Making Sense of Organisational Change – Part 1

In the workplace, we are all on the road to somewhere. Using a roadmap regarding organisational change can make that journey much easier…

In 1947, Kurt Lewin explored how change could be effected in the workplace. He came up with a static model, which in its most simplistic form made perfect sense:

In the late 1990’s, my colleagues and I looked at changing the static model to a fluid model using a very simple step – building in a feedback loop. This easily embraced change as an ongoing process:

With this very simple approach in hand, I commenced making changes in each role I was responsible for, as I moved from organisation to organisation. So, over a number of years, this saw me introduce key changes at the team level, then the branch level, departmental or divisional level and then finally at an organisational level.

Of course, I have come to appreciate in the last eight years, there is a requirement to build some further intricacies into the process. So, the organisational change model I use today, The Roadmap looks like this:

There are a number of models and theories out there regarding organisational change. Some of them, like the one I now use, are based on personal experience. Others are developed on the back of examining how people respond to different aspects of leadership and management in the workplace. We know that there is always room for improvement in how such models are developed and used. The key requirement with any successful organisational change is to establish buy-in at the very start of the process.

Join me in future posts where I will discuss the finer detail regarding how the process evolution or Roadmap works (including where the Engagement Diamond fits in to such a model)😊

Faster is Slower – Managing Impossible Deadlines

Here is something for you to think about: Pushing for an outcome right now, when you haven’t considered all the inputs, will lead to either a very messy and costly solution or even one with no outputs or outcome at all!

Photo by zhang kaiyv on Pexels.com

Most of us are familiar with Aesop’s fables and one in particular regarding the race between the Tortoise and the Hare. In short, during their race, the Hare falls asleep and the Tortoise plods on towards the finish line and crosses it before the hare realises what has happened.

Often, there is immense pressure to do things quickly. When we are at work, it would seem that it’s not enough to be aware of the looming and unrelenting deadlines. There also seems to be someone constantly reminding us of the need to drag ourselves kicking and screaming to meet these tight deadlines, as well.

So it all comes down to this. When we are hit with that almost impossible deadline, we need to decide one of two things:

  1. Meeting that target or deadline at all costs that includes stress, no hair and people not wanting to engage with us any more; or
  2. Phasing the target or deadline and living with the outcome of enjoying peace of mind.
Photo by Vincent van Zalinge on Unsplash

When the pressure is on, it is not uncommon for us to become inefficient and ineffective. We start earlier, we finish later and we even watch our weekends disappear in order to meet that illusive target. We become tired, irratible and almost impossible to deal with. We become frazzled and even burn out.

The further problem with meeting a deadline at all costs is that there is no redundancy built into the solution or outcome. By this I mean , if a mistake occurs during production (even writing or perhaps construction), there is no time to correct the fault. The end product, in whatever form it takes, often with costly repurcussions, is released.

Of course there are a number of exceptions to this situation including the release of software that allows beta testing or patches as we go or new versions that are subsequently released. This in itself can be quite frustrating for the user (but seems to be accepted practice now). There is also the approach regarding the use of actuaries – analytical wizards who calculate the cost or risk of an uncertain event. Many businesses insure themselves against such risks. An example is when a car is recalled to replace a faulty component. This also introduces a personal risk and is frustrating because of what may have been casued by someone else’s error. You will either decide to have the faulty part replaced or not, and live with whatever the outcome may be.

Photo by Julius Tejeda on Pexels.com

With phasing the target, this means putting forward the outcome in more digestble or acceptable stages. This is also where the art of negotiation comes into the picture.

Often, the boss or the client is not sure regarding the key deliverables themselves. They know there is a target or end goal. However, the execution of achieving that outcome is very much up in the air.

In a competitive world, this is where the magic of the staged approach is valuable. Stage one might look something like delivering an outcome in a more basic form to meet the timeframe required. This will satisfy most requirements, both for the client and the user. As a result, we have then given ourselves time to build the more expansive outcomes in later stages (ideally we can set some further milestones or key timeframes at this point).

I am reminded of that saying “simple is best,” or get back to basics. Stage one allows us to get ahead of the game. We enter the market with no other competitors in sight (they are in effect asleep). Stage two builds on our strong position by adding more sophistication or aditional features. At this point our competition has woken up to what we are up to, but it is too late. Even if they flood the market with similar services or gadets, as long as we continue to innovate, we will then stay ahead of the game.

Case Study

Always remember to manage the expectations of others!

I have a client who was under immense pressure last year regarding a commitment it gave to its customers to involve them in the development of a customer engagement policy. However, due to one thing or another, the promise of such a policy did not eventuate. Now, this client does take its promises to their customers very seriously.

When asked for my input into this matter, I suggested that an interim engagement policy is developed by the client with a promise that the original commitment for customer involvement in the final version of the policy is undertaken in 6 to 12 months time.

The end result was my client was happy with my proposal and also asked me to develop the interim policy. Not only that, the customers were also happy with the amended approach to their involvement in the development of the final version of the engagement policy in due course. So we all got to take a deep breath and relax going forward!

So Slower is Faster 😊

The Grotto’s Reflection – A Nod To George

So I thought that while I was on a roll, I would share my next musical creation, which is a nod to George…

My sister and brother in law flew in from Tasmania yesterday. We haven’t seen each other for quite sometime, so it is fabulous that we can get together during the time of COVID! Not only that, but Linda and two of our children return home today after spending the last seven weeks involved with a film shoot 700kms from home. In amongst waiting for my sister and BIL to drop by for a visit later today and Linda’s imminent arrival along with the two offspring, I thought I might finish my next recording. As I go to publish this post, my daughter has just arrived home first 😊

Anyway, as I continue my experiment on your listening ears, I am finally starting to familiarise myself more with what is now my desk top studio. This also means that I am improving my understanding of the technology required for my other music ventures later this year.

