Nesrin Everett

Before You Negate Someone:Think Twice

Photo by Adrian Van Leen

Photo by Adrian Van Leen

“Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.” Maori Proverb
Recently over dinner, the person I was speaking to asked me: “Do you really believe that all people are good?” I replied, “Yes.” He said “What – everyone, really you mean everyone?” I said, “Yes.” To clarify my definition of good I told him I believe that people are born full of positivity, light and love. It is how we all react to the world that distorts who we really are and can at times prevent us from being our true radiant selves. He disagreed somewhat, saying “Many people are good, but what about some people who are just, basically…..a***holes?” (He didn’t mince his words here as he was trying to get a point across). As our conversation took place at the end of the evening, we didn’t get to complete our discussion so I wanted to expand on my feelings on this topic.

I really do believe that all people are intrinsically good. When I say “good” I mean that their innermost being is beautiful and spiritual. However, their behaviour is another matter. Some people behave in ways that are almost impossible to understand and do things that are unthinkable to many of us. We can become frustrated, scared, angry and upset through our reaction to their actions. Does this mean that they are “evil” and intrinsically “bad”? I think we need to be careful before we attach negative labels to people. We are all human and we all come from the same source. Just as snowflakes are all unique yet come from the same original source, water, so we are all unique and come from the same original spiritual or energy source; define it however you prefer.

It is so easy to pin negative labels on people. So often we can say “Oh he’s an idiot“, or “She’s a nightmare.” But really? Is he actually an idiot? Is she really a nightmare? Perhaps you think that he is behaving like an idiot because he is unable to perform the task that you have given him or because he is behaving in a way you find inappropriate in public. Perhaps she has a challenging personality or you feel like you are in a middle of a nightmare when you are in her vicinity. At the end of the day it’s all a matter of your perspective. We could look at a rainy day and say “This is awful.” To you it might be a nightmare as you will get wet or your outdoor plans will have to be put on hold, but to the flowers and plants and a farmer who has been waiting for the rain after a dry spell it might be a dream come true.

I’m not saying that we allow people to behave any which way they want without setting boundaries, and I’m not saying we should not be careful or protect ourselves from people whose behaviour is harmful to us. However, by labelling them negatively we limit their scope to change. We put them in a box in our mind from which perhaps later it could be hard for them to emerge.

So before you fall into the habit of negating someone – I invite you to think twice. Is it actually who they are that you are unhappy with? Or is it their behaviour that is not suiting you right now? The sun is always shining: depending on where we are on the planet, the weather and what time of day or year it is; we might feel it’s too hot or that it’s lacking. Does that make the sun bad, or an idiot, when it’s not behaving in the way we want it to? The sun is still the sun and we can choose to turn our faces toward it.

Some questions to ponder:
What are your thoughts on the above? 
How would you feel if someone labelled you in a negative way? 

I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions. Feel free to comment below.

What Kind of Resources are Your Humans?

“Human Resources”. The term that replaced “Personnel”. I have to confess that I prefer personnel. “Personnel” relates entirely to people, whereas with human resources, the human aspect seems somewhat negated by the word “Resource”.

A “Human Resource” currently reminds me of something from a sci-fi horror movie; once no longer required, the resource is disposed of or even destroyed. This doesn’t seem far from the truth when I observe the methods some companies use to manage their people. In my 10 years of international headhunting and coaching in the commodity and financial markets, I have regularly encountered institutions laying off swathes of employees in a panic reaction to a poor year of profits. Often, 12 months later, once the panic is over; they spend double or even triple the amount of money rehiring similar individuals to fill the same roles; not to mention the amount of money spent on paying redundancy packages, or “gardening leave” fees to keep ex-employees out of the market. Naturally this is fantastic for the recruitment industry which benefits from the high turnover. However, is it really necessary?

