Do as I say, not as I do. This is the standard coaching refrain. We expect the people we coach to put our instructions into practice. We demonstrate by our words not our actions. This can be for a number of reasons:

  • They’re better at it than we are
  • We can’t do it that way
  • We cant do it that way any more
  • We don’t do that way because we do it in an engrained way we can’t or won’t get out of
  • We do a short-cut version of it because we know it inside out but we need them to learn all the steps and how the steps relate to each other before they’re good enough to expedite the whole thing

This is a tough ask in coaching because we’re trying to lead by words, not by our actions which is the standard way to inspire people. At some point every coach will hit this if the people they’re coaching become better at it than they currently are. That’s what you want as a coach, at least a good one.

In business this is slightly different. We’re supposed to coach rather than manage, otherwise our direct reports don’t get a chance to learn it for themselves and grow into the role, eventually expanding beyond it. In business you can’t expect to instruct someone how to follow a process and then not follow the process yourself. Chances are they won’t follow the process you want them to and they won’t respect you either.

The answer, in sports as well as business, in fact in everything as well as business, is to come clean and be honest. ‘I don’t do this myself because [insert honest reason] but I’m advising you to do it this way because it is the best way, and you will get the best results from it.’ Then you have to let their actions, and their results, do the talking.

 

Ever had food poisoning before? The kind where you wonder if you’ll ever get out of this black hole? It feels like someone is drilling you a new eye socket, while at the same time hitting your stomach with a baseball bat. Meanwhile the rest of your body has gone to defcon 3 and is ejecting whatever is inside you from both ends?

Ever had a brutal hangover? The symptoms for me are the same. You can’t control an episode of food poisoning, even if you’re careful, but you can a hangover, so I avoid them wherever possible.

Ever had a migraine? A proper one? Guess what, the symptoms for me are the same. Unfortunately, apart from avoiding certain foods like chocolate and cheese, you can’t really control them either. Besides, who wants to live in a world completely bereft of chocolate and cheese?

The cure for all three aliments is the same. It’s not medication. I’s not really hydration, though that helps somewhat. It is sleep. If. I. Can. Just. Get. To. Sleep. I’ll. Be. OK. It’s really hard to do it with all the pain and the upheaval, but if I can finally get to sleep, I can sleep it off and emerge the other side.

So, in case you didn’t know, you do now. Food poisoning, hangovers, migraines. Same symptoms, same cure.

I was reading an article on the BBC website the other day and came across the ‘backronym’, which I’d never heard of before and which I immediately loved. I looked it up right away on wikipedia.

It is at its heart a reverse acronym, created to echo an original word or acronym. So, to borrow from wikipedia, where Radar is an acronym for Radio Detection and Ranging, the Amber Alert program was named after a girl called Amber went missing, but was later changed to stand for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response, a backronym.

Cool, eh? We can create any number of our own humorous backronyms and use them to mock our ‘acronymic’ institutions.

Here’s the thing though: the backronym the BBC used in its article was the most interesting of all. Apparently, the word camp in its adjectival meaning is derived from kamp, standing for ‘known as male prostitute’, and harking back to the dingy old days when homosexuality was illegal. Not sure about that, myself, but was delighted to learn of the existence of the word backronym.

Time flies when you’re having fun. It drags horribly if you’re bored.

Sometimes you need more time and it seems to slip away quickly. Paradoxically, I’ve found that the harder you work, the slower the time seems to go past. Let me offer an analogy.

When you’re running on a treadmill, and you’re jogging or running more slowly – perhaps in your recovery phase – the time seems to gallop past. When you run faster and really work on the treadmill, the time seems to crawl past.

When I’m up against a deadline I find that if I work harder it has the effect of slowing down the time. Now, of course, you could argue that the harder you work the more you can get done in the same time – just as you can cover more distance in the same time on the treadmill – but the point is you feel more in control of the time rather than it being in control of you. This approach also works if you’re bored.

So there you go, work harder to slow down time if you’re busy, and work harder to speed up time if you’re bored. You heard it here first. Or maybe you knew it already.

Towards the north-west of Ireland is Knock Airport in the county of Mayo. It’s a handy airport for those of us on the western coast of the country, since it flies to a few UK airports and the odd holiday destination too.

It has a slightly amateurish, making-it-up-as-we-go-along feel, which I’m OK with, since it’s small and therefore you can get through to the gate quickly.