Photo by IJ Portwine on Unsplash – George second from the left, next to Paul, Ringo at the back and John on the right

George is my favourite Beatle. His songs are some of the most beautiful ever composed. In particular, his song Something has been described as hauntingly beautiful and an ode to the coming of age (Soundfacts.com). In amongst it all, I count myself lucky enough to have seen both Paul and Ringo perform live. Paul’s tribute to George playing Something, brought a tear to the crowd’s eye and Ringo playing With A Little Help (George had played lead guitar on the original recording) brought the house down.

I remember feeling immensely sad when George passed. The world lost a reflective and calming voice in showing us all how to embrace those around us.

George restored the gardens at his home – Friar Park and in amongst the gardens, he also had a grotto. There are photos out there of both him and John in the grotto. Although grottoes are spiritual, religious and reflective places, they have cultural significance and with many larger artificial grottoes, they are in fact places of entertainment (Mary McMahon). Hence my very humble tribute to a wonderful human being.

Part of the gardens at Friar Park – the home of George – https://www.geni.com/projects/Friar-Park-Oxfordshire-England/25406

So, how creativitive have you been today?

A Short Interlude At Jasmine Falls – An Instrumental Piece by Me!

So, this afternoon I thought I would quickly put down a piece of music on SoundCloud (only about 100 years overdue, but you get that).

This is the opening to an instrumental song I wrote on the guitar a long time ago. It’s not the best recording in the world, but I had fun.

The piece consists of two tracks: my very clumsy picking of a major seventh progression with a short lead overlay.

The interesting thing is, as soon as I published it, I had some instant likes. I’m not sure if they really did like it, because of how quick it was liked, but I appreciate the support anyway.

The guitar projects I have been working on this year have had one delay after another, but here I am, on the verge of making it all happen, well it needs to be by November all being well. My playing partner Tony and I have committed to finalising our play list so that we can meet out musical event obligations later in the year. Then my very good friend Steve “The Tiger,” Lane or Lois for short has kindly invited me to hangout his group which would make six guitars in all (The Eagles anyone?). Apart from that, Steve and I over the last few days have started putting together a parody regarding lockdowns using Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street. Steve’s handy on the sax, so he has promised to dust it off as we pull this thing together. Our rendition is a follow up to Laney of the Undercroft which he and I composed a long time ago when we resided at UWA. It was quite something to listen to at 2:00AM in the morning. Steve added the more interesting lyrics 😂

So I hope you enjoyed A Short Intelude and yes there are other tracks to come. I might even sing a bit too…

For those who haven’t seen my guitar before – An Aussie Music Icon: The Maton

The Tea Trolley Ladies – The Glue That Kept The Office Together

I thought I would take a trip down memory lane and tell a tale or two about the awesome tea ladies who helped keep the morale alive and kicking in the office…

Image courtesy of ABC Australia re Robyn Tuckwell: The Office Tea Lady Who Outlasted Her Era

As I was waiting with my mum on Monday morning at the hospital, she said “gee, it would be good if the tea trolley appeared around about now.” I nodded my head in agreement and said I don’t think they do this in this part of the hospital anymore.

However, it did get me thinking about the past conversations I have had with many of my colleagues, family and friends regarding our earliest days at work and the awesome tea trolley ladies we had back then. There is much to be said regarding having a decent tea or coffee break once or twice during the work day. All too often we are head down and lose track of how we can be more kind to ourselves and give our poor tired brain a break.

During my time at the State Energy Commission of Western Australia (SECWA), the canteen near the top of the building was still in place and the tea trolley turned up on your floor at both morning and afternoon teatime. This was at a time when moving from one’s desk was not an option, except to get a cup of tea or coffee at the set breaks, and of course at lunch time. Many younger readers would be puzzled by this: talking to each other was a no no, working in teams – what was that? Sure you might be in a work team (a section within the organisation), but it wasn’t a true integrated team where you could inspire each other to great outcomes. You also had to be quiet. Permission was even needed to go to the toilet, unless you worked in areas where people moved in and out all the time, to undertake tasks in other parts of the organisation.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

The tea trolley ladies were fabulous. When they arrived, you would grab you tea or coffee in shifts. It was like standing around the water cooler for a minute or two, where people would gather around the tea trolley and catch up. Different conversations would be the order of the day regarding whatever the latest news was and so on. Then, when your coworkers walked away, you could have a word or two with the tea ladies. The ladies were never grumpy. They always had a smile or two. They were a reliable source of information and new exactly what was going on around the place. It was almost like an intranet, but in human form 😂 Once the shifts were finished, the trolley would be left for half an hour or so and you could refill or return your empty cup, placing it underneath the trolley.

I remember my very first day working at SECWA. The morning tea trolley arrived. After a few minutes I went up to the trolley. I grabbed a cup, filled to with tea and then somehow managed to dunk my tie in it not once, but three times, after making a new cup each time 🤣 It was not my greatest workplace moment, but my work colleagues certainly remembered it for quite some time. However, the most awesome outcome was a conversation soon thereafter with my wife to be (Although, she laughed at me at the time).

Photo by Sebastian Coman Photography on Unsplash

These days, depending where you are, there are coffee vans that visit, you can pop out to the local cafe or stock up the workplace kitchen with as many varieties of tea that you like. And then you have that wonderful tea delivery experience in India (Chai Point). We also now have so many avid connoisseurs of High Tea. There is even a company where I live (High Tea In A Box) that will organise a high tea for you at home where the humble tea trolley finds itself resurrected once more. If you want to see some delightful reflections on the pleasures of tea drinking, visit childgirlwoman and the post: Tea Time – Romancing the Brew.

I always had a good relationship with the tea ladies. I recall for a number of years afterwards, they would always make me a cup of tea first up. Maybe it was their way of helping me to avoid a repeat of that first day! I’m only kidding, but they did look after me.

Lock Down Once Again!

