Monthly Archives: April 2012

An old blog of mine…….strokes, death and the aftermath.

I was looking through some old postings and re-read my blog from over a year ago, written when my Mother was dying as the result of a stroke. I need to finish the blog – it was interrupted by the need to be with my Mother, and then  to repatriate her and arrange the funeral, and then to have a period of planned insanity. I will complete it soon. But I wanted to share it again, first, because it is so different from  how  I usually am, and the many responses I had to the blog when it first appeared made me realise that we are all “different selves” when confronted with death and suffering, or with neglect and idiocy. And I was made forcibly aware that it doesn’t matter who we are, what we do for a living, how much money we have, how bright or otherwise we are, or who we know – at heart we have that turbulence and pain right at our core and it is how we manage it that matters.


Add some integrity and stir…….

I ambled around the idea of being selfish in the last blog, mainly because I had been, and I was doing a bit of self-justification. But it set me off on a canter about integrity – I was selfish, and left a project, because I wanted to maintain my integrity. It had taken considerable reflection and planning, and was not a whim or a fancy, and I had done my best to reinvigorate the role in the first place when I realised it, or maybe I, was going off the boil,  and to put in place all I could put in place to reduce the risks of me leaving, but it was still a rigorous decision making process not without its pain. And I did my usual agonising thing about it before and after, although after was easier because the decision was made, and it was a good one. But I was leaving behind some great people and had had some real fun and achievement out of it.

So…….integrity. What is it? And why is it powerful enough to make me lose sleep?!

“Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.  The state of being wholesome; unimpaired.  The quality or condition of being complete, pure.”  That was what the dictionary said.

“Reduced risk of compromising moral or ethical ideals, a need to move on before effectiveness is crucially impaired” is what my head said.

I will not claim to be pure, wholesome, or even complete, but I do claim to have some moral integrity and a bit of an ethical code motoring around in my aura.

My company has the tag line “Henry Ford said: quality means doing it right even when no-one is looking. We agree.” When we started the company we started out with ideals which are still as fresh as the day we started: we have a sincere and genuine commitment to people, to human rights, parity of services and equality of opportunity. We believe that everyone, regardless of all the usual suspects like race, (dis)ability, religion, gender, sexuality, forensic history and so on has a right to a Normal Existence and the support to create that. We have been around a long long long time most of which has been spent in and around different kinds of  health and social services and have seen it all – as it says on our website ( we have seen the Good the Bad and the Ugly. And our experiences drove us to want to influence and improve – to make sure that, wherever possible, we made things better for people, with people.

S0……… we have Integrity, dammit, and sometimes that means we have to take difficult decisions.

I have made the decision, a number of times, not to take a piece of work because I am not confident that the prospective client actually wants to improve rather than just meet compliance. We are not interested in simply or solely meeting compliance targets, although that matters very much indeed. It is my belief that in order to continue to reach people who need to be reached we have to reach compliance targets as a given before moving into the work that makes a difference. But that is only the first step, the loosening of the stabilisers on the pushbike before taking off and getting the yellow jersey. If an organisation or group – or even a single service – wants to make things better and actually make a real difference to the people using and working in their services, then  I am there, will go the extra mile or ten, will work with them as hard as it takes to make that difference. If I don’t see that commitment and understanding then I will walk away. And that sometimes costs us money!!!!! But some things are more important. We are good at what we do and can  make that genuine difference, but not if the organisation hiring us has different goals or is looking for a different set of results. I can cut your costs, but  won’t do it at the expense of quality. I can reduce your  staffing but I won’t do that if it leaves people at risk. But I can cut your costs and improve your quality if you don’t think throwing money at services improves them but rather it is about leadership and direction. I can reduce your staffing if you can think creatively about what you do and what the people using your services actually want rather than what you think you can or should provide.

So, I think what I am leading to is that my integrity caused me to take what could be seen as a perverse decision: I walked away from a project before completion because I knew that I could not, if I was to understand my own motivation, remain in place as effectively as I had been given the changed circumstances. I would, to put it simply, not have performed. Not have wanted to perform might be nearer the truth. I would not have done the best that I could for the client hiring me, or for the people using and working in their services. So integrity meant that I moved on. Integrity also meant that I did everything possible to mitigate that before moving on, as well.

I like my integrity – it walks with me and reminds me why I do what I do and that it isn’t all about me. It does sometimes give me a hard time and a sleepless night, but I forgive it because it has also meant that I have met an infinite number of great people and had opportunities to make a difference and have had a real ball along the way. And it continues! I am having another great time with some fab people even as we speak, and if my integrity had not pushed me away from my last project I would not be in my current project and loving every minute of it. Thank you, Integrity! You may join my bad knee in the list of Unexpected Things That Have Improved My Life………

Self, self self………

Sometimes being selfish is awfully hard.