The one thing that has always irked though is the ‘development’ fee of €10, payable by everyone 12 and over leaving. It was introduced when the airport opened, and, rather like the Forth Road Bridge toll, is still there. It’s not well advertised, either by the airlines or the airport itself, and catches out a lot of first time travellers. It also leaves a poor taste in the mouth, giving you the impression that both the airport and the country is chancing its arm and fleecing you because it has you over a barrel. My mother has recently taken to presenting a bag of coppers to the counter when paying her fee. It’s about the only statement you can make, since the office staff must have skins of titanium by now.

Anyway, I was talking to some staff the other day and they pointed out that Knock receives less government support than other airports like Shannon, and wouldn’t be able to keep going without it. I didn’t know that. So, in addition to it being not very advertised, it’s not very well explained either.

If the airport worked harder to educate its passengers about the fee, many more would leave feeling more disposed to the place, and more inclined to depart from there again.

Boredom is an appalling condition for a human being. Can you think back to all those hours at school when you weren’t stimulated, when you were bored beyond belief? It didn’t seem to matter as much back then, probably because a seemingly infinite existence stretched out in front of us.

What about your job? Does your job bore you?Do you suffer boredom between 9 and 5? Does it have boring bits?

Boredom is a scourge of modern life. It is the most abject waste of our precious time. We have to avoid it at all costs. No-one should ever be subjected to it. What bores us is probably repetitive so we should automate it where possible.

As soon as I find myself feeling ‘this is boring’ I try to change something about it.

Yes, avoid boredom at all costs. It can lead to no good and is the work of the devil, if such a thing exists.

I’m all for brevity and impact. I’m sure you are if too you’re a regular reader of blog posts. It would be awful to fall foul of TL;DR syndrome, which is Too Long; Didn’t Read if you didn’t know.

My favourite exchange, the most brief an impactful example of dialogue I can think of, which could work for letters, emails, chat and so on, is the following:

From: Someone

To: Someone Else

Subject: Re: ?

!

(That’s it; this isn’t part of the exchange.)

In other words, to the question ‘how did it go?’, comes the reply, ‘It went great!’, in the most economical way possible.

Sometimes, punctuation can be so effective, it can be used instead of words, like this…

Signs on the road – literally painted onto the road, as opposed to ones on a pole which itself is on or by the road, if you get my drift – confuse me. Why they are upside down? Or perhaps it’s back to front?

The huge majority of people in the western world read from top to bottom and left to right. We start top left and we finish bottom right. Yet road signs start from the bottom left and finish top right, perhaps assuming that you read the nearest word first and the word above it second.

Let me give you an example. When I’m driving and I come across this sign on a road:

AHEAD

SCHOOL

CAUTION

I read it ‘ahead, school, caution,’ rather than its intended meaning, the much more helpful ‘caution, school ahead.’

Perhaps the best solution is to arrange the words in the same order as they currently are, but further spaced apart, so as I’m driving I read the words separately, rather than together, and I’m less inclined to treat them as one clause and start at the top.

It’s the little things…

 

 

 

 

Pore over this, if you too are similarly mistaken.

You learn something new every day. It’s always a pleasure for me when I learn something new about the English language.

I’ve often used the term to ‘pore over’ something, meaning to take in all of the detail of something. Finally, a hundred times after I’d used the term or heard it used in conversation, I saw it written down in a story on the BBC website. My initial reaction, arrogantly, was that the writer had made a mistake and that I was right. 15 seconds later I was proved wrong. How could I have doubted the August BBC?

I had always assumed it was to ‘pour’ over something, as in the example of pouring gravy on my roast potatoes, or pouring our eyes over a document or painting. But no, different root word, different etymology, different spelling.

A child died recently in my local community. A young teenager. It’s hard to write this post, because even though I didn’t know the child, those close to me did.

The last funeral I was at for a young person was 20 years ago when a cousin of my good lady died aged 19. This recent event brought back all those memories.

The over-riding feeling is that of a sense of waste. A waste of a life not lived fully, a life that could have united with someone else to bring forth other lives. And of course a sense of deep loss and empathy for the family who will go through the kind of torture that will only marginally lessen over decades.

As you can imagine, the funeral was a desperately sad and upsetting affair, full of women and children crying, men with their faces set in a grim rictus. In other words, the kind of funeral for any premature death.

I could offer the usual platitude that this kind of thing puts our everyday troubles in stark perspective, which of course it does, but what struck me at this funeral were the words of the sermon at the funeral 20 years ago, delivered by the young priest.

He had one piece of advice, which was, ‘never forget, never forget them.’ Then he added, pointing to his heart and his head, ‘they live here, and here.’