Can we make the same mistakes, do we learn from adversity?


I sat down with a good friend recently over coffee discussing various subjects when we discussed mistakes, I said ‘mistakes; lets change the subject’, and my insistent friend said ‘yes, mistakes, we are all capable of making the same mistakes over and over, because, under stress we tend to retreat to habits of emotion regulation formed in toddlerhood’. Fascinating discussion, its true; habits rule under stress and when the regulatory processes of the prefrontal cortex (the Adult brain) are overtaxed from physical or mental exhaustion.

In French, there is the expression “jamais deux sans trois” (literally: “never twice without a third [time]”). The term is used to express that something which has already happened twice is likely to happen again.

Mistakes have a negative image. So we hide them, play the blame game, or beat ourselves up when they occur. In fact, these actions compound our mistakes by creating stress and anxiety, damaging relationships, squandering time and money, and most importantly, often causing us to repeat the same mishap over and over again. The truth is, mistakes aren’t inherently bad –– what counts is how we view and react to them. How do you respond to mistakes? Do these actions sound familiar

William J. Clinton once said: “If you live long enough, you’ll make mistakes. But if you learn from them, you’ll be a better person. It’s how you handle adversity, not how it affects you. The main thing is never quit, never quit, never quit.”

“Never go back.” What does that mean? From observations of successful people, Dr. Henry Cloud, clinical psychologist and author of: ‘Never Go Back: 10 Things You’ll Never Do Again’ (Howard Books, June 2014),  discovered certain “awakenings” that people have—in life and in business—that once they have them, they never go back to the old way of doing things. And when that happens, they are never the same. In short, they got it. “Years ago, a bad business decision of mine led to an interesting discussion with my mentor”, Dr. Cloud says. “I had learned a valuable lesson the hard way, and he reassured me: ‘The good thing is once you learn that lesson, you never go back. You never do it again’.”

“I wondered, what are the key awakenings that successful people go through that forever change how they do things, which propel them to succeed in business, relationships, and life? I began to study these awakenings, researching them over the years.”

Although life and business have many lessons to teach us, Dr. Cloud observed “ten doorways” of learning that high performers go through, never to return again.

Successful people never again:

  1. Return to what hasn’t worked. Whether a job, or a broken relationship that was ended for a good reason, we should never go back to the same thing, expecting different results, without something being different.
  1. Do anything that requires them to be someone they are not. In everything we do, we have to ask ourselves, “Why am I doing this? Am I suited for it? Does it fit me? Is it sustainable?” If the answer is no to any of these questions, you better have a very good reason to proceed.
  1. Try to change another person. When you realize that you cannot force someone into doing something, you give him or her freedom and allow them to experience the consequences. In doing so, you find your own freedom as well.
  1. Believe they can please everyone. Once you get that it truly is impossible to please everyone, you begin to live purposefully, trying to please the right people.
  1. Choose short-term comfort over long-term benefit. Once successful people know they want something that requires a painful, time-limited step, they do not mind the painful step because it gets them to a long-term benefit. Living out this principle is one of the most fundamental differences between successful and unsuccessful people, both personally and professionally.
  1. Trust someone or something that appears flawless. It’s natural for us to be drawn to things and people that appear “incredible.” We love excellence and should always be looking for it. We should pursue people who are great at what they do, employees who are high performers, dates who are exceptional people, friends who have stellar character, and companies that excel. But when someone or something looks too good to be true, he, she, or it is. The world is imperfect. Period. No one and no thing is without flaw, and if they appear that way, hit pause.
  1. Take their eyes off the big picture. We function better emotionally and perform better in our lives when we can see the big picture. For successful people, no one event is ever the whole story. Winners remember that – each and every day.
  1. Neglect to do due diligence. No matter how good something looks on the outside, it is only by taking a deeper, diligent, and honest look that we will find out what we truly need to know: the reality that we owe ourselves.
  1. Fail to ask why they are where they find themselves. One of the biggest differences between successful people and others is that in love and in life, in relationships and in business, successful people always ask themselves, what part am I playing in this situation? Said another way, they do not see themselves only as victims, even when they are.
  1. Forget that their inner life determines their outer success. The good life sometimes has little to do with outside circumstances. We are happy and fulfilled mostly by who we are on the inside. Research validates that. And our internal lives largely contribute to producing many of our external circumstances. And, the converse is true: people who are still trying to find success in various areas of life can almost always point to one or more of these patterns as a reason they are repeating the same mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes…even the most successful people out there. But, what achievers do better than others is recognize the patterns that are causing those mistakes and never repeat them again. In short, they learn from pain—their own and the pain of others. A good thing to remember is this: pain is unavoidable, but repeating the same pain twice, when we could choose to learn and do something different, is certainly avoidable. I like to say, “we don’t need new ways to fail….the old ones are working just fine!” Our task, in business and in life, is to observe what they are, and never go back to doing them again.

