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06 May 2012 8:59 PM

If I were Lord Sugar for a day

There comes a point where repetition becomes incredibly tedious. The mothers amongst us tend to find it when the phrase "Put your shoes on please" has little or no effect, and then morphs in to "ShoesonshoesonshoesonshoesonshoesonPUTYOURDAMNSHOESONNOWORELSE!"

You wonder what went amiss first time round and why some things just go in one ear, and out the other. Or not even vaguely near the ear in the first place.

Remember this? The old trick of using LinkedIn as a means to an end? Once more this week I was the wary recipient of an 'invitation to connect' from someone who purported to have 'done business with me'. Someone whom I have never met, let alone heard their name. An individual, furthermore, who resides in a place where I have never even set foot. Solihull.

I deleted the invitation.

On Thursday afternoon, my office phone rang. The caller ID said 'Anonymous number', so my suspicions were already raised as I answered. The voice at the other end queried whether they were speaking with LCM - which I confirmed, it is my direct number after all - and then launched in to an accelerated monologue that went along the following lines:

"Hi this is Very Keen Recruitment Agent from Never Heard of Before Agency in Solihull (aha - the 'connection') and I have an amazing candidate that would be really great for your business and he has done so well recently and he has had the best results in terms of revenue generation for his current company and is very enthusiastic and would love to talk to you about opportunities to come and work for you and he has hit his targets consistently, in fact he has exceeded them, and is really hard-working and focused and a great asset to any company but especially yours and what positions are you currently looking to fill and would you like to meet with him, and, and ... yadda yadda yadda..." 

I had switched off around the second 'and'. The monologue continued for two minutes. I know. I timed it.

When Very Keen Recruitment Agent finally paused for breath, I broke the news to her. There are no vacancies. None at all. And none on the horizon either. And I hung up.

Why? Because the VKRA had committed some cardinal sins. No queries about my own role. No questions about the business itself. No enquiry even about whether I was looking to recruit people, let alone open to having discussions about this with a total stranger. 

Pertaining to 'know' me on the basis of having come across my profile in LinkedIn, does not give you a guaranteed win.

So, in the words of Lord Sugar: Very Keen Recruitment Agent, you're fired.

 

24 April 2012 10:57 PM

And now for a bit of reverse psychology

Two months in to the new venture under my own company and changes are afoot.

Today the new team strategy and planning for the rest of the year - and beyond - were made official and presented to the wider audience. Nothing radical, more of a logical reorganisation, some streamlining of business verticals, establishment of focal points, and an emphasis on 'the two c's': communication and collaboration.

These latter two areas are vital in any business that is looking to grow. They not only help gain a more thorough understanding of how to quantify and validate prospective opportunities, they also facilitate acknowledgement of 'what good looks like', and how to then apply this across a wider range of business areas.

To build a more successful business it is vital to understand not only what the clients need (as opposed to what they want), but also to place the company in a position that facilitates delivery against expectations. Better collaboration and communication is just the start of this journey. 

So far, so good. Presentation was pretty slick (if I say so myself) and well received, judging by the feedback.

Just one small omission, apparently. 

The third 'c': commission.

It was mooted that unless this was changed, collaboration (the fourth 'c'?) would not be forthcoming.

Yes, in theory. 

But guess what? Thirty percent of nothing is nothing.

So pull your finger out, show me what you can do, and then we can talk about commission. Otherwise we will be discussing another 'c' altogether.

Cuts. Of the job kind.

Dilbert job cuts
(c) Scott Adams

09 April 2012 6:56 PM

Waiting for the update

So I called my digital editor at the ES last week.

"Neil? Hello, it's LCM!"

There was an ominous silence at the other end of the phone. Panic gripped me. "Christomighty, he hasn't actually forgotten who I am, has he?" I thought.

"Neil? It's (my real name), I write as London City Mum?" 

I could hear the pieces of the jigsaw falling in to place as he acknowledged me. Cue sigh of relief. 

