Do Clothes Really Maketh The Man? #NaBloPoMo

I stumbled upon this time lapse video today showing the transformation of Jim Wolf, a US war homeless veteran, who struggles with alcoholism. The clip has been doing the Internet rounds and has elicited some strong reaction. It is quite an amazing three minutes of footage showing the effect that appearance can have on our self esteem. I commend it to you.

This is not to say that simply by giving a person a makeover all their problems melt way.  Homelessness is generally a symptom of wider issues other than a lack of financial resources and to tackle it requires not only accommodation but also support to treat the underlying cause.

What the video underscores is that the giving of dignity and respect is a special gift and further that giving comes from the simplest of gestures. No doubt the choice of Jim’s “after” wardrobe was designed to give maximum impact for the purposes of the video. The transformation could easily have been effected with a more casually tailored look and I venture to suggest that it probably would have had the same impact on Jim’s outlook. The magic is in the gesture of introducing a man to his own potential and in the acknowledgement of Jim’s existence as a fellow human being.

The boost to a person’s self esteem and confidence when they feel they look good is immeasurable. This is after all the cornerstone of the beauty and fashion industry and why a visit to a hairdresser can provide a rather effective form of therapy.

The clothes therefore don’t really maketh the man, but they can embody hope and the motivation to strive for a better life. Something we should all remember when we are cleaning out our closets of unwanted clothes.

You can read more from the maker of the video in this Blaze article.


CEO Is Not An Acronym For Character Entirely Optional

I read a wonderful post today by my fellow blogger, BTG, about an American football coach who suspended his entire high school football team for demonstrating poor behaviour to others and showing a lack of accountability. You can read the post here.

It started me thinking about the great character paradox. As parents we all want our children to grow up being men and women of character and our messaging of the importance of character starts at an early age. Toddlers are taught not to hit, push or scream and to share and play nice with others. Later, we teach our children to be sociable, inclusive and respectful. As their journey through life continues we reinforce the “treat others as you would be treated” rule and the value of compassion, caring and helpfulness.

And then something happens. Some where along the way, the messaging that reaches our children’s ears seems to change, at least for those children that are destined for the corporate/business world. Whether it’s from peers, educators or society the volume control on the following increases:

  • nice guys finish last
  • the squeaky wheel gets the most oil
  • who you know is more important than who you are
  • you eat what you kill
  • it’s all about the results and not the journey.

So, we teach our children to be adults of character and society and business rewards them for being anything but.

What if our business leaders were prepared to do exactly what this coach did to his team? What if our CEOs and senior managers were spilled for showing lack of character and had to earn their way back into the bonus pool?

Sadly, this Nirvana will never be reached in my life time, at least not in my industry. In business we continually confuse confidence with competence and build reward structures to promote narcissistic behaviour and traits. And what’s more, our company’s mission statements and internal policies do nothing more than add to the we value character rhetoric. Our children inevitably learn what is really rewarded and set out to play the game.

Show me a CEO who reprimands his top salesman for treating the office staff with disrespect and I will show you a man of character. Show me a managing partner who rewards and encourages team contribution over individual billings and I will show you a woman of character. I will also show you a more engaged and productive workforce.

photo courtesy of

photo courtesy of

The best managers I have worked for have all been people of character. These are the few who show us that we can still achieve by treating superiors and subordinates respectfully, by valuing human beings and by being accountable for our decisions and actions. They share and play nice with others, lessons learned in kindergarten. They don’t toot their own horn or spend their time brown-nosing.

It’s not complicated. Even a toddler can understand it.

Coincidentally, I received a flyer from my old high school today advertising an alumni lunch event around the topic “What Defines Success”. The speakers are all high profile individuals either alumni or parents of present students. By assembling these speakers they have already presumed a certain defintion of success. To me its just more of the same old.

Imagine if we could spill the corporate team and only rebuild it with those who demonstrate real character?

Imagine if character was not entirely optional for our CEOs and senior managers?

Kudos to the coach for spilling his team and taking the time to teach his young charges an important lesson. It’s a huge step in the right direction.