People fear mistakes because they’re reprimanded and ridiculed for them. As a result, we become defensive when they occur. Imagine how we’d act if mistakes were a welcome way of life?
As Ralph Nader said:

“Your best teacher is your last mistake.”

The cruel world of human to human relationships

The cruel world

The world of technology enables many things, but our social behaviour to others is changing, no longer do we want to discuss human to human across problems, maintain commitment in intimacy, share values or communicate our love for one another, the facts are technology is now an efficient tool for dispatching people too.

I read a very interesting story in The Times recently where a lady met a man on an online dating site, the first date apparently went well, the second date she had sex with the man and on the third date they had dinner and then sex together again. The lady purports that they never spoke again, the man never responded with text messages, emails, social online or communication apps, she became a victim of being completely disconnected from the man’s active online world.

The dating phenomenon is a manifestation of a sharp decline in empathy in our society, triggered by technology and the speed in which our current world operates within.

The attitudes and values of online dating have created a ‘rejection’ culture between humans, people have joined the comparison brigade, no commitment, no communication and no confidence, people appear to be increasingly selfish and ruthless. Technology has allowed us to become behind closed doors, rejecting and hiding behind messaging where there is no interest in the now, even after exchanging intimacy, is this not a lack of disrespect, responsibility, technology allows us now to avoid seeing the effect our behaviour has on the other person.

It is a proven statistic that technology can advance a relationship if there is understanding, knowledge and intimacy, so why are we always in a rush, humans are not commodities.

Esther Perel, a psychotherapist specialising in relationships, recently wrote a blog ‘Is Tinder bad for me, interesting enough she goes on to quote one of the new rituals of commitment is deleting the Tinder app. “I’ve deleted my Tinder app” is the new “I’m going to be with only you.” It’s one of the new rituals. It just is.

By definition, choice and commitment implies loss. You choose something, you lose something. In our culture the paradox of choice is such that people have become loath to lose anything.

There’s a common stereotype in culture that young men are promiscuous and only want casual sex, but a researcher of the topic suggests otherwise. Author and psychologist Andrew P. Smiler coined the term, “Casanova stereotype” in reference to this cultural belief perpetuated in Hollywood and homes across the country. Smiler’s research has actually shown that only a small fraction of men surveyed fit the characteristics of this “Casanova stereotype.” More often than not, men want a stable, satisfying, monogamous long-term relationship.

Larry Rosen, a professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, says technology is distracting us from our real-world relationships.

In 40 years, there have been three major game-changers have entered our world: portable computers, social communication and smartphones. The total effect has been to allow us to connect more with the people in our virtual world, but we communicate less with those who are in our real world.

Our real and virtual worlds certainly overlap, as many of our virtual friends are also our real friends. But the time and effort we put into our virtual worlds limit the time to connect and especially to communicate on a deeper level in our real world. With smartphone in hand, we face a constant barrage of alerts, notifications, vibrations and beeps warning us that something seemingly important has happened and we must pay attention. We tap out brief missives and believe that we are being sociable, but as psychologist Sherry Turkle has so aptly said, we are only getting “sips” of connection, not real communication.

Worse, we don’t even need a beep or vibration to distract us anymore. In one study of more than 1,100 teens and adults, fellow researchers found that the vast majority of smartphone users under 35 checked in with their electronic devices many times a day and mostly without receiving an external alert.

Anxiety drives this behaviour. As evidenced by a rash of phantom pocket vibrations, our constant need to check comes from anxiety about needing to know what is happening in our virtual worlds.

