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July is about change

For many of my clients, the end of financial year is right now (June 30) and so July is time where lots of significant changes occur in businesses – new budgets being set, strategies reviewed and perhaps adjusted or even reworked, new goals, new KPIs for staff. Some of my clients are busy integrating their numerous systems into ERPs such as SAP – not a small feat. Some of my individual clients are wanting to change career paths, explore new life options, change countries (or continents), change their outlook on life. Lots of changes are in the air. So July is for me about change and serving my clients by providing a sounding board, asking lots of questions, gently challenging and probing about why, what, how, when and where… and then some! One of my favourite and dear professors, Michael Tushman, said in one of his lectures that: “death, taxes and change are a certainty, an inevitability”, and of course – he was right. We change as people – our nails, hair, skin – in 12 months one is a completely new person at a cellular level, albeit not aware of it. We grow older. Our tastes change. Our clothes change. Our lives change. ALL. THE. TIME. And yet – silly as we are – we resent it, we fear it, we sabotage it, we fight it, we bitch about it, all the while moving towards it and with it, despite all the efforts to the contrary. A wonderful teacher, Esther Hicks said in one of her seminars: “Why would you choose to paddle upstream? You get tired and exhausted and don’t really move upstream much. If you would just let go and go with the flow, everything would unfold as it should.” She is a very very wise person. When I see struggle and fight and resistance, I ask my clients: “what is this effort going to achieve you? How is it helping you get to your goal? How is this worry, this anger, this sadness, going to get you to where you know you really want to be?” It takes “a minute” to accept and embrace change -and, you know what, it is doable. It is not THAT hard either. There are things that one can do to make the transition easier, more palatable. And if you are an executive in charge leading the effort, there is all the more reason to learn about the process of change, the method, the pitfalls, the signs, the tips, the tricks. I would be totally chuffed to help you with changes that you are facing – I have been “under the boat”, and “around the block”  a few times,led  and worked with some extremely smart people on change projects, small and large. You learn best by doing – each time is different and yet similar. So if you would like some assistance, I would be glad to answer your call. In my opinion – change is easier to handle when you have some change-savvy company.

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a little aboout Pinxit and me

Coaching conversations, change, organisational strategy, organisational design are just a few activities that we work on at Pinxit

9k=-1Samantha Patel is an experienced HR/OD executive, coach, management consultant, facilitator, and program designer. She has been consulting to corporate and private clients since 2008 as well as managing a successful career in strategic human resources and organisational development in Europe, USA, Asia and Australia.

In more recent years, Sam has supported a wide range of executive teams and individuals to transform their style and approaches in order to effectively lead performance-focussed and values-driven cultures. She has successfully partnered with many corporate clients in the development and implementation of Emotional Intelligence and Leadership programs to drive organisational and individual effectiveness.
Sam’s coaching approach is underpinned by her ability to draw from psychology, contemporary management, adult development and learning theories and models, aquired from universities such as Harvard, Yale, Webster as well as from her personal and work experiences.
Her development seminars, as well as her coaching engagements, are structured and emergent, evidence-based and outcome focussed. She integrates her deep practical business experience together with her work as a psychologist and organisational behaviouralist to provide support to teams and individuals in their development endeavours. If you would like to contact Sam directly please send an email to samantha.patel@hotmail.com – she responds to every enquiry personally.

“To Get Different Results, You Have To Do Something Different” – Samantha Patel

A Storytelling Expedition Around the World

I exit the train at Circular Quay Station at the heart of  Sydney Harbour. I admire the view of the Opera House and the Harbour bridge… then turn around and make my way into the city where I have a meeting with Samantha Patel.

I exit the elevator at the 9th floor of a modern office building where her company, Pinxit is located. A few minutes later I’m having a tete-a-tete with Sam.

She has been consulting to corporate and private clients since 2008 as well as managing a successful career in strategic human resources and organisational development in Europe, USA, Asia and Australia.

In more recent years, Sam has supported a wide range of executive teams and individuals to transform their style and approaches in order to effectively lead performance-focussed and values-driven cultures. She has successfully partnered with many corporate clients in the development and implementation of Emotional Intelligence and…

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September is about….letting go

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A few weeks back I asked a very old friend about his relationship – or, more precisely, about the seeming success of it. He told me that he and his wife decided at the very beginning to “push each other up” and never to put one another down.

