Archive for August, 2017

When I saw a plastic water bottle lying in a flowerbed in Kirstenbosch on Sunday, I wondered what kind of person dumped it there, spoiling the experience for everyone that followed, until such time that someone picks up the bottle and puts it in a bin.  The behaviour of one unknown person negatively impacts the experience of many.

Don’t we often do the same thing to ourselves?  We do things that can have a “non-biodegradable” impact on our lives and productivity unless we consciously remove the behaviour from our everyday lives.

Just three examples of our “plastic bottle in the flowerbed” behaviour:

  • We don’t say “no” enough, and end up spending time doing other people’s work and neglecting our own, or end up working overtime.
  • We don’t delegate, with pretty much the same result as not saying “no”. You should only do what only you can do.  That’s your unique contribution to your organisation and life.  Delegate or outsource the rest.
  • We rush. It’s been said that people who rush make about 20-25% more mistakes than those who don’t rush.

Here’s a thought… Once a week, maybe on a Sunday evening, review the week and see if you did anything that could have a long-term negative impact on your productivity and quality of life.  Or simply if you did anything you would have preferred not to have done.

If yes, “pick up that plastic bottle” and make an effort to avoid that behaviour in future.

Keep your flowerbed for living a productive, happy and fulfilling life, bottle-free.

Quote: “I realized I made a big mistake and if I could have it over again, I would do it so much differently.” – Hansie Cronje



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As I was driving to a meeting on Saturday, I listened to Beethoven’s 5th Piano Concerto (the Emperor), and as I arrived at my destination, there was about 5 minutes left of the final movement and I just could not switch it off.  I opened the car door, and duly the parking attendant made his appearance.

I turned up the volume and made as if I was conducting the orchestra.  I looked at him and to my amazement he started dancing, as if he had someone in his arms, with a huge smile on his face.  I conducted and he danced and we both had fun for the next few minutes.

I will never know if he was also a Beethoven fan.  Maybe he was, but maybe he heard that music for the first time, enjoyed it, and danced.

Maybe Beethoven was smiling when he saw the two strangers play and enjoy his creation…

What was it that made the two of us “work together” towards the same goal, in this case just to have some fun and share a moment?

Was it the score (or “script”)?

I don’t think so.  It was hearing and experiencing it, being put into action, that did the trick.

In your life, personal and professional, do you have a script? Call it a mission statement, if you wish.

For your team, department, division or your entire business – is there a script?

If so, that’s a good beginning, because without the script, there can be no Emperor Concerto.

But having it written is not sufficient.  How is it lived out?  How is it turned into observable behaviour?  Do you and your team dance and smile as you put the mission statement to life?

If not, what can you do turn printed words into focused actions?

Maybe that’s your role as conductor…  Conductor of your own life and conductor of your team.  To take the script, and enthuse yourself and others to live it out joyfully and purposefully.

Enjoy your show!

(If you have about 5 minutes to spare, click this link to see Leonard Bernstein, soloist Krystian Zimerman and the Wiener Philharmoniker orchestra enjoy and perform the Emperor.  “Fast forward” to 38:50, and as you watch the last few minutes, imagine seeing the street scene of me conducting and the parking guy dancing away on stage…)

Quote: “The conductor must breathe life into the score. It is you and you alone who must expose it to the understanding, reveal the hidden jewel to the sun at the most flattering angles.” – Charles Munch

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Usain Bolt’s final “moment of glory” by adding more gold medal to his impressive collection, never happened this weekend in London.  But the send-off he received from the crowd was one of the most amazing scenes I have seen.

Something that struck me was that so many people, including Bolt himself, said that he not only wanted to perform well, but he wanted to have fun and entertain at the same time.

It showed, and he succeeded on all fronts.

I once heard a nice definition of “fun”:  You are having fun when you enjoy both the process and the result.  Getting to the result much be as enjoyable as getting the result.

I want to suggest something different this week:  Let’s do an Usain Bolt and do our very best to enjoy the week and have fun – and let it show!  I am not suggesting that we go as far as entertaining other, but how about entertaining ourselves this week.

Enjoy the process you go through to achieve your priorities for the week.  Let’s work with a mindset of fun and enjoyment and many “I choose to” moments, rather than “I have to

Have fun!

Quote: “While you’re going through this process of trying to find the satisfaction in your work, pretend you feel satisfied. Tell yourself you had a good day. Walk through the corridors with a smile rather than a scowl. Your positive energy will radiate. If you act like you’re having fun, you’ll find you are having fun.” – Jean Chatzky

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I mean, really?

It must have taken just a few seconds to climb the 13 steps you see below, and view it from a different angle (perspective, if you wish) to get a totally different picture.  It’s the same steps, but if you were to describe what you are seeing to someone else over a phone, it could sound as if you are describing two different sets of steps.

You and I may be having the “same” experience, yet we can experience and value it in totally different ways.

We look at the same person – you see her one way and I see her in a different way.

You and a colleague look at the same piece of work to be done – for you it seems like an easy job, but for the other person it may be a huge task.

So, what is reality?

Here is Wikipedia’s definition: “Reality is the state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear or might be imagined. Reality includes everything that is and has been, whether or not it is observable or comprehensible. A still broader definition includes that which has existed, exists, or will exist.”

And from Webster’s Online Dictionary: “All of your experiences that determine how things appear to you.”  I like this one!

When you have a difference of opinion with someone, think of the 13 steps at the Kirstenbosch Tea Room, and know that the other person has had a lifetime of different experiences to your own, and therefore the “same thing” appears different to them.

To communicate (i.e. “to make common”) more effectively, take some time, and apply Habit 5 from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”  Understand the other person’s point of view, and be able to explain it to them to their satisfaction.

Be aware and prepared that you may just have your mind changed!

Quote: “Communication is the most important skill in life. You spend years learning how to read and write, and years learning how to speak. But what about listening? What training have you had that enables you to listen so you really, deeply understand another human being?” – Stephen R Covey

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