Forget FoMO: In Business Its FoBIA

I’m pretty hip, cool, groovy and with it, most of the time. Having said that, I think I just proved otherwise by using those expressions. Maybe I’m mad, bad and trending. Whatevs the case I’m totes going to go ahead with this post.

Recently, I happened across an article about FoMO, telling me I was missing out. Naturally, it reeled me in, I mean if I was missing out, I couldn’t knowingly continue to miss out on what I was missing out on. Turns out I was missing out on knowing what FoMo meant. For the equally uniniated hip, cool and groovy  FoMo is:

Defined as a fear of one’s social standing or how one is perceived among peers,  and a need to constantly know what is happening and what others are doing, FoMO  is most prevalent in people aged 16 to 35.

Read more:

FoMo is driven by our social media, constantly connected culture. All the information about what your friends, rivals and social set are up all just a click of a button away. This is apparently creating a narcissistic, anxious and sleep deprived Gen Y. However, as the article points out it’s not all bad, FoMO may actually make you strive to better yourself. All that comparison, might just light a fire in your belly and give you a way forward.

How 2013 is this though?

These human traits have existed ever since the Garden of Eden and when you know who was a boy. They have certainly existed in the workplace ever since I was a girl. Social media just aggregates the information and delivers it in a way where actual human to human contact is minimised. It hangs the hubris out there for all the world to see, but can be a wonderful outlet for compassion, connection and achievement. I’m keen on social media, but understand the personal responsibility that comes with its use.

The reality is we all buy into FoMO to some degree or another – whether it’s gossiping over the back fence, rubber necking our way past a car accident or following our favourite celebrity on Twitter. It is not just the purview of 16 to 35 year olds. They may just lay claim to social media FoMo.

phone charging poleWhich brings me back to the business world. In the past couple of weeks, I have had cause to observe just how anxious people get when they are not tethered to their smartphones or other technology devices. At every business meeting I have had over the past fortnight people have laid their mobile devices on the table before them. Whilst they may have been on silent, at least a couple of them continued to check emails coming in. One even responded and made a call totally unrelated to the topic of the meeting at hand. What message does this send to the people in the meeting?  At a seminar, half the participants sat phone in hand, scrolling away on their screens.

Is business on the phone really that pressing? Are we really that indispensible that we can’t focus on one thing solely for 1 hour? Or that we can’t switch off after hours?

Or are we a creating a business culture of FoBIA?

FoBIA is a term I have coined to mean Fear of Being Irrelevant, Already.

It seems that the need to create the perception that we are important or busy by remaining tethered to our communication devices abounds. It also looks good to an audience if you are constantly checking in, it means you must be important. Check your emails at 8pm, 9pm, 10pm, 11pm or you might miss out on a piece of information that you could have picked up in the morning *.

But how much of this is real business need, and how much of this is fear and patch protection? How much is posturing?

Worse still, is this becoming a habit?

I refuse to believe that the advent of Web 2.0  forces us to redfine the meaning of ‘need to know’ and respectful person to person communication. Respect is the bottom line for all interactions, online, offline or in outer space and committing your attention is a part of that.

True leadership and ability to influence begins with making other people feel valued. The size of one’s inbox or phone is no measure of business prowess.

So to all you legends in your own inboxes, I say no need for FoBIA and forget FoMO. Human interaction will enrich your life, information in and of itself will not.

For another post on technology and its impacts today read this great piece from Barney who blogs at Views from the Hill.

* Legitimate after hours use is not included in this statement, for example working on a time critical or global transaction where communication with other time zones are necessary.

Where Politics Ends And Decency Begins #blogboost

Image courtesy of flickr
Leo Reynolds photostream

Today marks the day when bloggers far and wide take to their keyboards. Thirty one posts in thirty-one days, October 1 to October 31, The Ultimate Blog Challenge. I am one of the bloggers who has chosen to accept this Challenge and am aiming to post once a day during the month. The rules however permit flexible posting as long as you post thirty-one posts by October 31.

