Olympics – two sides of the same coin …

Picture two different women competing in the Australian team at the recent Athens Olympics.

The first had the misfortune to injure herself a few weeks prior to competition. She had surgery & vowed to compete in the games. Jan Pitman ran in the 400m hurdles at the Games, but she came 5th largely due to her recent knee surgery. Her response to the disappointment? ”

“I don’t need to make any excuses,” she said. “Those girls were great out there today and they were better than me on the day, so I can only say I’ll have to come back hungry for next year.” (See smiggens)

Contrast this with another woman, young and talented and part of a team of eight. She had been allowed to join the team in spite of curious incidents in her past. She was apparently in good form and excellent fitness going into the race. Her main job was to keep rowing until the race finished. Instead, Sally Robins lay back with a quarter of the race to go and dropped her oar about 100m from the finish line.

As noted in the living room “Robbins was exhausted, not ill or injured, and an Australian official quoted Jarhling as saying he had not seen anything like it in his 35-year coaching career.”

The most interesting difference between these two women is in their minds. The first almost won a medal against massive odds. The second lost a medal against almost no odds at all. The main difference seems to have been internal to each of them, and the determination to finish the differentiator.

Sally Robbins might not have heard that famous quote from Winston Churchill:

“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense.”

To have gone that far and to lay down is an interesting choice to make.

Union Safe: News: Killer Clutter – 25 June 2004

Killer Clutter – 25 June 2004:
“Cluttered desks, poor posture and hours spent in front of a computer are damaging the health of office staff, with increasing numbers suffering Irritable Desk Syndrome.”

I just knew it. Sitting at your desk all day is bad for you!

Meetings, on the other hand, are good for you. There is the exercise you get on the way to and from the meeting, the interaction with other people, a chance to move when you get up to draw on the white board. Meetings are soooo good for you.

All jokes aside, everything is bad for you these days. It is enough to make one become agoraphobic.

Business Evolutionist: The Origins of Unengaged Employees

The Origins of Unengaged Employees has quite an interesting take on employee engagement, but I’m not sure that I agree completely.

Engagement is all about feeling like you are a part of something bigger and more meaningful than yourself alone. When I’ve been engaged at work it has all been as a result of non-tangible things like leadership, vision and teamwork. But often this has happened as part of setting up process and procedures so we can achieve more.

Jon’s argument seems to be that process and procedures stultify vision etc. While I think in the wrong hands it can, it does not necessarily do so.

Managed properly good process and procedure can actually free you up to do more creative stuff. And that certainly helps to create an environment in which it is easier to be engaged.

Complete chaos is not conducive to creativity and positive energy. On the other hand these are also not possible without high energy and visionary people.

More on Women, housework & the 21st century

My post the other day on this topic revealed my complete ignorance of house & home magazines (this deficiency in my reading was kindly pointed out in a recent comment). I have rushed to the store to get hold of a bunch of womens’ magazines and have been reading them with a critical eye for ‘housework mania‘ inducing words and imagery.

Well I must confess I had not realised how pervasive the imagery of good housekeeping was in these magazines. I usually read New Scientist, Time, Business Review Weekly etc. – they do not have many pictures of lovely sparkling clean houses with lots of well placed nick-nacks. But these other magazines certainly do! They have it in spades. In fact the spaces not already occupied by the other 2 key items (food-challenged models & very nice looking food) are occupied by little pictorial features on how to improve the home.

Then my searches took me to the internet, where I found the FLYladywhere visitors are greeted with:

‘Are YOU living in CHAOS (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome) like Franny in the pink sweats? Do you feel overwhelmed, overextended, and overdrawn? Hopeless and you don’t know where to start? Don’t worry friend, we’ve been there, too. Step through the door and follow FlyLady as she weaves her way through housecleaning and organizing tips with homespun humor, daily musings about life and love, the Sidetracked Home Executives (SHE™) system, and anything else that is on her mind.

Now this site does not even seem to glimpse the oppression that covers this whole area of housework like a miasma (or a fog in a really bad 1950s horror movie).

