On Stage

going on stage

A large part of what I do with clients involves me standing back and noticing what’s going on for them, internally and externally in areas that are hard to monitor with data, but which can be sensed.

A large part of my “off site” load is reading and monitoring trends (I am a recent convert to Blinkist and Feedly which are great tools for filtering what to pay attention to)

What I am noticing is that the vast majority of articles, and good percentage of books that are written seem to be written for actors on a corporate stage. Full of different aspects of how to play your part better, find better “agents”, get noticed.

Person as role holder on a business stage in some form of soap opera.

I’ve often wondered what happens to actors in soap operas who have been playing a role for many years. Who goes home at night – the person, or the part? When do they notice?

I think that the most important task we have while we’re here is to be open to our calling and ready to listen to it when it appears. To make the fullest contribution we can with our unique individual talents. Not easy when the role is full on, but vital none the less.

William Stafford wrote it beautifully:

The Way It Is

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among  things that change.  But it doesn’t change. People wonder about what you are pursuing. You have to explain about the thread. But it is hard for others to see. While you hold it you can’t get lost. Tragedies happen; people get hurt or die; and you suffer and get old. Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding. You don’t ever let go of the thread.

We are in times of unprecedented change that will change just about every aspect of how we work, and will rewrite many of the soap operas we are part of today. No matter how well we have played the part, it won’t stop our character being written out of the script.

What will matter, more than ever is who we are and the thread we are following.

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Authority

On the road to…..?

We are in a time of unprecedented turbulence, at the conjunction of changes in geopolitics, technology, demographics and the universal existential threat to our environment. The status quo has gone absent.

We need to step into our own authority, to be the genuine author of our own lives.

In his introduction to “The Alchemist” Paulo Coelho identifies four barriers that stop us; firstly that we are told from childhood that everything we want to do is impossible; secondly that we will hurt those around us if we set off on the path we want to follow; thirdly the fear of the defeats we will encounter along the way and lastly the guilt and fear of realising what we have always wanted. (If you haven’t read it, put it on your list – it is a beautiful little book)

More prosaically, we talk about the path from dependence, through independence to interdependence. Each state is largely a choice, with the hurdles above looming in front of us.

The turbulence we are in is key. All of us in the West alive today have been brought up in conditions where dependence has been encouraged – reward for conformity. Dependence on an employer, or the state. Independence achieved either by climbing to the top of the pile, or becoming an outlier and abandoning the pile altogether. True interdependence largely countered by a culture of competition.

In the very near future we will find out who is right about the impact of Artificial Intelligence – those who say it will destroy jobs, or those who say it will create them. Whoever is right though, it seems sensible to hedge our bets.

To identify what it is we really want to do, or are prepared to commit to, wholeheartedly.

To seek mastery of something that gives us independence, and allows us to make a choice with whom, and for what purpose, we are willing to be interdependent.

To step into our own authority.

Craft vs. DIY

Over the last hundred years we have got used to their being “Expert Answers”, “Best Practice” and consultants of all stripes have made very good livings from them.

The trouble is, they no longer work. The challenges we face are so complex, so multi faceted and so connected, solving problems by analogy no longer does it. The fact that it worked for someone else, somewhere else, sometime else does not mean it will work for you.

That leaves a dilemma. With so much call on our attention, how do we proceed. Consultants offer “band aid” relief but rarely long term solutions. There are thousands of good books and videos out there by reputable authors, but who has time to read enough of them to get a good balanced view? The battle for talent – recruitment and retention – is brutal.

We can adopt a DIY approach – doing the best we can with who and what we know across a range of disciplines from accountancy to the impact of machine learning, and end up with flat pack answers. Functional, cheap, and fast but no different to other people’s answers. Probably fine for the functional areas of operations, but not for those areas of relationships, purpose, connection and design, which are the stuff of original thinking.

Or we can adopt a craft approach to the areas where the difference really gets made – leadership, connection, compelling purpose. The things we are remembered for. Making a real and lasting difference to people’s lives.

Flat pack is fine for the kitchen table, but people will notice the difference between the artistry of the chef, and the convenience of a ready meal in the food you serve on it.

We can’t be craftswomen or men at everything we do, but that’s no reason for not dedicating yourself to the craft of something people will remember you for.