So, here I am once again, like many others across the planet, in another lockdown. The irony is we had only several days ago moved to Phase 5 – complete freedom with only the opening of Australia’s borders (still a long way off in any case). What started out as wearing masks on Sunday turned into a snap, hard, lock down on Monday. The Delta Variant (DV) has managed to emerge in most Australian states very quickly, which is no different to its modus operandi around the world. In Western Australia (Perth and Peel Regions) we have been lucky to come through two earlier lockdowns this year without any impact. However, this time it is different. DV is passed with only the most fleeting of contacts. You can be well outside the required social distances and become infected. It is like we have gone back 12 months in time. The contact tracers and testing laboratories need the time that the lock down provides, in an effort to isolate and stamp DV out each time it emerges. It takes large amounts of resourcing and of course we can do that here (for now). Anyway, one hour at a time, half a day at a time, one day at a time we go. As Willedare (who is an awesome musical talent) says “breathe in breathe out”…

Everybody Loves A Good Comeback – You Too Can Rise From The Ashes

Watching Big Shot the previous Sunday, former NCAA Division I champion basketball coach Marvyn Korn (John Stamos) has these very words said to him by a good friend who is also a chief basketball scout: “Everybody loves a good comeback.”

For anyone who has caught up with this show, the feelgood story on Disney+ is about basketball’s most successful college coach of all time. At the start, we see Marvyn have a melt down during a baskeball game. He involved throwing a chair at the referee and, as you can imagine, he was subsequently banned from the sport. The other consequence of his explosive behaviour was he couldn’t find a coaching job, until his agent found him the head coaching job at a private all girls school far from “home.”

At his new place of employment, we get to see who Marvyn really is. Or, perhaps more to the point, through his interactions with his young athletes and assistant coach, he begins to give himself permission to let his inner being shine through. Because of the change that starts to occur, along with the humanising of the “demonic” coach, Marvyn suddenly finds himself in demand as the legendary coach once more.

Image courtesy of Disney Plus Informer Matt Jones

When it all boils down, a comeback is tantamount to forgiveness, or is it? I think this is one of the big changes we have seen in recent times: the lack of forgiveness. People are being torched unnecessarily, unfairly and without good reason. But, in the interests of this post, I will park this particular point for now.

I can honestly say though, throughout my career, I have had numerous setbacks and the comebacks to match. That’s how it is in the political arena: you either fit in or you don’t, and rarely is it something in between (see my post Rooster Today, Feather Duster Tomorrow).

So how do you plan for a good comeback?

When it is all said and done, there are a number of considerations when planning an effective comeback:

Be Calm

I know this is easy to say when your world is falling apart. However, being calm is essential at a time like this. This is not the time to burn bridges, although you might find yourself singeing them a tiny bit. Unlike Marvyn, I have never exploded, thrown a chair or abused anyone. However, when my number was up, I calmly and rationally discussed what I needed to do to close matters out and moved on. This is the same as being in the zone, or compartmentalising your thoughts and feelings. The name of the game is being professional i.e. being calm. If you want some further tips on staying calm, Linda at Spiritual Fantasia in her post (and blog) Emotional Turmoil: Navigate Rough Waters lists some simple tips on dealing with our emotional landscape.

Take Time Out

Marvyn’s managment agent was right. Marvyn needed to do “penance,” regarding his actions. Time out takes on a variety of different forms. It can be anything from reconnecting at home through to that long promised vacation. For others, it means moving to somewhere else and working in the same industry or even another industry altogether. Some even become volunteers.

As a minimum, the time out taken should be a minimum of three months. However, 6 – 12 months may have a more healing effect. There are those I know who have taken the best part of five years to make their comeback, during which time, they made their mark somewhere else.

I won’t sugarcoat what I am about to say next. Some of us have “time out” enforced on us. Yes, I have colleagues who have been dismissed or served jail time for what they have done. Of course, this means they have plenty of time to reflect on why they have ended up where they are in life. Once time is served, with their rehabilitation and/or penance is complete, they have generally been able to find themselves gainfully employed once more.

Reflect

To stop the setback you experience going around in your head forever in a day, you need to do two things: see to your health and learn from your bruising past experience.

When it comes to your health, more often than not, we are talking about your mental health here. Everyone is different regarding their experience when it comes to mental health. The trick is to stop finding a way to help you stop the spiral. Caz, a former nurse has something to say about this at her blog: MentalHealth360. See 7 quick and easy tips to control your anger.

Taking time out to learn from this very bruising experience is essential for you to move forward. Often, there is not much you have done wrong and so it takes time to reconcile being moved on against your core being. However, you need to do the self analysis.

Plan

Once you are settled in your own mind, then it is time to plan your comeback. The plan shouldn’t be too complicated. As a suggestion, your plan can consist of the following, with milestones for each action:

  • Start eating better. There are much more gifted writers out there than me on how to do this. Take a look at Ang’s blog Lose Weight With Ang and see how you can start to get your head around how to better sustain yourself;
  • Undertake some form of exercise and/or look into how you can revisit your spiritual well being. Cindy with her blog Unique Times not only has great advice and videos on how to build up a gentle fitness regime, but advice on how to build up your spiritual well being as well;
  • Engage with friends and family. When was the last time you really connected with those closest to you? I know this my seem harder that it is, but just start a conversation anywhere and work your way into what is on your mind;
  • Weigh up your future e.g. ask yourself: do I want to get back into the industry?, or do I want to work for myself?, or do I want to do something completely different? Micah of Markus & Micah has some thoughts on a “holiday life or how to create the life you love;”
  • List potential stakeholders that will be a form part of your future. In other words, draw up a list of those people or organisations that wil help you reconnect.
Let Key People Know You Are Back!

There you are. You have served your time, are feeling refreshed and have your plan of attack ready to go. So what do you do next? Simply really. Reach out and let the key stakeholders in your life know that your are back and rearing to go. This may be your professional association, former work colleagues, your coach or mentor or friends and relatives. I understand that this is not easy, but once you do it, you will feel much better for it and have great peace of mind.

