Are We There Yet?

London 2012 banner at The Monument.

London 2012 banner at The Monument. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As someone who was not sporty at school I have a huge admiration for people who are dedicated, train hard, and ultimately find a way to excel in their particular field.  When they manage to reach their goal against expectations and despite obstacles I am even more impressed.


Kudos then to Nicola Adams, who is the first Olympic Women’s Boxing Gold medallist at the London 2012 Games.


Speaking to the Guardian newspaper in September she describes what she has learned from competing in the ring, with hundreds of people watching her bout “…[it] teaches you a lot about confidence. Now I know that if I want to get something done, I can do it as long as I put my mind to it”.


That’s a philosophy which Nicola has put to the test, as she notes there are still some people who disagree with the idea of women boxing.  As she goes on to say, “If a woman wants to play a sport, she can. There’s nothing stopping us”.


Perhaps the factors stopping anyone from achieving what they set their heart on are twofold.  First other people may disapprove, or get in the way; second there may be an element of self-doubt at work.


Hats off to Felicity Aston, the first woman to ski solo across Antarctica in January 2012.  Again, like with Nicola Adams gender expectations shaped attitudes to future success, as did a small inner voice.


Speaking to journalist Huma Qureshi, Felicity said that “…the most powerful motivator was thinking of all those people who had underestimated me or put me down – I didn’t want them to be right, I wanted to be right. And so I’d get the strength to carry on, to get up and go”.


She continues with an, I think, interesting generalisation about the relationship between gender and confidence.  She says “Sometimes I work with amazing women and yet I sense they have this lack of confidence in their own intrinsic abilities. Sometimes I do too – and I wonder why we do when men don’t?”


I wonder if actually men might just present an air of confidence about their intrinsic abilities, whilst they secretly may feel just as doubtful about their competencies.  An article which appears in the Motoring section of the Daily Telegraph got me thinking about this.


In the piece explorer and ‘natural navigator’ Tristan Gooley noted that “Being forced to confront the fact that their [natural navigation] system does not work makes men flustered and usually results in them putting the pedal to the floor in a desperate bid to avoid the reality of the situation”.


That seems like a brilliant metaphor to me.  Some people, men and women, are consciously not competent and choose not to address that fact.  They may be the ones who never end up at a satisfactory destination.  Perhaps for either gender it is better to ask for help, to reach your destination, rather than carry on frustratingly doing something that simply doesn’t help complete the journey.

Mind Your Language

Andrew Mitchell in Pakistan

Andrew Mitchell in Pakistan (Photo credit: DFID – UK Department for International Development)

Unless you work in total isolation you probably realise that what you say, and the way you say it, has an impact on the people around you.

If you are a senior politician, like Government Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell, it is probably unwise to (allegedly) use the word ‘Pleb’ – a derogatory description for a common person – within ear shot of a Downing Street police officer with whom you have just had a row.  It’s bound to antagonise a public servant to have that language buzzing in his ears.

If a comment made in the heat of the moment can be contentious how much worse is a homophobic remark, deliberately launched into cyber space towards Tom Daley and his diving partner Pete Waterfield, through social media?

Interestingly the Daily Telegraph article notes the Head of the Crown Prosecution Service, Keir Starmer, saying ”the time has come for an informed debate about the boundaries of free speech in an age of social media”.  How much thought is needed not to seem a twit when tweeting?

All of which makes the casual references to people being ‘mad’, when they in fact have a mental health issue, seem sadly common place.  Sadly as mental health charity Mind has evidence that verbal abuse can spiral into worse treatment.

So, what is the solution, given the pressures that people are exposed to simply going about their daily lives, and the ease with which some people use offensive speech?

Taking a deep breath, releasing it slowly while counting to ten is probably not enough these days.

Maybe the guiding principle should be: speak to others, in an emotionally charged situation, as you would be spoken to yourself?

Brand Loyalty

Unique Selling Proposition / Unique Selling Po...

Unique Selling Proposition / Unique Selling Point / USP (Photo credit: photosteve101)

I was talking to a recruitment consultant last month and found myself agreeing with her when she said the current economy makes this an employers’ market.


Large numbers of people without work provides employers with a rich selection of talent sitting on the shelf from which to choose.


It is possible that the most attractive prospects at eye level are younger people.  Younger applicants, offer new perspectives, fresh out of school or college.  They are perceived to be more malleable and less expensive than mid-career job changers.


All of which made me think about personal branding.  Having a good professional reputation, can improve personal marketability, whatever age you are.  It can make you stand out from the other people looking for an opportunity to shine.


In my recent experience of attending public meetings and community events, reputation isn’t always something people consider when they represent themselves, or speak on others’ behalf.


For instance what would you think if you heard at a Town Hall meeting that a representative of a faith organisation was prepared to ‘use force’, if that got his planning application approved?


On the other side of the coin how does a Community centre volunteer come across as she describes her venue as an ‘exciting place, from the time the doors open to when they close’?


Each speaker is making a statement about who they are and how you might relate to them.


If reputation is important the challenge is to establish and enhance one’s own.  That involves finding a unique selling proposition for yourself, to be known for your: attention to detail; ability to influence others; technical competence and so on.  Having earned that USP the trick must be to keep building on it.


Trying to build on an established USP can be risky too.  As I mentioned in previous posts, Nick Buckles – head of G4S, the Olympic contractor providing security staff – recently found that out the hard way.  How difficult will it be for his organisation to enjoy its previous tried-and-trusted status I wonder?


Not ready for the ‘Reduced To Clear’ shelf just yet?  It might be worth asking questions:


Am I presenting myself as offering Everyday Value (reassuring, dependable, nothing fancy)?


Or do I work at becoming a Premium Brand (luxurious, different, something-a-bit-special)?


I’ll do some market research on my own offer and let you know what I find.