Thursday, September 24, 2015

My Mistress Sea

My Mistress Sea

My earliest memories of the sea were made during our annual trip to the east coast of Yorkshire.
That pungent assault to my senses; of seaweed, salt air and sand, are seared forever in my consciousness.

A two hour journey by bus through the winding tree strewn roads, were eventually betrayed by a glimpse of that ever demanding mistress, the sea.
Oh how we screamed with joy as our eyes caught the first glimpses of the twinkling lights, the green blanketed Atlantic. With each bend we turned, a deeper shade of her was revealed until at last we could smell her. A profusion of salt laden, fish and chip promise that was her harbour and refuge.

With never a minute to spare, our compass was fixed on the bleached sands and frothing waves that seemed to whisper "come home!". With almost a year in-between visits, I always sensed a kind of betrayal and remorse for having been away so long. Never a moment to spare as I ran to her pleasures, her embrace, the rekindled love affair that could never satisfy that yearning to belong. To be home, once again, alone.

Hours would pass as the sweet scent of fulfillment would lure me ever more into this solitary place. Passers by would smile and chat whilst amidst their gaze, a life long yearning and friendship was cemented. No playground nor entertainment could equal the immense pleasure that she afforded me. From dawn to dusk, her embrace would captivate and consume each waking hour of each passing day.

From time to time other events would capture my gaze; a scurry of seagulls, a returning boat with a parasol of gulls vying for bait and bilge pump waste. Yet it was fleeting and never permanent, as our friendship would be. In the heat of the day, we would often share an intimate moment where sea, sand and surf, would become one. At times I would disappear beneath the waves of foam as silence engulfed my senses, and the world faded from my focus, and all too quickly return.

Her cold breath would be shaken from my body by the stark contrast of the mid-summer sun, as I rolled in the baking sands, only to emerge like the crumbed plaice and chips that warmed our belly later that day. It was the best of all times! It was like theater, and hot chocolate. Warming friendship that never waned even into the cold winter nights that were to come. I found in her a lifelong escape from the mundane. My rescuer in times of trouble, my life support and means of recovery.
I found in her an interpreter of language without a word being spoken. Counselor of life and guru of peace. Mistress, lover, confident and life giver.

The passion she reveals is unlike any other. Power, might, strength, and a call to deafen the most delicate ear. From a trickle at tides turn to a bellow amidst the rocks at high tide. One cannot ignore her, as she attracts and draws us ever deeper into her gaze, with whispers of promise and enticement, as that glint of mystique is forever about her. Trapping us, beguiling us into a lifelong commitment and promise, never to betray her, to leave her, or cheat.

Holder of secrets and lifter of spirit, forever open for discourse.
Whatever time of day or season of year, she is forever that pool of solace and sharer of faith.

I have shared her moods and she mine. Heard my anger and swallowed my tears, echoed my cry and yet held forever my trust, integrity, reputation and hopes for a new day to come. At times I hear the call of generations gone, of ancestors and sojourners that too found in her a lifeline too strong to break. Separated only by time, we share a bond, a commonality, a friendship, a love.

And yet today, many years have passed, many oceans crossed, many lives come and gone....