A Comeback Story

On one particular occasion my future as a CEO was in the balance. I had been through a turbulent eight months. Over the course of the day in question, the mediator was painting an unpleasant picture regarding what was turning out to be my day of reckoning. Although, I knew the numbers were still with me, by the end of that day (and after discussing the situation at length with Linda), I decided that it was time to move on. So I met with the powers that be and announced my decision. I calmly thanked them for the opportunity that they had provided to me in leading the organisation, however in the interests of all, it was time for me to go. In short, I fell on my sword. The majority though were not happy with my decision, but they understood. My staff, in the main, were, distraught. The bottom line, I wasn’t prepared to go through a further six months of non ending, character assassination that would eventually de-stable the organisation. My family certainly didn’t need all the nonsense that comes with this either.

From when I made my announcement, it took me a month to close things out with the organisation and a further month to sort matters out with my family. I then took three months out to contemplate my navel and stop blaming myself for what happened. My family was very patient during this time. Eventually, I improved my diet and began to get fit. At the end of three months, I had a temporary job offer come thorugh as a CEO, which I accepted, and in turn was accepted very warmly by that organisation. By the end of my four month contract, I had a firm plan in place. I then let all and sundry know I was around. A range of opportunities presented not long afterwards.

To this day, I have not had to advertise my availability. Word of mouth has been sufficient. However, I know this approach is not the best one for most people. There is no doubt in today’s world, an online presence is essential. Kally at MiddleMe has some very interesting things to say about marketing yourself here and in her post 8 Tips for Reentering the Workforce After a Long Absence, has fabulous pointers on how to pull it all together and find that meaningful job.

A Different Kind of Comeback

I remember as the relieving CEO at the Shire of Sandstone five years ago, I had been recalled there no less than three times during the year, for one reason or another. Anyway, on the last occasion, towards the end of my last tenure there, I had organised an opening night for an art exhibition over the long weekend. It was a very successful evening. When it came to the speeches, I was first cab of the rank. During my speech, I commented “This year, I feel like I have had more comebacks than Elvis.” To which those in the room replied “no, offence, Sean, but we hope we don’t have to see you again anytime soon.” And we all had a good laugh about that. When a person or an organisation asks you back time and again, you know you must be doing something right. In particular, at Sandstone, they told me I had a very calming presence and this had allowed the community to breathe and re-establish its own peace of mind 😊

What’s your comeback story? Please feel free to comment below!

Some of the artworks being prepared for the Sandstone Exhibition (Author’s own image)
Looking East at the Sandstone sunset from my humble abode. Note Venus to the left (Author’s own image)
Shire Office – Sandstone. Building is made of rammed earth (Author’s own image)

The Kindness Revolution – Hugh MacKay

Or how crises and catastrophes are the making of us in challenging times and the importance of why we (both you and me) need to show leadership in our communities from the ground up…

A Book For Our Times – Image courtesy of Allen & Unwin

As I was sitting in the reception room of our dentist last weekend, an interview with Hugh MacKay was unfolding on the tv in front of me. Hugh is Australia’s foremost social researcher, so I tuned into the interview straight away. He is always worth listening to.

Hugh was discussing his new book The Kindness Revolution. He said:

Revolutions never start at the top. If we dare to dream of a more loving country – kinder, more compassionate, more cooperative, more respectful, more inclusive, more egalitarian, more harmonious, less cynical – there’s only one way to start turning that dream into a reality: each of us must live as if this is already that country. 

The inspiration for his book was the state of Australia’s mental and emotional well being and the state of the economy after the ravages of the 2020 Australian bushfires followed by the onset of the pandemic. Hugh found himself (like many of us I suspect) reflecting on the challenges faced during this time and asked three questions that I know many of us have asked around the globe, including:

  • What really matters to me?
  • Am I living the kind of life I want?
  • What sort of society do I want us to become? 

Although his book is written regarding the Australian context, he urges all of us not to let these questions go, and points to our inspiring displays of kindness and consideration, our personal sacrifices for the common good and our heightened appreciation of the value of local neighbourhoods and communities during this time. He asks a very big question in turn: ‘Could we become renowned as a loving country, rather than simply a “lucky” one?’ 

In a recent interview in the Australian, Hugh points out:

By kindness I mean compassion, tolerance, respect, sensitivity towards other people. And the radical version is absolutely non-discriminatory; the revolution is when you are kind not just to your nice neighbour, but to the ones you don’t know or don’t like much. The pandemic has shown us we are actually quite good at this. We are a social species that can only survive by creating relatively harmonious communities, and the only rational response to that is to say, well, kindness had better be our default position.

Hugh mentions in a podcast on his book (Hugh Mackay’s simple ways to be kinder everyday) it became evident to him that there is a movement out there regarding “The New Normal.” People are categorically saying that they do not want, post pandemic, to slip back into a stressful, over committed and overwhelming life. This made him pursue the question “what does it mean to be normal?” The answer: being kind and respectful.

To emphasize his point he quotes Abraham Lincoln: The Better Angels of Our Nature. Hugh goes on to explore that being kind is the only trait that we have as a socially connected species that doesn’t require emotion. We are a socially connected species and we are hardwired towards cooperative interactions. He argues implementing kindness is not the responsibility of governments, but the responsibility of the individual. In order for us to be kind each day, he sets out his four step CARE plan:

The 4 Step CARE Plan – Image courtesy of Allen & Unwin #thekindnessrevolution 4-point CARE plan

When I went through Hugh’s 4 Step Plan, I found myself starting to feel at ease. There seems to a very familiar aspect to it. I connect by smiling and saying hello. It’s challenging at times to do this, in certain settings, but much easier when it is in your local neighbourhood. I do accept people for who they are. I take them as I find them. If you ask me for help, regardless of who you are, I will help out as best I can. With respect, as Hugh strongly points out (and many other insightful minds out there), the virus doesn’t discriminate – it attacks all humans – it doesn’t care who you are or where you come from. I don’t know If I have always been good at engagement, but I give it a good go. Yes, I do listen. Yes, I have joined and done many community things over the years. I have been a netball coach and umpire, women’s hockey coach, played cricket and hockey, participated in drug and alcohol health initiatives, breathed life into community groups that were dwindling away and fought the good fight on making communities a better place to live.