My first post centres around politics. I have always felt it unwise to mix blogging and politics, but that’s only a personal preference. A lot of my blogging friends mix the two quite successfully. So with some shining examples in the back of my mind, I’m going to dip my toe in the non-partisan waters. It may give some readers a break from coverage of the US Presidential elections and an alternate perspective to the way they view politicians.

The Political Background

Like the US and Britain, Australia has two major political parties – Liberal and Labor. Unlike the US, the Liberal Party is not actually liberal, it is in fact conservative and is the Republican/Tory equivalent. The Labor party is more left wing and traditionally has represented unions and the labour movement. I’m not sure whether you would say it was on all fours with the Democrats, but it is certainly more liberal than the Liberals.

We currently have a Labor government headed by a female prime minister, Julia Gillard. Ms Gillard is our first ever female prime minister and holds power as a result of a deal brokered with a handful of independent MP’s after the 2010 election produced a hung parliament. Her performance and that of her Government has not been popular,  although our country seems to be suffering from a crisis of confidence in the alternative.

Ms Gillard is 51 years old and approximately three weeks ago her 83 year old father passed away whilst Ms Gillard was in Russia attending the APEC summit. By all accounts, Ms Gillard was close to her father and he influenced her ideoligical direction and involvement in the Labor movement. The Gillards were immigrants from Wales where life was not kind to John Gillard as he was forced to work from the age of 14, despite his desire and love of education. His loss was clearly acutely felt by his daughter.

The Conservative Radio Commentator

Enter Alan Jones, high rating radio commentator and talk-back host who makes no secret of his conservative political leanings. Some might go so far as to say he is the Rush Limbaugh of Australian politics. Mr Jones has on numerous occasions expressed his dislike of Ms Gillard’s politics and Ms Gillard herself.

Last week Mr Jones gave an address at a Young Liberals function. During that address he was heard to call Ms Gillard a liar and suggested that Ms Gillard’s late father had therefore died of shame. You can hear the relevant extract from the speech in the video below which also shows a transcrip of what was said.

The Fallout

The fallout from the remarks has been sweeping and swift. Politicians from both sides of politics have condemned Mr Jones’ attack as have waves of social media users. Consumers have been quick to call on those companies who advertise on Mr Jones’ radio show to withdraw their business and for Mr Jones’ corporate sponsors to pull their sponsorship. As of writing, sponsors and advertisers who have in fact pulled their dollars include Mercedes-Benz, Woolworths, Bing Lee and Freedom Furniture. Further ,Mr Jones made a public apology this afternoon, admitting that his remarks were in bad taste. You can read the text of his apology here.


This is an extraordinary event in Australian politics throwing up almost universal condemnation of such inappropriate behaviour. The comments have been called ugly and insensitive as well as being out of line. And rightly so.

To put this in context until recent times Australian political debate has centered around political issues rather than character issues. Most US citizens would yawn at Australia’s  recent lacklustre comprehensively scripted political campaign. Generally, at best, most Australians have merely a passing interest in politics in the three to six weeks of an election campaign. We are not a “rah-rah” banner waving political nation. To have a country pay attention and almost speak as one in favour of a prime minister is novel.

Politics can be a grubby business. It is a profession where perception becomes reality and spin is king. We all get cynical about politics and politicians at times, but that is no reason to lose our sense of decency for our fellow man or in this case woman. Respect is and needs to remain a key platform in our dealings with each other and commentators should stick to attacking the issue, not the person. The timing and content of this comment is reprehensible and cannot be justified on any basis. It transcends basic human decency.

Mr Jones, Australians want leaders they can respect. Whether those leaders are politicians or commentators with considerable influence.  Being in the public eye is not an invitation to belittle or dehumanize a person or their sense of loss. Let’s not forget that at our core we all weep and in the words of the wonderful John Farnham, “we are all someone’s daughter, we are all someone’s son.”

The fallout continues…

Does basic human decency have a role in politics? Do politicians by the nature of the profession undermine their right to be treated respectfully?