“We want to forge new ties and greater understanding between the young people in this young country” were the impressionable words President Barack Obama left with the students on November 10, 2010 when he visited the University of Indonesia in Jakarta. Fifteen months later, Cisco partners with the Networking Academy and the university to host a weeklong hands-on technical training and soft skill development event on the same campus, where it almost seems Obama’s vision was coming to life, literally.
I’ve always been interested in the human desire to belong to groups and how we adapt our appearance to show which ‘group’ we’re in. Even in our teenage years when many of us believe the way we dress is non-conformist in truth we’re aligning ourselves to a sub-group that exists out there.
A friend of mine in her first year at university always wore Levi 501s and walked to her English lectures with an Eighteenth century novel poking out of her right back pocket and a pack of Marlboro cigarettes in her left. The signals she hoped she gave off then make her cringe beyond belief today!
Because that’s what happens, the identity we choose to present to the outside world changes over time. Many of us become less concerned about rebelling, or we gain confidence about our identity and the way we choose to transmit it.
“Do you ever feel like a plastic bag drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?” Where do you get the energy to make that fresh start? How well do you really know you and your work colleagues and really know each other? Do your colleagues know the real you and if not why not ? Do you feel comfortable opening up? Considering the amount of hours we spend with each other I still disappoint myself with the lack of “quality” time I give to my colleagues, really getting to know them. It is easy to forget they have interesting and sometimes even surprising lives outside of work. Qualities are often hidden. We often hold back from each other but we can all recall changes in our working relationships when the real person has been revealed.
Imagine with have 4 energies swirling around our bodies: intellectual, physical, emotional and spiritual ( Steve Radcliffe – Leadership Plain and Simple) . Some of us have more dominant energies present than others and yes, we need all of them. I would suggest the one we’re most reluctant to unleash at work is emotional energy. Emotional energy is the precondition for everything we care about. Dreams die when we lack the emotional energy to hold on to them in the face of obstacles. The magnetic nature of emotional energy can be a powerful force in the workplace but, many of us are most comfortable displaying our intellectual and physical energy. Providing a culture and environment to encourage the release of emotional energy is crucial to success and allows colleagues to shine and be their real selves.
If we only could take the time to really get to know each other and to look beyond our exterior make up/facades. Katy Perry ‘s recent hit “ Baby you’re a firework” succinctly describes the potential in all of us regardless of how senior we are , our age or our background. Unlike physical energy, emotional energy does not decline as we get older. Emotional energy increases the more you learn about what works best for you. Business and self development books talk about playing to our strengths. Firstly we have to really understand our strengths and secondly we need the confidence to act on them.
“Baby you’re a firework come on, let your colours burst.”
“ You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine .”
A colleague on my team recently shared with me his personal story of his road to success to date and laid out what he wanted to do next. He lit his firework and it was a fantastic explosion of colour. It made me realise that I do not know many of the members in my team well ( it is a large team 40+ ), and I mean really know them ! But at least I had provided the environment for this person to have the courage to step forward out of the shadows and shine. There will be so many more personal stories of how people have seized opportunities , have created opportunities for themselves , how they have moved countries and started from scratch and are on their way to be very successful and fulfilled .
If you can’t do what you want to do in life or if it feels very hard to do, you are probably lacking emotional energy, not physical energy. Try something new to get things re-started. Remember “ Baby you’re a firework” .
A wise teacher told me once never to put my daughter at a hurdle she could not jump. Of course the hurdle might be difficult to jump and she might need to do some training to jump it, but make sure that it is a realistic possibility. Find the things she is good at and set her up for success. Let her use her individual and unique strengths. Don’t be guided by what is good for everyone else. Be careful where you let her fail. Believing this to be good advice, I try to proactively seek hurdles where she can use her strengths and achieve results and occasionally by-pass hurdles which are best left for other children (maybe my other daughter) to try to jump.
It is hard though not to be sucked in to the peer pressure of parents around me. Maybe it is the circles I mix in but the pressure for our children to perform academically at the expense of everything else is overwhelming. A friend of mine with young children asked me if she should pay for extra tuition to get her children into “best” senior school in the area? Her current parent peers are all supposedly paying for extra tuition. This question disappointed me on many levels. Do we only have one measure of success – our children have to be the best? Is the “best” school in the area best for my individual child? We all have strengths regardless of our age, gender or background that should be harnessed, nurtured and encouraged. Recognising those strengths is perhaps the most important role of a parent. Whatever happened to variety being the spice of life?
I was at my daughter’s ice skating club this weekend and saw one of the children really upset off the ice talking with her mother. As you can imagine many injuries occur with this sport, so once her daughter was back on the ice I asked if she was ok. The mother answered “Oh yes she is just upset as I may stop her ice skating as she is not improving and she will never make it to the top!” Again she wanted her daughter to be the best and that was her only measure of success it seems. In fact her daughter is a happy, friendly child who connects easily with others – she may not be a top skater, but she is the top networker on the ice rink and that’s a skill that will be very valuable later on. I really wish we could relax, appreciate and enjoy each other’s strengths much more – especially in our children.
A few weeks ago I was in Turkey with around 200 colleagues from our “Emerging Theatre” – Middle East, Turkey, South Africa, Russian and African regions. I felt truly energised being surrounded by such a diverse group of people. Learning about the different cultures, experience, viewpoints and approaches but knowing we were all on the same team was exciting and added a new dimension to my day job. It was visibly clear we needed more women in the room but those present were highly valued and encouraged – a great environment! The recognition of the delights of such diversity should be encouraged in our childhood and then maybe we will be more appreciative in adulthood?
Recently I was invited to a careers evening at my school, St. Georges in Ascot UK, to speak to young female students about what it is like to work in the technology sector. Each of the speakers invited was asked to prepare a 20 minute presentation on their job and the sector they worked in and then participate in a roundtable discussion with the girls so that they could ask questions. Read More »