I have Hugh’s book and I have started a deeper dive into the Kindess Revolution. Already I have digested what it means to be resilient…

From my perspective, I already live how I want things to be, with kindness. I may be grumpy day in and day out, but I am a firm believer that us and the world are going to be just fine. We need to sharpen our game plan, absolutely, and get on with how the world (not just our own backyard) can be a better place. Only we, together, can do that!

Podcasts can be found here:

https://www.owltail.com/people/CcLYT-hugh-mackay/appearances (10 mins)

https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/conversations/hugh-mackay-kindess-revolution-hope-trust-community/13364820 (60 mins)

If you have time, watch an interview with Hugh at your leisure

https://youtu.be/HPGkVH92Of0 (60 mins)

Rameses II – A Leader Among Leaders

This is the first post in an ongoing series that will look at key leaders throughout Time and their enduring legacy, including key attributes applicable to leaders today

Image of Rameses II by Nadine Doerlé from Pixabay

I am a great believer that leaders are made, not born. That being said, there is much in the way of literature out there regarding how leaders come to be. Undertake any literature review on the subject and you will find there is a position regarding how leaders are made (and how it is done), or that leaders are born (as if by some divine right!) or perhaps, you will find there is even something in between.

In short, one thing is certain and that is leaders rise to the occasion. However, in this context, leaders are either good or bad, and again, perhaps even something in between.

Leadership is simple, yet complex and thus challenging. The list of leaders that have been tested time and time again is extensive. Just ask: Rameses II, Alexander the Great, Tang Taizong, Caesar, Charlemagne, Elizabeth I, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S Grant, Queen Victoria, Ghandi, Churchill, Elizabeth II, Nelson Mandela, Peter Drucker, Bill Gates.

Today, I thought I might focus on, perhaps my all time favourite leader, the Egyptian Pharaoh – Rameses II  (1292-1186 BCE) or as he was also known: Rameses the Great and ‘Keeper of Harmony and Balance’(Gebril, 2019; Mark, 2009).

Rameses caught my attention as a six year old boy when I received a book from my dad on Ancient Egypt that had magnificent pictures in it regarding the fabulous temple complex he built at Abu Simbel. Kristin Baird Rattini (2019) describes Abu Simbel as follows: “At its entrance, four 60-plus-foot-tall seated statues of him serve as sentries. Dedicated to the sun gods, the temple extends 185 feet into its cliff via a series of three towering halls. Scenes depict Ramses II at the Battle of Kadesh as well as the pharaoh and his principal wife, Nefertari, making offerings to the sun gods.” It is also interesting to note that Ramses also built a second, smaller temple nearby for Queen Nefertari.

View From Montgomery’s Hotel Suite WWII – Photo by AussieActive on Unsplash

In her book, A Thousand Miles up the Nile (Edwards, 1891), Amelia B Edwards said of Rameses: He was born to greatness; he achieved greatness; and he had borrowed greatness thrust upon him. Amelia certainly knew how to turn a phrase. If you ever get the chance to read her book, you can feel the romantic description used to pull you back in time to the ‘Land of Pharaohs.’ And yet, underneath it all, we know that Rameses family had very humble origins (Karima, 2016). His grandfather, Rameses I through military prowess, elevated their commoner family to the ranks of royalty (Rattini, 2019).

Rameses was just 24 when he ascended the throne of Egypt (Prahl, 2019). He then went on to rule for a further 66 years, in what is referred to as a Golden Age of Ancient Egypt. It is interesting to note, that his father Seti 1, made Rameses a general at the age of ten (Valjak, 2018) and prince regent at the age of 14 (2007 Wikipedia Schools Selection, 2007). So, by the time he became Pharoah, he had ten years under his belt regarding kingship and war.

Pharaohs, as a rule, did not acknowledge their children, let alone the capabilities they may have possessed. At the very most, they might acknowledge the crown prince, perhaps (Karima, 2016). Wente, Baines and Dorman (2021) comment that for the first time in more than a millennium, Rameses as Pharaoh had his princes prominently represented on monuments. It is said Rameses sired some 100 children or more (some say tas many as up to 170 offspring!). Of his children, he acknowledged at least 30 princes and 30 princesses publicly (Theban Mapping Project, 2021). During his long life he trained at least 12 sons to be crown prince, as most of his children died before he died (PBS, 2006). Of the primary princes from his two queens, he treated them with equal regard and respect (Mark, 2009). So, he was seen by the people as humane by going against custom and was generally well liked (Hays, 2018).

Rameses did fight in many successful wars, but had one major blemish, the battle of Kadesh against the Hittites (Geni, 2019). However, after this inconclusive battle and a further series of successful wars, he signed the Eternal Peace Treaty with the Hittites. So, by the time he was in his 40’s, he began to rule over a peaceful and successful kingdom right through until the end of his days.

When he died in his early 90’s, his subjects were very distraught. Most people did not live beyond the age of 40 at that time. So, it was quite likely that most of his subjects, at his passing, had been born during his reign (PBS, 2006).

Rameses II at Luxor – Image courtesy of BasSem on Stock Vault

There are those who contend that Rameses was neither great nor was he a good general. Dailymi (2021) cites some Egyptologists (William Hayes, Kenneth A Kitchen – see further comments below) who considered him a despot (Dailymi also mentions those who considered him as far sighted and master diplomat – H Schlogl, Nicolas Grimal). Others mention that he was an apparent megalomaniac (Real Life Villains Wiki, 2021; Putthoff, 2020 pp39 – 47). Both Amelia B Edwards and Kenneth Kitchen (noted egyptologist and Rameses II specialist) mention Rameses may have been a despot or megalomaniac, but we must put this into the context of the societal norms at the time i.e. we cannot judge him by today’s standards. He was no better or worse than any other ruler throughout that part of the world (Dunn, 2021). John Ray comments when Rameses successor came to the throne and undertook an audit of imperial spending “one gains the impression that the excesses of the previous reign had left the throne close to bankruptcy (Ray, 2017).”