You may think: well, duh, it’s obvious. But is it really? Stop and consider for a moment: how many people are currently in your life that do not uplift you, that give you negative vibes, drain you of energy, mask negativity with humour, put you down… be honest: how many??

Do you have days where something someone said, that on the surface appears to be OK, is really very hurtful when you think about it and analyze it? It leaves you feeling …. what? angry; resentful; frustrated?

I must say I thought that I have cleaned up my life quite well – in the past 4 years I have divorced people who don’t make me feel good about myself, and have stopped reaching out to people who don’t contribute to my life in a positive way, at work or play. So, I thought I was good and that another “letting go” won’t be necessary.

Well, I was wrong. Last week I discovered another hurtful, negative person in my life. I don’t want to bore you with details, suffice it to say that the real person behind the mask was ugly. Spiritually ugly.

As I was leaving this ugly situation, I was feeling very fortunate. Fortunate that I can leave any situation that I don’t like; that I can freely choose who will be in my inner sanctum. Fortunate that I can let go.

It took me a week of processing to finally cut all the ties. At first, I was hoping to mend this rift,  but then realized that my heart was saying, nay, it was screaming: NO! This person does not belong in your world. And I listened, and I obeyed. The heart is sage.

So. Do I feel sad? Do I feel I need closure? Well, no, I don’t. I feel relief and lightness of being, as I let go.

Letting go is healing. Cathartic. For me, in this situation, it meant that I was growing, again. And that, my friends, is a great feeling.

I think I have a little bit more letting go to do still, though, with some other people – this situation made me take a good look at my relationships again. Will keep you posted!

And so,  this September I challenge you to think about your relationships and friendships. Start by noticing how various people make you feel – really give it some thought. Hint: you should feel good around people you consider friends!

Columbia University published research about “How Peers Make a Difference: The Role of Peer Groups and Peer Relationships in Personality Development” in 2014. It basically concludes that the quality of one’s peer group determines largely the choices that ones make in life, even the success that one achieves.

Jim Rohn puts it this way, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” My advice is: choose those five wisely – and let go of the ones that do not contribute to your life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

August is about…. inspiration

Samantha Patel presenting

The lady standing in front of that serious portrait is me – this was a presentation that I gave on women and gender gap in Australia… An interesting 2 hour conversation that provided me an opportunity to talk about something that I care about very deeply.

It could not have happened at a better time for me – I came back from my European adventures a mere month before and was feeling very flat, uninspired, and just blah. So when my clients asked me to give a talk on gender gap, I jumped at the opportunity.

I read Sandberg’s book “Lean In” first… and yes, Sheryl is inspirational, and for a moment or two I wanted to be her when I grew up, but then decided I liked being myself better.

I attended an International Women’s Day event and met some wonderful, inspiring ladies and reconnected with a few amazing girlfriends in the process.

Then I read Ariana Huffington’s book as well and really enjoyed reading about her experiences – many of which sounded like mine and those of my girlfriends.

And somehow, it was as if the whole world conspired to inspire me to create this workshop – the more I focused on this topic, the more circumstances and opportunities presented themselves for me to learn about women and our lives today. I got so inspired that I started writing a book on my experiences as a woman in a corporate world. Watch this space!

But what I want to say is this – inspiration doesn’t just happen, it takes effort and focus. When you are feeling stuck, flat, uninspired, bored…. try picking a topic, something that interests you and just start …. start reading about it; or talking about it with a friend; or writing down some thoughts about what you are thinking about.

And if you are really really really stuck –  my advice is to get a coach who can help you to get inspired about your life again.

A good coach will have conversations with you that will re-engage you in experiencing wonderful things that life has to offer. A good coach will provide inspiration – a coaching conversation is really exchange of energy between you and the coach and when it is authentic it will became a co-creation dance between you.

But don’t take my word for it – try it! if you dare….

 

 

 

Wine, vodka and leadership

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When I was young(er), I was very eager to climb the corporate ladder and become successful in my chosen field of organisational behaviour and human resources management. Anyone who has ever had such an ambition will tell you that climbing this proverbial ladder is not really an easy feat, and that you look for direction and advice from the leaders around you. You look at their behaviour, the way they are in the world that you are trying to navigate.  In my life, most of my role models and heroes are still my role models and heroes. Sometimes though, your role model, your hero, mixes  a little too much wine, vodka and leadership.

