Baggage

We’ve all seen the part of the film where the aircraft is losing height heading towards a mountain range. Everything surplus to requirements is thrown overboard in the hope that enough altitude can be gained to clear the range.

Welcome to the average Board Room right now.

Unless you’re the pilot, the navigator, an engine, or fuel you’re baggage.

It is, as they say, not personal. It’s for the greater good. That may not be a lot of consolation. (I say this with some feeling, As a healthy 69 year old, If I get the virus, I may have very limited options. It’s a weird feeling ceding control)

But we can decide – if we can’t make ourselves critical to survival, make a parachute.

  1. Be clear about what you want. You are unique, and in the right place, with the right people, will make a difference that lasts. 
  2. Use this time to learn something new and relevant to your ambition. Company training is for the company’s benefit, not yours. 
  3. Make your own map, rather than rely on the on you’ve been given. If you do end up leaving by the cargo hold door, have an idea of where you want to land.
  4. Understand your options. We lose sight of the landscape when we don’t have time to look out of the window. Become familiar with the territory you’re passing through.
  5. Build your network around point 1. Find those people you want to travel with, and who can help you with points 2-4.

You might end up on a journey you hadn’t planned. That doesn’t stop it becoming an adventure.

I, They, We.

I’m staggered and hugely uplifted by both the resourcefulness and the generosity of some, often small businesses at this time and equally distressed by the attitude is some whose sense of entitlement sets them apart.

The “I” crowd

Those who think “they” should be sorting this out.

Those who criticise the inevitable gaps appearing in a 10x event. Ten times demand for Zoom. Ten times orders for garden centres servicing people safe in their gardens. Ten times the requirement for PPE.

Those who think “they” should have provided for this, but who also want the low costs that have been one of the primary catalysts of many of the challenges.

“Just in Time” supply chains. Economically efficient, but fragile when things don’t go to plan.

Outsourcing to low cost areas. Great for cost and margin spreads, but not so good when infrastructure is damaged, or when local needs override contractual niceties.

“Shareholder Value” that combines demand for returns with transient loyalty. A sort of Investment “hit and run”

“They”

The other side of the coin.

Those who see their customers as data points with credit scores. Whose every statement reveals a system geared to the needs of the “I” crowd.

To be fair, it’s what we train people for. To be an efficient part of an economic engine.

We

The uplifting part of this current crisis. Those who don’t calculate, just do on a deep understanding that there is no “I” and “they” in a community, only a “we”.

“We” are filling the gaps, staunching the wounds, and improvising. The scrubhub crowd. The butchers, bakers and probably candlestick makers who have gone overnight to local delivery to people they know. The NHS volunteers.

Not one of them driven by a calculation, a proposal and an approval process.

And?

I wonder where this will take us.

The community spirit and idea of a “gentler America” evaporated within six months of 9/11 according to researchers. Will this be the same?

Maybe not.

For one thing, this will last for months, even years, not be an instant, shocking, episode. This will last long enough for people to recognise why it has happened. The pain and loss will be steady and chronic. There is no enemy, other than the one we have created through our choices.

For another, there are upsides. I have several people I work with whose teams are already asking what they can retain from how they are having to work. They don’t want to go back to the old normal.

Additionally, we are discovering who and what is really important. Who does what for who and why. What matters.

What we recognise more than ever right now is that each of us, our businesses and communities are centre stage in what’s going on, and our performance will be remembered, hopefully for a while.

Originizing is about becoming who you really are. To uncover the original behind the copy we are often encouraged to be.

It’s a good time to do that.

You’re on stage. Smile.

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.

William Shakespeare

We’re all actors in our own play

Today, in a coronavirus, artificial intelligence, climate crisis driven environment we are all actors in an improvised play. We do not know what the next line to be spoken is, or where the play will end.

How then should we now behave?  Perhaps like an actor.

Few professions demand so much training and commitment and reward it with so little certainty, and so few prospects of security.

Most actors spend time between roles and they rarely just sit there waiting for work to turn up.

They know that there are others who can play the roles they want, even if they are convinced no-one else can play the part quite like them.

They spend the time, depending on where they are in their careers, doing everything from washing dishes to make ends meet, to immersing themselves in things from which they will learn. Sometimes they write. Sometimes they explore. At no time do those who last just cruise.

Most of us, me included, are operating at only a fraction of our capacity. We know we are capable of more, but experience huge resistance to developing our potential through a combination of fear of failure, to convincing ourselves our current comfortable life is something we deserve because of the work we have put in. 

What does your agent / employer think?

So how at any point should we rate our prospects? If investors had bought stock in our, how would that stock be valued? What would our price to earnings ration be?

Are they buying us for the prospect of growth, or for a safe, regular dividend on their investment in us?

If what we are doing represents real value, that value can be realised regardless of our current employer, our P/E would be high, and our shares in demand. 

If however all we are doing is providing dividend – a short term return on what we are being paid, then under pressure, our personal stock price is likely to collapse. 

What part do we want to play?

How might we think about our value? 

What is is that we understand, or access, or can do that is difficult to replicate?

How have we grown that in the last year; the last five years?

What are we exploring, and learning? How are we innovating ourselves?

It’s really easy to stall. Early success resulting in a comfortable income in comfortable company.

Reality is that very few of us are motivated by money on some sort of a linear basis. Those who study happiness think there’s a flattening off of the money motivation curve at around $75,000 a year. Beyond that, it’s as much about ego and power as it is about money, and the people motivated by that are a minority.

Being comfortable is a dangerous place to be. It’s ok when things are relatively stable, and business models last for a period of years. Until even quite recently, it was possible to fuel a moderate, comfortable career off the back of a good education and a large, recognised name employer.

Now, that’s dangerous. The career half life resulting from being a one hit wonder is rapidly reducing. Our past success is what the finance people think of as a sunk cost. It’s behind you, and no guarantee of future performance. 

What stage are you at?

Shakespeare talked of seven ages of man:

  • Stage One: Infancy
  • Stage two: Childhood
  • Stage three: Adolescence
  • Stage Four: Youth
  • Stage Five: Mid-Life
  • Stage Six: Senescence
  • Stage seven: Dotage

I think our careers follow a similar pattern, and that many of us stop when we get to mid life on an assumption that we can somehow stay there. 

I don’t think we ever could really, but now, in current and emerging circumstances, we certainly can’t.

So, what to do?

  1. Check in with yourself. How much are you learning from what you do versus how much is repetition. How youthful does your career feel?
  2. How much does what you do engage and excite you. (Clue: if it doesn’t, welcome to stage six, Sensecence)
  3. How much of what you do will be eaten away by technology?
  4. How are you developing the human side of you, your unique qualities, the part that cannot be replaced?
  5. What are you doing to explore new areas that challenge? Who are you talking to, who has your interests at heart,  who will challenge you?

Coronavirus is not a one off event. It’s a stage call. Are you ready?