Personally, I don’t share the negative points of view because, as any leader knows, to achieve what Rameses did as the ruler of Egypt he had to possess some amazing leadership abilities. Resting on one’s laurels, being vindictive and only talking about oneself does not lead to a successful kingdom. Sure, it might survive, but such a kingdom would not have prospered the way Egypt did at that time. Dorman and Faulkner (2021) postulate: “Ramses II must have been a good soldier, despite the fiasco of Kadesh, or else he would not have been able to penetrate so far into the Hittite empire as he did in the following years; he appears to have been a competent administrator, since the country was prosperous, and he was certainly a popular king. Some of his fame, however, must surely be put down to his flair for publicity: his name and the record of his feats on the field of battle were found everywhere in Egypt and Nubia.”

Of course, what happens afterwards may be an issue. A war within the family broke out ten years after the passing of Rameses (Karima, 2016). Although Egypt remained an ongoing influence in the region (Dorman and Faulkner, 2021) the “New Kingdom” collapsed after the reign of Smendes nearly 150 years later (Mark, 2016). However, when it is all said and done, Rameses legacy is still felt today (Sandvick, Krebsbach and Lambrecht, 2018).

By contrast, Rameses may have also been the cruel pharaoh that dealt with Moses on the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt (Rattini, 2019; Edwards, 1891; 2007 Wikipedia Schools Selection, 2007).

Three Key Leadership Traits

So, when we look at the achievements of Rameses, there are three key leadership attributes that he possessed:

  1. Diplomacy. He understood the importance of gaining financial and security interests by means other than war.
  2. Public relations. He understood that a positive message would make the biggest difference to his people.
  3. Commitment to great architecture and Infrastructure. He had a grand vision and understood economic security.

The Diplomat

The Nile at Sunset – Photo by AussieActive on Unsplash

After 14 years of conflict, the Eternal Peace Treaty (also known as the Silver Treaty) between Egypt and the Hittites was signed by Ramses and the Hittite King: Hattusili III. It would also seem that Hattusili’s wife, Queen Puduhepa was part of the diplomatic resolution as her seal is found on the treaty (Silver, 2010). A copy of the clay tablets setting out the treaty are prominently displayed above the entrance to to United Nations Security Council Chamber in New York (Andrews, 2020). The Eternal treaty is the earliest known peace accord whose text has survived in key monuments in both Egypt and Ancient Anatolia (Turkey). Among the treaty’s articles, both sides agreed to extradite refugees and not exact retribution after their return. Further, they agreed to aid one another if attacked by foreign or domestic enemies (Rattini, 2019). In addition to the treaty, Rameses also married not one, but two Hittite princesses (at different times). It’s interesting to note that Puduhepa in due course did have something to say to her “brother” about such arrangements (Silver, 2010).

The lesson from Rameses regarding diplomacy is this: there are times as a leader when you need to draw a line in the sand, take a deep breath and look at how you can go forward, together, instead of pursuing ongoing conflict that is destructive. Whichever way you look at it, both kings were magnanimous. In later correspondence, Nefertari in a letter to Puduhepa referred to both kings as brothers (Silver, 2010). Rameses understood that he needed access to the Hittite controlled ports and the countries that bordered Hittite territory. Hattusili certainly needed an ally to discourage potential usurpers at home in order to secure a lasting peace for posterity (Wikja.org, 2021). By all accounts both rulers went on to have a good relationship. I guess that is the ultimate in being professional: rise above your personal interests.

The Master of Spin

Temple of Rameses II Abu Simble Image by orsdg from Pixabay

Rameses, was without a doubt a master spin doctor. However, as all good leaders know, to seal the deal, to inspire and lead, you need to talk it up. The battle of Kadesh was inconclusive. Neither the Egyptians nor the Hittites won. What we find regarding the outcome of this battle is that Rameses was quick to return home and publish far and wide that Kadesh was a successful campaign and that he, single handedly, won the day. Remarkably, the Hittite king used the same strategy with his people (Rattini, 2019).

One of Ramses offspring, Prince Khaemwaset truly stands apart, and in particular how he helped his father on the public relations front. Khaemwaset held the prestigious post of high priest of Ptah, the patron god of Memphis. Bas-reliefs depict him in his important duty of tending the tomb of Ptah’s sacred Apis bulls in the underground complex known as the Serapeum (Rattini, 2019).

Khaemwaset is also considered one of the first known archaeologists. He was captivated by the thousand-year-old landmarks from the Old Kingdom that surrounded him in Memphis. He inspected and restored several temples and pyramids. At each restoration, he inscribed the names and titles of the building’s original “owners,” as well as his and his father’s names. A millennium after his death, he was still being revered as a scholar and featured in a series of stories about his accomplishments (Rattini, 2019).

The Importance of Infrastructure

Photo of Nefertari and Hathor’s Temple Abu Simbel by AussieActive on Unsplash

Rameses, like any good leader, understood that great architecture and infrastructure are needed to keep the people focussed, make life easier for them (both socially and at work) and to also keep them gainfully employed. We know that previous pharaohs had built impressive pyramids and temples. However under the reign of Rameses, it is said, he turned Egypt into an immense building site, from the Mediterranean Sea all the way to Nubia (Deprez, 2021). Much of his construction work was in relation to his image or family. Many historians consider his reign the pinnacle of Egyptian art and culture and the famous Tomb of Nefertari with its wall paintings is cited as clear evidence of the truth of this claim. Nefertari was Ramesses’ first wife and his favourite queen (Mark, 2009).