I worked for Augusts for about 4 years. He was great fun, witty, wonderful, charming, a fantastic story – teller, compassionate,  creative, exciting. Everything he did was done with a sense of fun, he made the work place fun. Whenever he would come to my office to discuss an HR issue in his area (not many), we would end up talking about a million of other things as well. I admired him, as a leader and a human being.

But.

Augustus had a fault “in his stars” though. He liked his tipple. In my young(er) days I did not appreciate wonderful wines (things have changed subsequently) and I would always be quite impressed to see him imbibing a bottle of  wine at lunch and then have 3-4 screwdrivers after work and not look drunk. When we attended any of the work functions, he was always the life of the party, but always with a drink in his hand. An alcoholic one.

The first two years were fine, he did nothing out of the ordinary. I thought he drank a bit too much but he seriously did not seem affected by it. Well, he certainly drinks a lot, I would think, but he can handle it.

The cracks started to appear in year 3. At first it was small things: a missed morning meeting; not shaving for a couple of days; slightly dishevelled appearance after lunch; some deadlines that were missed; his staff commenting about his forgetfulness; weird, alcoholic odour that kind of hung around him at times, especially in the morning; lunches that he never returned to the office from.

I really did not realize that anything was wrong for a longest time – or maybe I did not want to admit that my idol was falling, falling, falling. I defended him – I blamed stress, workload, late hours, but at the back of my mind there was a nagging thought that the drink was the culprit of this behaviour.

The last year of our work together, things really started to go wrong. I found him asleep in his car at the parking lot one morning, with an empty bottle of vodka on the seat next to him. The front left side of the car was completely scraped – he apparently tried driving, and wrecked the car. He did not remember it.

The week after, he came to the office after lunch slurring badly. Couple of employees complained to me that this was not the first time. Other employees came forward to voice their concerns about seeing him stagger most days, about the smell, about lack of interest in their performance, about seeing him drink in his office, about not getting direction. Apparently there was a bottle of vodka in his desk draw and he was seen sipping from it.

When he showed up drunk at a senior leadership team meeting and slurred his way through his presentation, I knew that his time at the company was over.

For me, it was so sad to see him this way. Gone was the halo. I was feeling ashamed. For him. Of him.

Augustus was let go. My job was to inform him of his options, discuss contractual obligations. No golden handshake, just statutory entitlements. I could not really look at him, I looked through him, and I must admit I felt sad but also angry that he had disappointed me. What can I tell you – it is hard for me to watch my heroes crumble.

In  my mind, the damage was quite bad. His behaviour had scared people. No one comes to work and wishes that the boss will be intoxicated. Erratic behaviours of a boss, a person “in charge”,  makes staff feel insecure, even scared. Productivity obviously goes down the drain. The boss (his behaviour) becomes the center of everyone’s day: “let’s not disturb him, let’s cover up for him, let’s get out of his way; OMG here he comes, he’s drunk; another day of crazy”- these were the comments that I noted.

I truly have compassion for Augusts. And I wish I had the nous to recognize the signs much earlier and do something about it – talk to him, get him help. I wish I had a coach to guide me through this. And yes, hindsight is always 20/20, sadly.

I still remember the good times and the bad times and wonder where he is and whether he is OK. I tried finding him on FB – no luck.

Have you ever worked with someone who had a substance abuse problem? How did it make you feel? Let me know – I would love to hear your story!

Can a boss be too nice?

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Someone sent me a link to this great article from Harvard Business Review (https://hbr.org/2014/04/the-problem-with-being-too-nice/) and it made me chuckle and reminisce on my own experience with a “Nice Boss”.

Let’s call him Vern.  Vern is the epitome of an old school gentleman, well dressed, wonderful presence, gravitas, but also one of the boys, witty, and fun. A nice guy. A nice boss.

When I first started working with Vern, I truly respected him – he was measured, a thinker, generated great ideas, and although a bit “slow” for my liking (I tend to make decisions rather quickly) we worked well together. At first.

Vern liked people and had a great quality – loyalty. At this company, we had people who worked there 15+ years and everyone I spoke with really loved Vern.

Soon, though, i started noticing odd things.