More on the humorous side is the Bad Mothers Club – subtitled ‘In the aisle by the chill cabinets, no-one can hear you scream.’ This site at least recognises that some of this stuff is not important. There are also some good tips on time management (e.g. put the kids in their school clothes before bed as this saves a lot of time in the morning – I might even try this one for work?)

Women, housework & the 21st century

It is astonishing that many women in the west still seem to be obsessed with housework and cleaning in spite of the advances women have made in the past 100 years.

A recent series of visits to various online women’s groups (that are ostensibly about something else) showed a focus, in an almost unhealthy way, upon housework. Many of the women in these groups express sincere distress at not feeling able to cope with housework or to perform it to a level they see as ‘normal‘.

There is something wrong here. There are bigger things in the world than worrying if your lounge room or kitchen are clean.

What’s the real story?

Is this a form of internalized oppression?

The great maternity leave debate

I do not have children, nor do I plan to reproduce – so I suppose you could say I have no skin in this particular game. But I’ve been thinking about the debates around maternity leave and the low birthrate that have occurred recently in Australia.

The key problem does not actually seem to be paid maternity leave for a number of weeks after the birth, rather it seems to be the fact that one must support the child for at least 18 years after the birth. Nowadays there are few women who do not have to return to work to support their families. Given this situation it seems to me that the real problem is not maternity leave, instead it is the lack of cheap and available childcare.

The solution to this problem is obvious! The government should provide childcare on the same basis as it does school education. It should be a universal right in this country. Since many women (and men) would like to have children this would support a rise in the birth rate by removing a key impediment to child rearing. I must admit I would prefer my taxes go to universal childcare than to some other things.

Men, Women and Lifesteyle Choices

Women in the western world are actually very lucky in many ways. Now there are so many choices for women – education, full time career, part time work, family, no family, travel, etc.

But for men there does not seem to be so many choices. Many women of my acquaintance have decided to take career breaks, to leave work and raise a family, to work part time and pursue a hobby or education.

However, amongst the men of my acquaintance those who make similar ‘lifestyle’ choices are in the minority. Instead men seem to have a linear set of options: get an education, get a job, perhaps have a family, retire, die.

The multiplicity of ‘lifestyle’ options seems to be passing many of them by. I wonder why?

Family Friendly or Punishing the Childless?

One thing that the big focus nowadays on so-called ‘family friendly’ workplaces (including maternity/paternity/parental leave) has overlooked is that this excludes the many people who for various reasons do not have children. The question is ‘what about us’? While parents are getting time off, more ‘family friendly’ rosters are implemented (etc.) who but the childless are left holding the fort in this 24×7 world of work?

Not meaning to sound grumpy here, but what is an employer going to give me in return for coming to work every day, not leaving early, working unpaid overtime, covering so-called ‘family’ un-friendly shifts, etc?

The other annoying thing is that I’m not considered part of the ‘family friendly’ world because it only counts children not other relationships. So tough luck if your only family is another adult (like maybe a few gay or lesbian couples out there?).

In essence these ‘family friendly’ policies are rewarding those with offspring and punishing those without. The sooner employers start to see this the quicker they will stop the inevitable revolt amongst the childless. In fact, the revolt may already have begun:

5 Patterns of Extraordinary Careers: some interesting ideas for the ambitious person

Found this site in my wanderings the other day when I was supposed to be studying for an exam. It is based on a book called The 5 Patterns of Extraordinary Careers by James M. Citrin and Richard A. Smith and more info can be found at www.5patterns.com.

The basic premise of this book is that people who have extraordinary careers display some common patterns:

  1. Understand the Value of You
  2. Practice Benevolent Leadership
  3. Overcome the Permission Paradox
  4. Differentiate Using the 20/80 Principle of Performance
  5. Find the Right Fit (Strengths, Passions & People)

There are some really good ideas here and a quiz you can do to see if your career will be “extraordinary”. Personally I’m always up for a quiz!