In today’s world, we find it difficult to understand such an approach, in fact some would say Rameses showed narcissistic tendencies. However, we need to understand Egyptian society at the time: the Pharaoh was divine – a link between the gods and the common people (Williams, 2019: Putthoff, 2020 pp39 – 47)). Pharaonic divinity has always intrigued me. It was never questioned by the populace (despite revolts from time to time). State based religion was important, as it was central to their way of life. Ask any cat that lived in Ancient Egypt.

Ancient Egyptians actually enjoyed life (Mark, 2016) and are not the sombre, spooky people often portrayed in movies and TV shows. They were a colourful people (Ancient Egypt for Kids, 2021). Because they enjoyed life so much, they wanted to make sure they could transition to the afterlife and enjoy it just as much there on the ancestral plane. In addition to such divineship, Ancient Egypt was for all intents and purposes, egalitarian (equal under the law). In particular, Egyptian women had great freedom and enjoyed equality in many aspects re owning land, were able to divorce, were generally paid the same as men for work undertaken outside the home (Andrews, 2020). Nefertari, as Rameses first queen, was revered as an exceptional woman. She played an important role in state and religious affairs. Loved by her people, she was called “mistress of two lands,” a title normally reserved for the king, the “lord of two lands” (Canadian Museum of History, 2021).

Some Final Thoughts

The Eternal Peace Treaty is on display for all to see at the United Nations, above the entrance to the Security Council. The contents of the treaty set out how both kingdoms will be of benefit to each other. The ensuing peace the Treaty provided led to great prosperity and a much better way of life. However, it does make me wonder why some of the current members of the Security Council in today’s world only pay lip service to the ideals of such a revered Treaty?

Rameses II stood bold and proud. He respected his family and involved them in much of what he had to do. He led his people in an open manner and communicated with them through his great structural works. He was considered accessible like none other before him. From a young age his father (Seti I) instilled in him what it meant to be responsible for those around him. He achieved his aim of securing Egypt’s borders, so that for much of his reign, the nation lived in peace, harmony and prosperity.

References

2007 Wikipedia Schools Selection, (2007). Rameses II. (online) https://www.cs.mcgill.ca/~rwest/wikispeedia/wpcd/wp/r/Ramesses_II.htm (Accessed 18 May 2021).

Ancient Egypt for Kids. (2021). Daily Life. (online). Available at: https://egypt.mrdonn.org/dailylife.html (Accessed 18 May 2021).

Andrews, E. (2020). 11 Things You May Not Know About Ancient Egypt. History. (online). Available at: https://www.history.com/news/11-things-you-may-not-know-about-ancient-egypt (Accessed 18 May 2021).

Canadian Museum of History. (2021). Mysteries of Egypt. Egyptian Civilisation. Government. Royal Women. (online). Available at: https://www.historymuseum.ca/cmc/exhibitions/civil/egypt/egcgov4e.html (Accessed 18 May 2021).

Dailymi. (2021). Ramesses II, The Third Ancient Egyptian King (Pharaoh). (online) Available at: https://dailymi.com/world/ramesses-ii-the-third-ancient-egyptian-king-pharaoh/ (Accessed 2 June 2021).

Deprez, G. (2021). Why Ramses II Is Known As Ramses The Great? The Collector. (online). Available at: https://www.thecollector.com/why-ramses-ii-is-known-as-ramses-the-great/ (Accessed 18 May 2021).

Dorman, P.F. and Faulkner, R.O. (2021). Rameses II King of Egypt. Britannica. (online) Available at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ramses-II-king-of-Egypt (Accessed 3 June 2021).

Dunn, J. (2021). Ramesses II: Anatomy of a Pharaoh An Introduction. Tour Egypt (online). Available at: http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/ramesses2intro.htm. (Accessed 18 May 2021).

Edwards, A.B. (1891). A Thousand Miles Up The Nile. London: George Rutledge and Sons. Also: https://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/edwards/nile/nile-XV.html (Accessed 18 May 2021).

Gebil, M. (2019). Who Was The Great King Ramesses II? Osiris Tours. (online) Available at: https://www.osiristours.com/great-king-ramesses-ii/ (Accessed 3 June 2021).

Geni. (2019). Rameses II ‘The Great,’ Pharaoh of Egypt. (online) Available at: https://www.geni.com/people/Ramses-II-The-Great-Pharaoh-of-Egypt/6000000000351094247 (Accessed 4 June 2021).

Hays, J. (2018). Rameses the Great. Facts and Details. (online. Available at: http://factsanddetails.com/world/cat56/sub364/item1956.html (Accessed 3 June 2021).

Karima, H. (2016). The Poisoned Legacy of Rameses II. Egypt Today. (online). Available at: https://www.egypttoday.com/Article/4/3131/The-Poisoned-Legacy-Of-Rameses-II (Accessed 4 June 2021).

Mark, J.J (2009). Rameses II. World History Encyclopedia. (online) Available at: https://www.worldhistory.org/Ramesses_II/ (Accessed 18 May 2021).

Mark, J.J (2016). Daily Life in Ancient Egypt. World History Encyclopedia. (online) Available at: https://www.worldhistory.org/article/933/daily-life-in-ancient-egypt/ (Accessed 3 June 2021).

Mark, J.J. (2016). New Kingdom of Egypt. World History Encyclopedia. (online). Available at: https://www.worldhistory.org/New_Kingdom_of_Egypt/ (Accessed 4 June 2021).

Prahl, A. (2019) Biography of Rameses II, Pharaoh of Egypt’s Golden Age. ThoughtCo. (online). Available at: https://www.thoughtco.com/ramses-ii-biography-4692857 (Accessed 18 May, 2021).

Puttoff, T.L. (2020). Gods and Humans in the Ancient Near East. Cambridge University Press.