In one study, human anxiety levels were monitored of smartphone users when we wouldn’t let them use their phones, and found that the heavy smartphone users showed increased anxiety after only 10 minutes and that anxiety continued to increase across the hour long study. Moderate users showed some anxiety, while light users showed none.

If we are constantly checking in with our virtual worlds, this leaves little time for our real-world relationships.

A second issue is the difference between connecting and communicating. While we may have hundreds of Facebook friends, people we never would have met otherwise, with whom we can share many new things, do they really provide the kind of human interaction that is so essential to our emotional health?

Psychologists define social capital, or the benefit we derive from social interactions, in two ways: bonding and the more superficial bridging. Research shows that virtual-world friends provide mostly bridging social capital, while real-world friends provide bonding social capital.

For instance, in one study it was found that while empathy can be dispensed in the virtual world, it is only one-sixth as effective in making the recipient feel socially supported compared with empathy proffered in the real world. A hug feels six times more supportive than an emoji.

Some very important quotes by Carl Honore, Author of In the Praise of Slow

“Slower, it turns out, often means better – better health, better work, better business, better family life, better exercise, better cuisine and better sex.”

“Much has already been destroyed. We have forgotten how to look forward to things, and how to enjoy the moment when they arrive.”

“While the rest of the world roars on, a large and growing minority is choosing not to do everything at full-throttle. In every human endeavour you can think of, from sex, work and exercise to food, medicine and urban design, these rebels are doing the unthinkable – they are making room for slowness. And the good news is that decelerating works.”

So what is the answer?

I think there needs to be a balance of email, social media and collaboration tools. What ever happened to picking up the phone? Talking to someone face-to-face? Or sending someone a card? Or do we not have time?

We need to examine our technology use to ensure that it isn’t getting in the way of our being sociable and getting the emotional support we need from the people who are closest to us, if we really want to preserve that ‘Special Relationship’

We need to put our phones away in social settings and consider making phone calls when we want to contact people instead of a series of brief texts, misinformed innuendos, and misleading interpretations.

We need to learn to check in less often and seek out face-to-face contact more often.

Trust, Loyalty and Passion….and still people throw loyalty out the window!

trust Leading companies that develop a people first approach will win in today’s digital economy, according to the latest global technology trends report from Accenture (NYSE: ACN). As technology advancements accelerate at an unprecedented rate – dramatically disrupting the workforce – companies that equip employees, partners and consumers with new skills can fully capitalize on innovations. Those that do will have unmatched capabilities to create fresh ideas, develop cutting-edge products and services, and disrupt the status quo.

The human psyche can be influenced by a range of external factors and retailers have for many years encouraged customers to react to a number of these stimuli. Most common is the belief by the shopper that they are receiving a ‘good deal’. Whether this is a perceived low price for an item, such as the item being ‘on Sale’ or a promotional offer such as ‘Buy One get One Free’, the perception that they are getting ‘something for nothing’ is a driver for making a purchasing decision.

In certain retail sub-sectors, most famously the furniture sector, customers have been ‘trained’ to expect substantial discounts from the base price and as such furniture retailers have had to develop their marketing to fulfill this need even though the ‘discounts’ are recognised by all but the less seasoned shopper as an empty promise and as such the furniture retailers have to promote themselves in other unique ways.

Although perceived value is a strong driver to encourage shoppers to return for future products, it has been shown by many retailers to not be the only driver and influences based around customer service, product range, stock availability and the shopping environment also have a key role in the shoppers decision to return.

However, loyalty is a funny thing, why do people say things to appease you…why do they throw loyalty out the window?

Recently the yearly calendar hosted Valentines Day on 14th February (a huge retailing sales opportunity), we all remind ourselves that we need to be romantic or share love on this day with our friends, partners and relatives, the problem we never wake up to is prospective, Valentines Day should not be about one day, you then need to question what you are doing on the remaining 364 days of the year.

The story of Valentine’s Day began  in the third century with an oppressive Roman emperor and a humble Christian Martyr. The emperor was Claudius II. The Christian was Valentinus.

Claudius had ordered all Romans to worship twelve gods, and had made it a crime punishable by death to associate with Christians. But Valentinus was dedicated to the ideals of Christ; not even the threat of death could keep him from practicing his beliefs. He was arrested and imprisoned.

