The Creative Freedom of Getting Older

I loved this article on the creative freedom of getting older – as someone who’s recently turned 30 it seemed quite a big step so it is refreshing to hear NYU professor and author Oliver Sacks writes about what it’s like to turn 80, and how old age has empowered him. A must-read for anyone who feels “past their prime:”

One has had a long experience of life, not only one’s own life, but others’, too. One has seen triumphs and tragedies, booms and busts, revolutions and wars, great achievements and deep ambiguities, too. One has seen grand theories rise, only to be toppled by stubborn facts. One is more conscious of transience and, perhaps, of beauty. At 80, one can take a long view and have a vivid, lived sense of history not possible at an earlier age. I can imagine, feel in my bones, what a century is like, which I could not do when I was 40 or 60. I do not think of old age as an ever grimmer time that one must somehow endure and make the best of, but as a time of leisure and freedom, freed from the factitious urgencies of earlier days, free to explore whatever I wish, and to bind the thoughts and feelings of a lifetime together.

I am looking forward to being 80.

Read the rest of his essay here.

Managing People

I love the advice Duncan Bannatyne gives in his book, ‘Wake Up and Change your Life’. The book is about how to start a business, but lots of the guidance in the book is relevant to leading schools. The chapter on ‘How to manage people’ is a prime example of this. It explains really clearly how to delegate effectively:

“If you’re part of a management team, you want to make sure that everyone’s roles are well defined and that you each know what you are responsible for, so that you don’t step on each other’s toes. These are my guidelines for effective people management:

  • Agree what each of you is responsible for.
  • set an achievable target.
  • Set a deadline for achieving those targets.
  • Meet at a regular time and place to update each other on your progress. 

Aside from that, leave each person to get on with his or her own job… When you’re all hyped about your venture, there’s a natural tendency to want to get involved in everything, and that leads to a natural tendency to want to get involved in everything, and that leads to meddling, a duplication of tasks, time-wasting and conflict. The people who work for you need to know what is expected of them, how their work will be monitored, what they have the authority to do without referring to you and the timeframes they are expected to work to. No one appreciates a boss who micro-manages their every move, and once the boundaries have been set, you should stick to them.”

Chris Gorman later adds in the same book:

“Sir Tom Farmer, the founder of Kwik Fit told us something that I’ve never forgotten: it’s all about people. You have to remember that your staff have lives outside work, and sometimes they might have had a bad day, but the more you understand your people, the more you get out of them.”

It’s vital to have a clear management structure with clearly defined roles, responsibilities and expectations.  Job descriptions for each person, including volunteers, should be clear, possibly tailored to the person who is most right for the job.  It is vital that you play to the strengths of your team.  It’s important to value the person as a whole so that expectations can be realistic yet forward-driven.

Nicholas Bate on 14 routes to more business

I loved Nicholas Bate’s post on 14 Routes To More Business:

  1. Follow-up everything.
  2. Never lose touch with anybody.
  3. Treat every customer individually.
  4. Get the small stuff right from minute 1.
  5. Be a person they want to talk to.
  6. Make more calls.
  7. Send more proposals.
  8. Ask more customers for leads.
  9. Brainstorm at every team meeting: what’s working and how can we do more of it?
  10. Anticipate the market; predict the client.
  11. Make things easy for current customers
  12. Make money and invest it in (1) skill development and (2) product innovation
  13. Practise thinking differently.
  14. Never, ever, ever allow yourself to doubt that you can get a bigger slice of a shrinking pie.

D.A. Carson on Productivity

D.A. Carson with three points on productivity:

  1. Learn to fill in the little empty periods that clutter each day.
  2. Don’t fritter. When you work, work hard; when you are not working, quit entirely.
  3. Discover how different aspects of your work can leverage other aspects of your work. For example, choosing your reading to feed into things that you’ll be preparing over the next six or nine months adds to godly efficiency.

Read the rest here.

Seth Godin: pitch a meeting about your project not an idea

Elevator pitches – pitches during the journey of a trip in a lift – are a great way to condense a complex idea into a small amount of time so you can get the idea in front of someone who matters. Author Seth Godin recommends you pitch for a meeting, not the idea itself.

Essentially, the idea is to use that brief amount of time when you’re in front of the powers-that-be to get a meeting so you can really pitch your project in full. Godin explains:

The best elevator pitch doesn’t pitch your project. It pitches the meeting about your project. The best elevator pitch is true, stunning, brief and it leaves the listener eager (no, desperate) to hear the rest of it. It’s not a practiced, polished turd of prose that pleases everyone on the board and your marketing team, it’s a little fractal of the entire story, something real.

Of course, the elevator pitch isn’t exclusive to elevators. It’s useful when you need to pitch an idea—any idea—to anyone you want to work with. Godin’s suggestion is that when you compress that idea into a two minute overview, the idea only loses a bit in the process. It also makes it a lot easier for someone to say “no.” When you pitch the meeting, you’re ensuring you get the idea in front of people who matter, and it becomes a real conversation as opposed to an announcement.