I enjoy my work, I genuinely love what I do for a living. I am lucky. Mind you, I do it quite well……

During my work I meet a huge variety of people, most of whom I like, all of whom I respect and from all of whom I learn something, usually profound, but even if it is  just how not to do something or how to achieve a serious level of being-annoying-ness it is worth knowing! It is my genuine pleasure and privilege to do what I do with whom I do it.

Sometimes during a project I find I have done as much as I want to do or achieved as much as I wanted to achieve and run out of steam. I plunge all my energy into my projects – that is why they generally succeed. I energise the planning and research, I embrace with enthusiasm the refining of the planning and the partnership working that supports success. I review and refine and refine and review, and I lead a team towards success, making sure that they know they are succeeding. Then, the project is complete. Either because it has concluded and achieved resolution, or the parameters have changed and it is no longer attractive to me.

Not long ago I moved on from a project because it had concluded for me. Lots of reasons, the shape had changed, the direction changed, and someone with whom I could never have shared oxygen for any salary joined the project, and I would have to share oxygen with them if I stayed as I was.  The project was still Live, had legs and was moving onwards. It was me that had concluded, for all of the above reasons.

Like any relationship it took some reflection, pain and work to draw to an end, especially as it was me ending it and I had been invited not to end it. It was, like the end of any relationship, painful to a degree – not devastating, but painful enough to sting. But, like many relationships, enjoying it at the beginning was no guarantee that I would keep enjoying it or that it would continue to be attractive to me. The people I worked with were fascinating.  The work itself was the work that I love:  the planning and actioning and the drive towards excellence and the leading of a team and the thinking and the slowness and the rushing and the remorseless need to respond quickly and the hustling and wheeling and even the dealing. All the component parts were there, and I loved it. And then I didn’t.

Knowing what it is that attracts you to a particular project or job ( or partner… can see where I am going with this!) matters, because if you get it right and choose correctly you will be happy. If you are happy you are more likely to succeed, and to form good relationships. Equally important is knowing what repels you, or what the warning signs are when the role begins to lose its lustre.  I have been in some conversations about a role when I have instinctively thought “back away slowly, this one will bite”……..and on analysis it is clear that it was because of the interviewer who, be honest, is the representative of the organisation for whom you may one day work. In one, I sat with my back to a biggish window facing out of the guys office onto the open plan area. Not a good start and either he meant it to be uncomfortable or he was an eejit. He spent the entire time peeping round me at the open plan office area. Eventually I politely asked him if I could help him find who he was looking for so that we could get on with the interview in peace. I did not wait to hear if I had been successful………

In another, I brought along as requested a carefully crafted, well planned and thought through, rehearsed and (I thought) effective presentation only to be told the laptop was not working and cheerfully told not to worry as it didn’t matter anyway……this did not make me feel valued and it certainly did not impress me with the interviewers skills……..I left.

I have also had conversations with people of great charm and courtesy, who enthused me so much I took even more care to make sure I shared with them my achievements and enthusiasm, people who had infectious and bouyant interest in not only their jobs, but mine as well, and were clearly genuinely interested in the people around them. I liked them, and I have worked with most of them. We clicked.

I think what I am driving at is one of my favourite phrases: “Life’s too Short”. I don’t have time to spare to work with eejits and bores who have no prospect of change or any redeeming features. Why would I? I spend a lot of my time and energy at work, with the people with whom I work – if the chemistry isn’t there, what is the point? Eejits and bores can pass the time well enough but don’t ask me to spend my working days with them. I don’t spend my personal time with them either. Life’s too short………and if you have tried hard, reflected and thought it through and there is no realistic prospect of fresh developments or of repairing any bridges, well……………..

BUT,  in any relationship there are subsidiary relationships. I have left behind some dear people about whom I care deeply, and with whom it was a pleasure and a privilege to share space. And this is the point of this post: I had to be selfish and back away from a project that was still in progress, and leave behind some great people, because otherwise I would have been too unhappy to be as effective as I would want, and that would have been toxic for those relationships. Painful as it was I had to walk away from some people with little warning, because of the need to be selfish. And being selfish was very hard.

BUT, I urge you to be selfish. If you want those good relationships to survive, want to keep the sanity of the “family” of people you have had the honour of working with, be selfish. Know yourself, know your warning signs,  understand if the role is worth struggling to revive, and if not do the decent thing and stride off towards a new adventure with those lovely memories intact for everyone. Make sure you do as much as you can to relieve the pain, tie up the ends, tuck in the straggly bits, smooth over the jagged bits, leave a nice smell behind if you can. But make sure you do just that: leave. You and they will be happier – and who knows, perhaps it will prompt some development in someone else as well. And you can be proud of that.

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