Being curious is the main thing.

I’ve just been reflecting about the advantages of working for yourself and finding a different balance in your working life.
I started working for myself at the start of last year after many years working in house for a number of organisations (if you are curious you can find out more in my linkedin profile).  I had a number of reasons for making this choice, one of which was to have a better WLB.  Another was about having a greater variety of experiences through applying my skills and experience in different organisations, with different people who have different challenges and ambitions.

What this gives me is a the chance to test myself every day :

  • to meet the promise to deliver that I have made with my clients;
  • to be aware of the people and the culture around me, and not to make any assumptions about what will work and what won’t;
  • to make sure I am a role model of the right behaviours;
  • to be my natural positive and optimistic self that creates a successful change environment; and
  • to be agile and nimble in my approach – learning all the time.

It is this ability to be curious and to learn new things alongside adapting the old ones that I find most invigorating.  I have always felt that the desire to carry on learning is a key human quality to the extent that once you stop wanting to learn you are probably dead.  A  few years ago I was coaching a CIO who was struggling with changes in the organisation.  I remember him telling me that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”.  My challenge to him about what happens to old dogs came to pass when he left us a few months later.  The spark had gone.

It must also be a way of differentiating between people who are inquisitive and actively seek out learning opportunities and those who passively wait for them to happen to them.  Warren Berger recently wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review about  Why curious people are destined for the C-suite which argues that curiosity is the distinguishing factor between the best and the rest.
For me, whilst I may not aspire to the C-suite (see reason #1 above), the desire to remain curious,  challenging myself to be the best I can be remains a fierce, burning fire that is fed by this way of working.

A Story About Influencing

This story is mostly true. The fine beast that you can see below is the latest addition to the Tanner household. George is a rescued Fox Hound and joins Daisy and Ruby to build a trio of mutts around the place.
I had always insisted that two dogs was enough. When one passes away we get another as company for the remaining one and to occupy our sadness. Daisy and Ruby are our third pairing.

Sam, my wife, was driving past the dog rescue centre when she saw George being walked (or dragged along) as he picked at the rubbish he could see on the path. She found out some details about him online, and then went in to meet him. He had been a stray, was about 18 months old and could only go to a family that was used to dogs.

Once she had met George she introduced him to my sons – again online. Then she took Patrick to see him, and take him for a walk – or more of a drag at that stage. Patrick liked him too, and so next they took Daisy and Ruby to meet him to check that they would be OK too. They are a very laid back pair, so it was a given that they would get along.
At this stage I was shown an online picture of a random mutt at the rescue centre. I agreed he looked ‘nice’, and confirmed my policy that two was enough. Very clearly and firmly asserting myself to ensure that there was no uncertainty in my message (we’ve been here before).

A few days later we passed the rescue centre on our way to walk Daisy and Ruby, when Sam suggested we pop in to have a look. I’m not totally stupid, so I repeated my key messages. Anyhow, we met George. He was reintroduced to Daisy and Ruby, and then took him back to the centre’s staff, who asked me when we were completing the paperwork and taking him home !

As I mentioned I’m not stupid, though probably malleable by those I love. So, my protests were undone by some very sharp work with key stakeholders and influencers. Sam wanted him. Harry and Patrick thought he was a great character and needed a home like ours. Even Daisy and Ruby had met him and liked him. And he is full of character, energy and fun.

There is some learning here. One part might be how easily swayed I am by a call to the heart and wanting to please (or not upset) my family. The other more useful part is the skillful, focused influencing plan that Sam created to remove every objection I had and to create a vision of George at home that was irresistable. That’s the bit I’ve got to get better at.