"I was just wondering," I continued, "what was happening with the ES blog, as it appears to have totally disappeared from the front page as a link, the formatting is all peculiar, and there is no way of accessing it unless you type in the correct address in the search bar?"

Neil proceeded to confirm what I had already deduced myself, that the whole online version of the paper had recently undergone a full re-vamp, they had had some 'teething difficulties' with the technology, and that it now appeared to be stable. The blog - both mine and the others - were next in line for their long overdue update.

"Excellent!" I said. "Can we change the photo as well? It's not quite 'me', really. I have a much more suitable one available!"

At desk 3

"You are wearing a wetsuit."

"Yes, yes, I know, but it's innovative and funny, don't you think?"

"And wearing a frilly swimming cap."

"Sure, yes, that's right, it all goes with the territory."

"And you have a moustache."

"Ah, yes, well, that was something to do with a caption competition and I have not quite got round to erasing it yet..."

"..."

"But, hey, I could also relaunch and expand the blog as an agony aunt sort of thing, you know, with a question and answer session from the working mothers in the business community? I already did something similar, well, not quite similar, but, you know, appropriate given the times we are living in with social media and all that lark, and called it Business Tweet Management...?"

"..."

"And I can always make it anecdotal and amusing by taking cue from what is going on around me without actually portraying real people because no matter how you frame things, individuals will always choose to read themselves into a blog post even if the person you are writing about or the things you are mentioning are not real and are distorted by artistic licence..."

"..."

"Or I could just continue with writing about the life and times of a full time working mother of three dealing with the ins and outs of juggling work, career, family, children and laundry?"

"Great, do that."

The latter conversations may or may not have only taken place in my head.

20 March 2012 10:38 PM

Why a mother's work is never done

This is a true story. Originally related via some lengthy text messages to another incredulous friend (also a mother of three), then posted on Facebook as too amusing to limit the audience.

And now for your entertainment.

Series of late night emails picked up on Sunday morning from an U7's mother, in the following order (bear with me):

  • is my son playing this w/e? (answer - yes, at London Irish, as per the Teamer invite you accepted AND email preceding it)
  • is London Irish at Reading? (no - at Sunbury, near Hampton, as per Teamer invite you accepted AND email preceding it)
  • can someone take my son for me? (I did not answer this one - it's a festival for crying out loud, take your own child, for once!)

Later followed by series of emails from the festival venue via her iPhone:

  • there is noone here (sent at 10.06 - everyone was primed to be there at 9.30 and I know both nominated coaches would have shown up on time)
  • all the other teams are practising drills and we aren't and we look pretty silly and really disorganised, just thought you would want to know (I did feel like answering "I will jump in my Bat-mobile imminently and come and rescue the situation, fear not dear lady", but refrained... I did reply that it was a development festival and as such very low key, so would not read much in to the 'drills' she spoke of) 

And later still:

  • what is the plan next week and is my son playing? (answer: our own home festival, if he is available he will be playing, and BTW it would be really helpful if you could lend a hand on the day like all the OTHER parents)
  • I have to walk an old lady's dog on Sunday mornings, so really difficult for me to help out 
  • and it is really good for my son to have 'male' time and come with X (another player's father she offloads her son to every Sunday, and whose wife - full time working mother - always manages to come along too)
  • and I am a single mum working full time and can tell you it is all go here!

Re the last point, I just laughed out loud. 

Dear woman, I wanted to reply, please come and spend a day in my shoes.
You're welcome.

Plus she committed the cardinal sin.

She called me (repeatedly) by the wrong name.

 

Mothers work
(c) Randy Glasbergen


13 March 2012 10:44 PM

The new resignation letter

Dear Boss

Bad news. I quit.

Laters!

