due to the poor infrastructure with repeatedly corrupt and incompetent governments doing little to alleviate the lot of the population. You may be familiar with Haiti from the sixties when Papa Doc Duvalier, his son Baby Doc and the evil TonTon Macoute conducted a reign of terror which featured genocide as a way of intimidating the population.

Haiti is situated on the Western side of the island of Hispaniola, which was the site of the first European colony in the New World, the Eastern portion of the island is the Dominican Republic. The annual income per head in Haiti is $1,300 per year in the Dominican Republic it is $8,200.

There is an irony in its poor status as it was the first independent nation in Latin America and the world’s first black-led republic after a slave rebellion.

Following the devastating earthquake in January 2010 which killed at least 250,000 people, Jose disappeared off Plan’s radar, like hundreds of thousands of his country men he was presumed to have been made homeless. As cholera spread through the capital city we became increasingly anxious for the fate of Jose and his family.

Yesterday we received a letter from Plan to tell us that Jose and his family were alive and well, at this time there is very little information but our prayers have been answered. So Jose wherever you are I hope you and your family have the best Christmas possible and that 2011 is an easier for you and your country.

If you have a child or children of your own please take some time to think about sponsoring a child through Plan, knowing about Jose has helped William to understand and appreciate his place in the world. At £13 a month can you really say you can’t afford it?

Make the most of staff appraisals

From Pitt, Godden & Taylor’s website

Make the most of staff appraisals

It is important to hold regular staff appraisals even if you have just one employee.
They do not have to be intimidating or formal affairs, but they do have to be clear and well thought-out. Ideally, staff should be appraised every six months.
From your point of view, you can use appraisals to tell your staff how you think they are doing. If you are pleased with their performance you can use the opportunity to reinforce their behaviour through encouragement and reward.
If you are not satisfied with their performance you can use the opportunity to help them understand where there is room for improvement and suggest ways in which they might accomplish this improvement.
Be specific. No one likes being told, ‘Well, I just think you need to get your act together generally.’
From the employee’s point of view an appraisal provides an opportunity to discuss their future with your organization and to raise any issues that might concern them.
It also allows them to vent any frustrations they might be feeling.
Don’t be frightened to give them the space to let off some steam. Listen sincerely and objectively to what they say and note any points you think are valid for future action.

PS Who appraises the business owner? Well, I do for some of my clients – want to know more?

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