Caitlin Moran wrote a lovely piece in The Times on recently, a first draft of a letter for her daughter to read for advice, should Caitlin ever prematurely shuffle off the planet .
Her daughter is 13, so at a very impressionable age I guess. With Caitlin’s article fresh in my mind, this morning I came across this piece which uses the phrase ‘underdeveloped personality’ to describe the impact of this fast moving, increasingly technical world on today’s professionals. It makes the argument that interpersonal skills are sorely needed to take care of staff, customers and self, yet are missed out of training programmes.
My question is this – would Caitlin’s advice for a 13 year old translate into useful guidance for those professionals we have all met who lack the soft skills they need to be a well rounded success? I will let you be the judge.
Not all of it is relevant – for example going hog wild on Ebay buying vintage dresses – but even then, the ethos of remembering what it is that you are passionate about outside of career has merit, doesn’t it? Are we not often in danger of drowning our own identity in favour of being hamsters on a wheel, constantly seeking new information that is out of date the next day?
Here’s my favourite part:
“The main thing is just to try to be nice – you already are – and I want you to hang on to that and never let it go. Keep slowly turning it up, like a dimmer switch, whenever you can. Just resolve to shine, constantly and steadily, like a warm lamp in the corner, and people will want to move towards you in order to feel happy, and to read things more clearly. You will be bright and constant in a world of flux, and this will save you the anxiety of other, ultimately less satisfying things like ‘being cool’ ‘being more successful than everyone else’ and ‘being very thin’.
What if we turned up the niceness?
What difference would it make to employee engagement and customer relationships if our vaguely unpleasant or unapproachable colleagues tried turning up the dimmer switch of niceness? I can hear you shouting that this is a radical over simplification of the issues, but given the statistics on the importance of relationships to staff loyalty and productivity, it’s a pretty fine starting point.
Here’s another question – If your in house Mr Grumpy-with-the-emotional-maturity-of-a-13-year-old began to practise shining like a warm lamp, what difference would it make to his own state of mind?
The psychologist who wrote the ‘underdeveloped personality’ piece says reaches this conclusion: “What is the remedy for all this? Somehow, I feel it might be found in… peace. Peace of mind, peace of spirit: when (people) put a premium on this fountainhead of other triumphs – peace – then great things happen.”
By now I’m wondering if being nice to others – i.e. not being self centric – leads to peace. Again, I realise the question is too simplistic because the ‘others’ might bring a whole new set of issues to the table (which is the justification some use for avoiding them!) but at the very least it would bring a different attitude and perspective. I’d love to hear stories from folk who have tried it.
Here is one example: years ago, on a change management course, a delegate known for complaining said to me ”So I have a choice about being negative?” I told him yes, he did. I took a call from his boss a few days later, wanting to know ‘what I had done’ because he became a different person, emitting rays of sunshine, overnight. And yes, he was a happier person – as were his colleagues.
Right now, if you gave me a group of delegates on a Management Development programme, I’d probably set them the task of interpreting and rewriting Caitlin’s article for inclusion in an induction programme. Any volunteers?
Caitlin’s article is here:
By Julie Cooper
Author of Face to Face in the Workplace
“If you deal with people you need this book” Buy your copy here