Hire and fire policies for short-term gains: not at all dissimilar to the way in which our consumerist, disposable society has been operating. If something no longer serves you, throw it away, and buy a new one. Don’t try to repair it or reallocate it another role – ditch it! The long-term results of this, from a consumer perspective are: waste, landfills of redundant items and ultimately pollution. From an employment perspective, the long-term results are: a waste of time and money; a loss of potentially excellent staff; not to mention a loss of loyalty, goodwill and ultimately, a lack of trust. The danger of this, is that it leads to an ambivalent attitude from the employer towards the employee and vice versa. The employee, knowing that they are only a “resource” that can be “disposed” of at any time, will not put their heart and soul into the business and will only be there to get what they can out of it; always keeping an eye open for other opportunities. Similarly, the employer, considers the employee as something (yes although human, they are nevertheless treated as a “resource,” a “thing”) expendable that can be replaced whenever necessary. Even more disturbing than “Human Resources” is the term “Human Capital”. The human is no longer a soul, a being; but a dehumanized cash-cow. Money on legs.

Having seen the effects of the industrial revolution and the current dangers of abusing our natural resources, the world is gradually coming to understand the importance of sustainability and the need to treat our resources with respect, if we want to continue to reap bountiful harvests. What would happen if we created sustainability in the workplace?  What kind of harvests would each company reap then? I’m not advocating that we go back to the days of receiving a gold Rolex for 30 years of committed service; however, right now what is disturbing me, is hearing saddened HR managers tell me” “Management don’t actually care about the people in this company at all”, or employees tell me, “Well I suppose it pays the bills doesn’t it?” and sighing.

I may have painted a somber picture, however my intention is not to depress us all. On the contrary, there is plenty of hope! Just as globally we are moving forward with sustainability, there are indeed companies making a supreme effort to help their staff thrive. They realize that happy, healthy, valued staff are going to perform well and in a sustainable manner. They are able to see the bigger, long-term picture, not just the quick buck. They invest in training, coaching and development. If redundancies do at some point genuinely need to be made; rather than purely paying people off; they also invest in making their transition to a new role easier. There are also employees who are thinking about more than just paying the bills; who value professionalism and teamwork and want to put in their best effort; who are willing to ride out the lean years if and when they come; because they believe in the company and in the work that they do.

Employers, if you want more than a bunch of robotic droids working for your company and desire living, thriving, contributing, creative, productive individuals; then please think about how you treat your “resources”. Are you running the equivalent of a slave labor plantation, eking out everything you can from your golden handcuffed workers, in order to produce, produce, produce — with the only objective being profit — or are you creating a thriving, enterprising industry, knowing that well-managed, healthy, happy, appreciated staff are going to give you the best long-term returns?

Employees, it takes two to tango. What kind of company do you choose to join?  One that puts the well-being of its staff as a top priority, or one that pays huge bonuses for a pound of flesh? How do you choose to show up every day? Do you invest in the organization you join, by bringing your best efforts to the table and having the right attitude for a long-term commitment, or are you simply doing the bare minimum and collecting a paycheck?

For both employees and employers, you reap what you sow: if you are ambivalent in your attitude you can only expect ambivalence in return.

As you may have noticed, I am passionate about this subject! My desire as a coach and thought partner is to help individuals reach their full potential and to help create healthy and profitable working environments. In my opinion, creating cultures of sustainability — where there is a genuine win-win partnership between employer and employee, allowing both individuals and businesses to thrive — will create the greatest long-term value.

Some questions to ponder:

What does a resource mean to you?
What’s the best way of combining being a human and a resource?
How do you work with your resources?

Field in summer

Field in summer

The cataclysmic desk tidying

messy-desk

I’ll never forget the day my boss decided to tidy his desk. I was 25 years old, and an associate headhunter in a boutique firm in the City of London, focusing on the commodity markets. We were a team of 4, known to be good at what we did, and it took a lot of meticulously hard work and investigation to carry out our research. My boss was an old-school ex-metals trader, who also owned the company and some of our best market information was in his brain (inputting data was about as interesting to him as watching paint dry). He was also well known to have a notoriously messy desk. “Organised chaos” he said – and it was. If he needed to find anything, it was either in his brain, a phone call away, or somewhere on his desk. My responsiblity was to investigate areas of the market he didn’t have access to and make sure we had all our data logged and recorded.

One day I came back from lunch, to find his desk absolutely clear. It was incredible. What had once been stacks of paper resembling the Himalayas with the Karakoram highway wending in between them (enough room for a coffee cup and a telephone to pass) now resembled the Gobi Desert. I shivered, as if suffering from intense climate change.