  • We had a few older ladies working as administrators…. but mostly they played solitaire on their machines. I distinctly remember asking one of them to book an appointment for me with her boss and she eye-balled me and replied, huffily: “Do it yourself”. Clearly I was interrupting her game.
  • We had a general manager in the last stages of terminal illness who was making erratic decisions left right and center because of the strong medication he was on. In my mind it was an equivalent of having a very drunk pilot in the cockpit.
  • We had people on payroll who stopped working for the company for a year. The front line managers never did the paperwork.
  • We had General managers who were running huge losses on very big and important projects because of incompetence, lack of accountability and attention to detail in contracts.

And Vern and I talked about it. And talked. And talked. And talked.

He simply was not capable of making decisions that involved holding people to account or even a hint of conflict.Because, as he explained to me, he was a nice guy. Possibly implying that I was not as nice … ( my consolation was that it went with HR profession – some folk did call me a perfumed crocodile… and worse)

When we had a change of guard (after Vern retired), things quickly improved as the new illustrious leader was VERY decisive (more on him next time).

Vern’s fear of conflict meant that he was not really running a company – he was running a not-for-profit charity. Or as his team would fondly say “benevolent institution”. Despite his great mind and his wonderful ideas, he fundamentally could not LEAD because he saw himself as a saviour, he felt he was responsible for everyone’s happiness and well-being. And while I loved that he cared, it frustrated me, and the leadership team immensely that we had to compensate for the inefficiencies by working twice as hard.

So can a boss be too nice – yes, in my opinion. When there is no balance with regard to business vs. people, it is ultimately the people who are on the losing end. Good people will leave, leaving the mediocre behind. Mediocre companies generally lack innovation, they don’t change with the times and ultimately fold (Blockbuster; Borders).

Verns of this world don’t really get it – I would say that Verns suffer from inflated ego, because really it’s about them being nice, and not what is best for the business and the people in it.

Have you got any insight to share on this? Have you experienced a Vern in your life? Did you struggle with liking Vern but feeling resentful at the same time (and frustrated). Let me know!

What’s politics gotta do with it???

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When my boys were little they would engage in very sophisticated games with me to get what they wanted…. the outcome of the games was about 60-40 in their favour, firstly because I was fascinated by observing them play politics, and partly because I am in favour of choosing my battles carefully… even losing some to gain advantage. So, politics. We play it every day, with our kids, our significant others, our bosses, our friends… Life without politics is non-existent.

I was reflecting on working with a few people who played politics and the impact they left not just on me but on the organisations they were leading. Some played really well. The others – not so much.

Take Francis for example (not his real name). This man is intelligent, highly educated, handsome, well mannered. Has everything going for him to succeed, to be a “rock star” leader. And yet… his MO is control everything; pit people against one another; insult publicly; gossip; lies; innuendo.

True story – he complimented a CFO on his shirt. CFO says: “Thank you, it’s Rodd & Gunn”. Francis replies: Oh, that’s a poor man’s Polo…”. CFO was completely thrown off for the rest of the meeting.

This organisation was paralysed by fear of what Francis would say or do – at every level.

He went so far as to spy on people by forcing the CIO to report on everyone’s emails, especially if they were looking for a new job on Seek. Then he would torment people by insinuating that he knew who was unhappy and looking for jobs. He seemed to enjoy it immensely.

It was a sad, sad company. And nothing seemed to help – coaching; business schools; leadership programs; When the shares plummeted to below par, the Board started being a bit more rigorous and after 18 months it ended in his termination – but with a generous golden handshake. Many damaged souls are a steep price to pay.

Unfortunately, lots of companies do this. Even when there are ample results of horrific office politics (like fraud; turnover of 45% or more), companies chose not to address the crux of the problem but rather take a path of least resistance, justifying it by avoiding publicity, destabilizing an organisation, “better the devil we know” etc. etc. etc. Ad nauseam.

What needs to be acknowledged is that people are not stupid.  They know what is going on, but most are concerned about keeping their job. So they will  stay in this daily hell and try to survive, but for them change is not possible, bad behaviour is not only tolerated but rewarded, and so they toil away. The damage to human spirit is excruciating.

How possible is to turn around such culture by only changing the leader and not the Board? In my experience this is the hardest cookie of all.

In my mind politics is not evil – we do it all the time, every day. It is quite neutral like electricity, or money. It depends on how it is being used: “for power of good or for power of evil”. Or in the words of a very very fabulous ex-boss of mine: “Play the game, not the people!”

This is my own experience and my own opinion – what do you think? Let me know!