On the eve of his death Valentinus wrote a last note to a young beautiful girl called Julia, urging her to stay close to God. He signed it, “From your Valentine.” His sentence was carried out the next day, February 14, 270 A.D., near a gate that was later named Porta Valentini in his memory. He was buried at what is now the Church of Praxedes in Rome. It is said that Julia planted a pink-blossomed almond tree near his grave. Today, the almond tree remains a symbol of abiding love and friendship. On each February 14, Saint Valentine’s Day, messages of affection, love, and devotion are exchanged around the world.

We are fiercely loyal to our favorite sports team even when that team is on a losing streak. We stay loyal to our political party even when the candidates enact laws that take away our jobs and put us in the welfare line. We remain loyal to their favorite brands despite recalls and inflated costs.

But the people in our life, the people when they say a single word amiss or make an innocent mistake all loyalty is thrown out the window. Why is it that loyalty is so strong in the superficial relationships in our lives but when things get personal that loyalty is removed and forgotten.

Where did we go wrong? When did it become ok to put more stock in things that care one whit about us and cast aside those who do?

When did it become acceptable to hold decades long grudges against brothers and sisters over such trivial things as divvying up a deceased parent’s belongings?

Trust is a vital commodity in all relationships, personal or business.

Trust in a relationship is a must. With it, there is freedom and security to experience the full potential of intimacy, love, and vulnerability the relationship has to offer. Without it, there is fear and insecurity, dampening and limiting the relationship’s potential.

It is most influenced by a persons’ feeling of trust during any interaction the key in business is to  get the service right and meet the very basic customer need. Make customers feel ‘looked after’, even customise their experience  deal with one individual where it is relevant and possible. Ensure first rate standards in the front-line employees (of competence, values and ethics), for this is where the reputation for the customer is built or destroyed.

The second influential factor is the service providers’ management policies and practice, and thirdly, a customers’ prior experience – along with reputation and word of mouth.

Admit mistakes, apologise and fix them – this is as important, and ‘human’, rather than an impersonal offer of recompense after an event.

Not everybody wants a continuous relationship. Use event triggers like birth, employment change, marriage, ‘shock’ overdraft and so on, and then example a caring attitude in these moments.

My final thought is that the digital age is upon us all and is changing both human to human behaviour and our levels of expectation.

Customers are becoming more and more demanding of their chosen retailers and price is not the biggest influencer to drive this choice.

Retailers in all sub-sectors need to respond to the increasing need for an open way of providing a two way conversations with their customers and they need to be able to do this in real time.

Retail CRM based on out-of-date technology and customer segmentation based on basic knowledge will not allow the retailer to have the visibility of what the customer is doing at this very moment. Nor will so called Business Intelligence solutions that rely on ‘indexed’ and ‘aggregated’ data stores, located in different silos across the retail landscape, needing IT departments to spend time and effort to produce reports that are needed that instant not tomorrow, next week or 3 months from now. In the digital world, data is the fuel that is driving innovation and being able to understand that data in depth and in real time is the key to success.

Is HR an elusive value proposition or can HR deliver real value to its employees?


My business partner in the US, Mark Herbert wrote a very interesting blog a few weeks ago, named HR’s Elusive Value Proposition: – Mark maintains a very strong service offering and ethic across human capital development within fortune and SME organisations, he really understands the dynamics around business growth and development and we have had many conversations around where is the value in company’s today.

Mark’s research was incredibly interesting, in summary the final analysis he produced showed HR does not manage human capital, and ever worse there was no master compliance. So where are the values across teaching company organisations and people more importantly how do we create an environment where people engage in the vision, mission, values up rather than just comply and deliver the satisfactory, I decided to review this subject further as, non emotional productivity can only end up with a company declining in revenues and needing further investment for sustained growth.

There are an incredible number of pressures on today’s organisations. To name a few: environmental pressures such as increasing globalisation, rapid technological change, and tougher competition; organisational changes such as new organisational alliances, new structures and hierarchies, new ways of assigning work, and a very high rate of change; changes in the workforce, including employees’ priorities, capabilities, and demographic characteristics. Within these pressured organisations, there is a need for the human resource function to play a critical role in helping organisations navigate through these transitions. In order to play this role, however, HR will have to increase its real and perceived value.