LCM

p.s. do you think it would be entirely unreasonable to let me keep my work phone? I mean, not for the calls or the emails or stuff like that, but because I have all my photos on it and trying to download them or even - heaven forbid - email them to myself, would be, like, a total pain in the back side. Whatcha think?

p.p.s. I am running out of post-it pads at home so do you think it would be okay to take with me the pile I have stashed in my pedestal (because getting access to the stationary cabinet is ridiculous when there is only one key which is hidden away, for some idiotic reason) as my desk is likely to remain vacant for the next six months? I really like the bright green ones, btw.

p.p.p.s. before I forget, can you sign off the advance booking for Ladies Day at Ascot 2012/2013/2014, as I got such a fantastic deal on the 'buy two, get one free' before we had the freeze on corporate entertainment? Don't forget I invited your wife too.

p.p.p.p.s. I'll return the company car at year end, if that's okay with you, as I have taken the opportunity during my garden leave to tour Europe, the Middle East and Africa. I'll send postcards, promise.

p.p.p.p.p.s. if a persistent headhunter by the name of Barry calls asking for me, can you please tell him that I am contemplating a career change and an advanced course in rocket propulsion and design, preferably one with him attached to it.

p.p.p.p.p.p.s. I sent you a friend invite on Facebook - can you accept? We're still friends, right? Yes? Hello?

 

05 March 2012 9:00 AM

Chip off the old block

Blossom lost another milk tooth last week. After a gestation period of some forty days, I was almost half expecting to get a note from the Tooth Fairy asking about progress and whether she should just leave the money with me as she was fed up with hanging around.

Anyway. It came out and was duly left under her pillow. 

With a note. It read, "Dear Tooth Fairy, can I please have £2 for once?"

As a dutiful mother, I confronted her about this. 

"Blossom," I said, "You cannot demand two pounds from the Tooth Fairy!"

"Why not?" she asked.

"Well," I ventured, trying to think quickly of a plausible excuse, "She is barely the size of the nail on your pinky finger, and can only just manage to carry a one pound coin. How do you expect her to carry two?"

Blossom looked at me. "Oh," she said.

Funnily enough, the Tooth Fairy developed amazing muscles overnight and lo and behold, the next morning Blossom was waking me up, very excited, showing me her reward. All two pounds of it. 

I cautioned her. "She told me it was a one-off as it was a very heavy weight for her!"

This obviously fell on deaf ears, in a manner of speaking. The following night I found another message under her pillow.

"Dear Tooth Fairy, you are the best ever! Please next time can I have a £10 note?"

Already an apprentice of the 'if-you-don't-ask-you-won't-get' school of management, as you can see.

Toothfairy_callcentre


24 February 2012 5:24 PM

So what are you giving up for Lent?

It never ceases to amaze how even the most free-wheeling amongst us are suddenly overtaken by piousness this time of year and announce to all and sundry that they are "giving something up for Lent." I am still waiting for OH to say he is giving up gadgets, but somehow don't think that will happen.

Intrigued, I wanted to explore this futher. As a fairly lapsed Catholic it seemed only fair that I reacquaint myself with the origins of this ritual in the Christian calendar.

That learned bastion, the BBC, states that Lent is the period of forty days before Easter, begins on Ash Wednesday, and is a season of reflection and preparation before the religious festivities commence. By fasting, both from food and favourite vices, for this period, Christians replicate Jesus's sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for the same length of time.

A test of self-discipline, in other words. Without the wandering in the wilderness, I presume.

Last year I tried giving up sarcasm. I think I lasted all of seven hours.

This year I might try to give up swearing, if for no other reason (aside from appeasing my mother) than keeping company with another blogging friend who has to endure "Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells" looks on a frequent basis - Lent or no Lent. In the States no less.

So, let's see how long I last. Given that I commence a new piece of contract work on Monday, have been readily primed by what to expect (cast of thousand cats all requiring some herding, guiding, morale-boosting et al for starters), and typically refrain from swearing in front of a new team before they have had a chance to get to know me better, this may just be 'do-able'.

Alternatively, I may just utter an expletive inadvertently to test their own mettle and see who takes the moral high ground. 

First impressions, eh? How about giving that up for Lent?

Dilbert - swearing

15 February 2012 8:36 PM

And all the buses come at once

You know how it is, that old adage. Never a bus when you need one and then three turn up at the same time.

Well, much the same in the working world.