That pungent assault, that breath of enticement bid me closer and closer, as I once again rekindled our love in drawing from her wells of refreshing.
Just a glimpse,
a gentle embrace of her salt kissed lips and I am home!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Creating Initiative in a team!
Ordinary people find problems, above average people find solutions.
Were common sense really common, we would all be the better for it, sadly it’s not! What turns an average team into an above average team is having and taking the initiative.
Can people be trained to have initiative? Of course, but it’s always easier to just find and hire them. As a trainer, mentor and coach, I prefer the challenge of developing people to take initiative. I have always taken on apprentices in whatever organisations I have led. Interns, trainees, temporary staff, youth leaders, work experience and trade skills. The same rules apply. It requires initiative, to initiate initiative.
Either one provides a culture of initiative or the opposite of it will evolve. Humans have a propensity for taking the path of ease. Like water, we gravitate to the least point of resistance.
Regardless of team size, organisational resources, finances or skill set, the same principles apply. Individuals can implement the following strategies by engaging a coach or mentor to keep the accountability process fluid.
  • Form a vision team
Ideas people are great! They bring colour and texture to the big picture. If you are personally threatened by someone dreaming bigger than you, it’s not for you. Creating a vision team will loosen the reigns and increase responsibility and resources. Detailed people are freaked out by such teams, (with the why, what, how, when and what if questions) which is why a Strategy team is a complimentary initiative.
  • Establish why boundaries are a great resource
Good leaders that delegate do not give away authority lightly. Delegation must always carry with it accountability, with responsibility. It would be foolish to give your toddler a shiny new bike and let them use it whenever and however they chose. Learning to ride safely, requires insight with oversight until a relationship of trust serves both the rider and the gift.   
  • Establish a “no failures” culture
Unless we appreciate failure as a learning tool for success, we will instil fear of failure in those around us. Repetition is a learning process that empowers us through the familiarity of the process. This puts us at ease whilst building confidence. By persistence, the snail entered the ark
  • Value training and development
Performers on a high wire act have all the freedom they want, but there are immutable forces at work that must be obeyed in order to complete the performance successfully. The difference between amateur and  professional is training. If the budget does not prioritise consistent training, development ceases.
  • Mentor mentors
People are more likely to initiate in others if they learn the key to being mentored themselves. Mentoring is relationship based and focused on instilling wisdom, experience and networks which support skill advancement. Every leader should develop leaders (see my site for pedagogy) 
  • Strategy team
Keep in mind that the purpose of these groups are to build initiative, which in turn develops ideas that will mobilize people. Visionaries gravitate to fellow visionaries, but without the strategists, what started out as a vision can quickly become a dream at best and a nightmare at worst. Imparting the vision to strategists with a clear preferable future is the leaders responsibility. Finding tangible ways to achieve the vision is the role of a strategy team. Accountability and responsibility for the outcome is not given away, as initiative evolves and ideas flow.
  • Celebrate milestones together
 Corporate celebration is critical in keeping the team focused and empowered. Public affirmation of “a job well done” is powerful, as is rewarding key initiatives. With over thirty years in training and development, I can concur; that teams who embrace positive and public affirmation of progress, build strong connections and ownership of the vision.
  • Find it? Fix it!
Initiative is about responsible action, and the best way to initiate this initiative is burn it into the culture of the organisation. I once sought the advice of a seasoned leader in a large organisation, in regard to his selection process of his interns. His response was startling yet wise. He looked for individuals that voluntarily picked up litter and waste, or solved practical issues without being asked. Since then, I have made it a point of saying, “every problem YOU find, YOU are responsible for fixing”. No one else to blame, no one else to delegate to, (unless a specialist is required), initiative is about ACTION.  Once this simple principle forms part of the organisations culture, initiative grows and ownership ensues.
Tony Mckeown is a director and owner of coaching 4 life ltd. His services span academic programme management, course design and moderation to public and private training organisations. He also provides itinerant ministry and leadership training for none profit organisations and churches world wide.  

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Two Most Important Days In Your Life

Recently, I have been writing articles about time and the value we place on it, in the way we live out our days. One cannot help but be challenged by the magnitude and impact that time has on us, especially in the seemingly judicial way that it is allotted to us.

Sure, there are significant and life changing events that happen during our lifetime, (such as meeting our life partner, the birth of a child, the discovery of lifelong friendships and other fortuitous events), yet none more so than the two most important days in ones life.

I can point to several humongous events that have shaped my life and the way in which I live out my days, but without doubt, two specific time frames have served to direct my life, and for that reason, I believe they are the two most important days in my life (and perhaps yours too)!

The first most important day of my life, was the day of my birth.

It took place in a season in time when the world was changing as a result of the Second World War. Resources had been rationed, my home town recovering from the re-build needed as a result of heavy and consistent bombing. Prosperity was for a selective few and communities still worked for the common good.

All of these environmental issues, served to fashion the world which I entered into, yet had little impact on the effect upon the Kairos time-frame, although it was marked by the Chronos schedule with a chronological date, which I celebrate annually each October.

Without this event, the second most important day in one’s life isn’t possible. All that life is and can be, is dependent on the magical event of conception, gestation and safe birth. The first most important day in ones life!

The Second most important day in one’s life, is equally as important. 

None of us where ever created to fill in time, or occupy space until we die. Socrates said. “The unexamined life is not worth living”, yet all too often, life is not examined by us (to the point of self-discovery) and we are the poorer as a result.

“The man who has no inner-life is a slave to his surroundings”. Henri Frederic Amiel

Many events impact the way we live and a multiplicity of circumstances shape the way we live, yet unconditionally, the second most important day in one’s life, is the day we discover WHY we were born!

I do not believe life is haphazard nor is the individual’s part which they play in it. Therefore, whilst the most important day in one’s life is life itself, the second most important day, must be the day we discover what we are to do with it.

“In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years”. Abraham Lincoln

Many people are pre-occupied with “Making a living” and miss out on “Making a life”.

My world is consumed with individuals who struggle to find purpose and meaning to their life and as a result, fill their day with pursuits rather than reason. Many have a fatalistic view on life and as such, use time as a means to an end. I believe this is living life in its poorest form.

“We do not remember days, we remember moments”. Cesare Pavese

So here’s the challenge, when all is said and done, it’s not what’s said, but what’s done!

As you are reading this article, we can assume we both share the most important day (our birth), but do we share the second most important day WHY?

Life is more about making an impact than it is making an income, and as Albert Einstein once said, “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value”.