PBS, (2006). Egypts Golden Empire. New Kingdom. Rameses II. (online) Available at: https://www.pbs.org/empires/egypt/newkingdom/ramesses.html (Accessed 18 May 2021).

Rattini, K.B. (2019). Who was Rameses II? National Geographic. (online). Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/article/ramses-ii?loggedin=true (Accessed 18 May 2021).

Ray, J. (2017). Rameses the Great. BBC History. (online). Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/egyptians/ramesses_01.shtml (Accessed 18 May 2021).

Real Life Villains Wiki. (2021). Rameses The Great. (online) Available at: https://reallifevillains.miraheze.org/wiki/Rameses_the_Great (Accessed 18 May 2021).

Sandvick, C., Krebsbach, J., Lambrecht, E. (2018). Why Was Ramesses II “Great” and How Did He Influence the History of the Ancient Near East? DailyHistory.org (online). Available at:2021).https://dailyhistory.org/Why_Was_Ramesses_II_“Great”_and_How_Did_He_Influence_the_History_of_the_Ancient_Near_East%3F (Accessed 4 June 2021).

Silver, C. From Priestess to Princess. Iron Ladies of the Ancient World. Archaeology (online). A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America. Available at: https://archive.archaeology.org/online/features/iron_ladies/puduhepa.html (Accessed 3 June 2021).

Theban Mapping Project. (2021). Rameses II – Ruler/Tomb Owner 1278 – 1212 BC. Available at: https://thebanmappingproject.com/glossary/rameses-ii (Accessed 18 May 2021).

Valjak. D. (2018). The Vintage News. (online). Available at: https://www.thevintagenews.com/2018/01/16/ramesses-ii-passport/ (Accessed 3 June 2021).

Wente, E.F., Baines, J.R., Dorman, P.F. (2021). Rameses II. Britannica. (online). Available at: https://www.britannica.com/place/ancient-Egypt/Egypt-under-Achaemenid-rule (Accessed 2 June 2021).

Wikja.org. (2021). Egyptian-Hittite Peace Treaty. (online). Available at: https://military.wikia.org/wiki/Egyptian–Hittite_peace_treaty (Accessed 3 June 2021).

Williams, E.S. (2019). Was Rameses II Really That Great? History Extra. (online). https://www.historyextra.com/period/ancient-egypt/was-ramesses-ii-pharaoh-great-brilliant-why/ (Accessed 3 June 2021).

The Hardest Thing I Have To Tell CEOs

It seems all through my working life, I have had to tell CEOs how it is…

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com

As some of you would be aware, I have spent a reasonable amount of time as a CEO. So, I do have some insight here regarding what I am about to say next.

The bottomline: you should always tell your CEO or leader how it is, but in a constructive manner. However, that is not the purpose of my post today (but, this is something you need to ruminate on 🤔)

These days as a consultant, as it was for me when I was a humble employee, I have/had to tell CEOs how it is.

The hardest thing to tell them though is this: “no I cannot do that for you, as you are the only one, the only person who can undertake that particular task.”

There are certain tasks that only the CEO, the chairperson, the leader, director, team manager and so on can do, because it is to do with their experience, their perspective. Although you may assist them through understanding them and teasing out what is inside their heads, ultimately, you do not know their true underlying sense of being, despite appreciating the type of person they are, including the values and ethics they have and so on.

So, how do I let them down gently? Firstly, in an even handed way (I have reviewed this matter for you, however, I need to let you know…). Secondly, with the facts (As you know, you have been involved with this matter from day one, whereas there are some matters I have not been exposed to, including…) and lastly with sound reasoning (this is an issue that only you can respond to as you are the one that has the required insights the others need to know..). Your explanation doesn’t have to be overly long, but it does need to be balanced (perhaps these are some of the pros and cons that you need to consider…) and in a cooperative tone (I am happy to assist you further where I can). They may not appreciate what you say at the time, but over the long haul, you are the one they will trust when the chips are down.

CEOs Are Human Too…

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A Distinct Lack of Interest – Some Days Are Like That!!!

Yes, I am having one of those days…

Our daughter has been at her grandmother’s for the last month preparing the final touches to the props she has developed for the movie she is working on, which starts filming at the end of May. She is the head of production on Before Dawn, and her props, including human bodies and body parts are more than realistic!

This morning she popped home to sort out some things. As we were sitting at the table having breakfast, she said “what is happening beard man?” I responded “I know I shouldn’t be saying this to one of my offspring, but a distinct (complete) lack of interest on my part.”

Various thoughts were running through my head as I was saying this regarding the challenge of being a role model in one’s family 24/7: dad of the year – nope, one time inspiring leader of organisations – nope, slayer of dragons and oppressors – definitely a nope.

Photo by Ann H on Pexels.com

We all have those blah days, and I am having one today, as I have been awake since 2AM.

The reality is, just being able to talk to my eldest child this morning, who is an awesome adult in her own right, is a very big tick and one I cherish. In today’s world, and for the first part of our lives, we spend so much time chasing Moby Dick, or the unattainable goal, we forget what life is really all about. Taking time out to actually commune with those closest to us (COVID aside) is beyond important. Learning this later on in life is not necessarily too late, but it is food for thought as to when we should focus on the strength of our connections regarding those around us.

The other awesome aspect in my life is my wife Linda: the only person who well and truly puts up with whatever crazy idea or behaviour that is running though my head at the time. If you can imagine a welcoming bubbly glass of champagne in a party setting, that’s her. Every single time she says: “it’s always a good idea to take time out.”

So, a very important aspect in all this then, is giving myself permission to feel a distinct lack of interest and then get over it, because I know I will.

A fabulous post on the blah and what is happening can be found at the Mental Health 360 blog: A name for the blah we’ve all been feeling lately? Caz, is awesome in how she tackles this subject. Take a peek, and banish the blah’s away (blasé – sorry, I couldn’t help myself 🤣). If you know someone who needs to make sense of the blah, then give them the link to the post by Caz as well.

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