After a few weeks of intense networking, meetings, phone calls, emails, proposals, interviews, sales pitches, propaganda, planning and forecasting it all appears to be coming to a head. 

The results, that is, not the anti-climax to my on-going never-ending slightly ridiculous novel.

A seasoned consultant told me - during one of those aforementioned meetings, in fact - that ultimately the clients will want me to deliver the goods, because I am the product they are buying. I listened, but in my head I thought, "Surely not? I might have the vision and the means to put that in to practice, but other associates will be better placed to deliver the specific pieces of work!"

Hmmm. It would seem that said consultant was pretty spot on. Sure, I can outline the vision, assess a client's pain points, design the solution and show them how it will work, even go as far as to tell them who should deliver it and how. But they still want me on board to hold their hands and reassure them that they are doing the right thing, following better processes but not being afraid to think bigger (and better) and challenge the status quo.

So, how to split one's time? Where do you focus first? How do you prioritise?

I guess the answer is to take some of my own medicine: get the funding, scope out the work, delegate the responsibilities. 

Good thing I have opted for a partnership model with some great associates. Not sure I could stretch myself much further at present.

 

Stretch yourself
(c) Mike Flanagan

02 February 2012 3:23 PM

Why make believe is much more fun than reality

 

It all started with a tweet. Quite late at night.

 

Miliband 1

Swiftly followed by:

 

Miliband 2

Amazing how things snowball.

 

Miliband 3

(that's the all-time Muppets classic for those pondering peculiar hashtags)

 

And so it went on, gathering momentum.

 

Miliband VB1

Miliband 3a

 

Miliband VB2

 

Miliband 3b

 

Miliband NfL1

 

Miliband 5

 

Miliband 4

 

As the glorious Oscar Wilde once said, "I can resist anything except temptation."

Enjoy.

LCM's interpretation: 

Miliband & Balls

 

Miliband & Balls control panel

And Very Bored in Catalunya's take on the topic:

Miliband - VBinC version

 

27 January 2012 12:05 PM

Some old dogs could learn new tricks

There was a message in my inbox yesterday from my niece.

"Happy Australia Day!" it read. 

I thanked her and then sheepishly admitted that it had all but slipped my mind and only a similar announcement on the radio around six in the morning as I awoke from a deep slumber had brought the celebration back to the fore. That's what twenty-one years in London does to you. Makes you blur your nationality, that is, not sleep more soundly.

I blame the whirlwind of phone calls, meetings and discussions that have been taking place over the past few weeks as momentum with my new business venture cranks up. I won't tempt fate, suffice to say that it has been busy and there are some positive developments on the horizon.

What was very interesting this week was a workshop I attended with one of my Associate Directors (henceforth AD1, because there are others too) which was insightful, informative, positive and uplifting. The presenter was professional and certainly 'knew his stuff', with plenty of relevant anecdotes and stories to prove it along the way.

The sole blip of the day-long event was a short (thank heavens) presentation by another "very senior, highly regarded" individual that covered the ins and outs of how and why to set up and run your own limited company. Straightforward stuff, I have done this myself twice now, as has AD1. She is a trained accountant, I am not.

However according to this person, everything can be "very complicated". Each time this sentence was utterered, it was rapidly followed by "we can do this for you". I call this blatant self-promotion, and in fairness, it is to be commended.

However, when the topic is dealt with via a classic death-by-powerpoint, the presenter mumbles, reads (badly) from statement-like notes, hasn't a clue how to engage with their audience and responds to any question with - you guessed it - "we can do this for you", it hardly inspires confidence. In either them or their company.

"Are you going to be honest on your feedback form?" I asked AD1 at the end of the day.

"Of course," she answered. "It would be rude not to! How about you?"

"Yup," I said. "No stiff upper lip here. Someone has to tell them."

And I wrote just that. "Diabolical presentation, over-complicated very simple issues. Please send this person on a proper communications training course."

What I omitted from my comments was, "I can do that for you."

Dilbert powerpoint
(c) Dilbert