The role of human resources has been evolving for some time. The shift from “personnel” to “human resources,” for example, was part of the movement to acknowledge the value of employees as an organisational resource, and was an attempt to remove some of the stigma that was coming to be associated with slow, bureaucratic personnel departments. This shift in label was accompanied by a call for HR to become a strategic partner with the leaders of the business-to contribute to significant business decisions, advise on critical transitions, and develop the value of the employees-in short, to have a seat at the table.

It seems almost everyone has a negative story about how their workplace’s human resources department failed to support them when it comes to the “human” part of workplace antics like, conflict-resolution with colleagues, bosses, or subordinates, career tips, or interpersonal strategy.

Leadership is incredibly important to the solution, why? Leadership has access to potentially powerful, game-changing ideas. Its easy and tempting to change to a new transformational practice, a new expert, or new research that seems to provide some relief or a solution to a problem. What is potentially harder, but far more valuable, is to be motivated with the problem, what happened to a renewed focus on emotional intelligence as a driver or KPI for leadership and through the management ranks, a focus on values and culture as a company differentiator?

This can be a problem for many company’s in the business world. Research has clarified why forced rankings were undermining the desired culture of trust, collaboration, and risk taking. It provides another angle for exploring the complexities of culture, values, and talent systems in organisations.

Classic management science has defined four management functions: planning, organising, motivating and controlling. According to research, the classic definition is missing a key function, namely; aligning. Sustaining high business performance is a product of continuous strategic alignment. Strategic alignment is a function of political alignment. It is how well the teams communicate and work with each other. Simply put, strategic alignment is getting all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction — imagine the force and speed when they are rowing synchronized in the same direction and imagine the performance and wasted of energy when they are not.

Management by its nature is a highly political role. The first key management function is planning and resource allocation among competing business needs and departments. Managers must balance the conflicting interests among their stakeholders, including the investors, board of directors, employees, customers, suppliers, and governance.

Technical managers that get promoted into business management positions, learn, the hard way that they cannot function, if they do not have the political skills needed to deal with never ending conflicting views, interests and personalities. The organisational life is full of conflicts, ranging from minor differences of opinion to major political wars. Learning how to manage workplace politics is critical to professional and business success.

Common organisational politics and management behavior:
• Most managers have natural tendencies to hoard resources and build empires to gain more control power and status within the organisation.
• Most managers play territorial games. They will resist or delay change, if they do not fully understand the impact on their territory
• If the manager does not agree with the plans, he or she are more likely to play passive-aggressive games
• Some managers will sabotage the leader’s plan, if it threatens their interest
• The higher the stake for the manager, the higher the risk of unethical political behavior
• Even fast-growing and profitable companies can develop bad internal politics and unproductive work habits that will eventually lead to declining performance.
• The larger the organisation, the more susceptible it is to the breakdown of communication, the emergence of management silos and misalignment.
• Many of the smaller companies also suffer from similar problems, but to a lesser degree.
• When management tends to focus so much on one management area, e.g., sales, and has no time to manage the internal organisational challenges, dysfunction creeps in and takes hold.

To build and sustain high-performance teams, the leadership and human resources managers should distinguish between functional politics and dysfunctional politics in every part of the organisation.

The subject of leadership has been greatly covered by scholars, academicians and consultants, yet building and sustaining high-performance teams remain elusive to most companies. Leadership is the most important competitive advantage of a company, not technology, finance, or anything else. Leadership formulates the company’s business strategy and builds its assets, including its people and operations.

A failed business is the result of poor performance. Poor performance is the result of an incompetent or dysfunctional leadership team.

Med Jones, the president of International Institute of Management, once said:

“The leadership team is the most important asset of the company and can be its worst liability.”

In summary, its about delivering value. Although this is not a new challenge for HR, it remains a critical one. HR is still perceived by many within today’s organisations as simply a non-revenue generating function. It is important to make apparent the value provided by working with the management team to hire the right people, manage them well, pay them appropriately, and build a working environment that encourages success.
Beatty and Schneier (1997) extended the concept of delivering value within the organisation by arguing that HR must deliver economic value to the customers, as well as to employees.