“What’s happened?” I said – half elated, by the zen of the desk and the change, and also with a slight tension in the pit of my stomach. “Oh” he replied in a gleeful, beaming way. “I’ve tidied my desk – I’d had enough of all the paper, so I just swept it all off the surface and threw it away”.

I froze. We were working on a huge deal, in a brand new market, and some incredibly important research that had taken an arm and a leg to get hold of was on his desk, handwritten on paper (as it was so fresh I needed him to see it first before inputting the data). Taking a deep breath, in a very measured way, I said “Nick – what did you do with the research, on the X project?” He looked at me rather wide eyed, noticing the expression on my face. “Well it’s all gone,” he said “in the bin, there’s nothing left!” My ears did not want to believe what they were hearing. “That was all our information!” I said, “I can’t get that back – there is no copy”. I was not sure whether I was going to kill him, faint, or throw myself out of the window. Instead I took myself for a walk around the block.

Fortunately in my team, the rare disagreements we had did not last for long. Issues were cleared up on the spot, apologies made and there was a lot of forgiveness as well as laughter. On returning to my desk I was calm. I did get an apology from my boss, which I accepted. Both of us learned a great deal. I learned to input or make a copy of all valuable information immediately. He learned the effect of dramatic action and the consequences it could have on those around him. Most of all we learned that nothing is ever as bad as it seems and the folly of catastrophizing. He had catastrophized the state of his desk and thrown everything in the bin. I had catastrophized the loss of the paper, thinking we’d lost huge inroads into the market.

The moral of the story was:  we still managed to get the information we needed and were hugely successful with our client. Most importantly, being able to laugh and continue to work well together while learning from our mistakes, was what managed to keep our team strong.

When was the last time you catastrophized a situation. What happened?

How do you deal with extreme moments in the office when the tension is high? How do you react or respond?

What do you think about tidy desks?

People are like trees

Photo by Nesrin Everett

People remind me of trees. A sapling, needs to be nurtured and sheltered, it is so very delicate and fragile. As a young tree grows, it becomes stronger, yet remains very flexible which is wonderful,  for when a strong wind comes, the tree can bend and this flexibility allows it to survive. Young people similarly have flexible bodies and minds that are open, allowing them to adapt to new situations and be open to new concepts. Like people, young trees are very beautiful, with smooth shiny barks, straight trunks and fresh shimmering leaves.

IMG_0023

As a tree gets older its trunk thickens, and the bark develops furrows. It’s perfect straightness may change, it may develop bends in its trunk, or lean a certain way. Now, rather than just pointing at the sky some of its branches may hang low. It is not as flexible as before, it is solid, hardened, its roots run deep and spread far. However, when a storm comes it is tough enough to weather it. Although it does not bend like a young tree its deep roots remain firm, and its trunk is strong. It’s beauty remains. It bears fruit which provides the seeds for new saplings to sprout forth, it shelters them with its shade and provides nutrients and moisture for them. It provides an ecosystem for animals,  insects and birds to thrive in, as well as sustenance for humans in the form of fruit or nuts, sap, bark, and leaves.

Just as a tree’s beauty remains constant with age, so does a human’s. Older people have deeper and stronger values. This and their life experience gives them the strength to weather the storms. With their wisdom and capability they are able to nurture and shelter the young trees and provide strength and support to the others. Their branches are both pointing up to the sky and leaning down. Like a whirling dervish they participate in the cycle of life, with one hand leaning up to heaven and the other down to the earth. Grounded and yet connected to the higher realms. For them, its not just about reaching up but also giving back.

We all know the joy of watching young trees dancing and swaying in the wind, the beauty and promise that youth brings. We also know the joy of sitting in the shade of an old tree, a tree that was there before we were born, and that will be there hundreds of years after we die. A tree that has nurtured so many plants and animals, and born witness to so many events over the centuries, while remaining steadfast. There is a sense of peace, constancy, beauty and security in that.

May we strive to value both trees and people at all stages of their growth cycle, to always appreciate their beauty as well as witness their interconnection,  and honour the cyclical and eternal nature of universal life.