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The Crusades and the Power; the influence of our roots

I’ve got AFL on TV and I’m immersed in a book detailing the seige of Malta in 1565. It’s an oddly palatable combination. Like salted caramel, or chilli chocolate.

Both are strong examples of the power of teamwork, elite athleticism, fanaticism, strategic leadership and faith.

I’m reading the book because I want to better understand the roots of the organisation for which I work.

I’m watching the footy because it’s finals. Port Power are playing and I can’t quite shake my South Australian, AFL-drenched childhood.

Where we’ve come from influences us.

I know enough about where my organisation has come from to want to know more. I want to understand the success and failures of our organisational ancestors. I want to learn from the voices of the past and apply those lessons to the now and the future.

I know enough about influence to know the black-and-white Port Adelaide supporting world of my childhood is etched in my psyche. I invested much of my 20s pretending AFL didn’t exist, so the emotional commitment only comes back when Port Power are winning.

The fundamentals of success and teamwork are always there though, and they are echoed in the actions of the besieged and besiegers in Malta in the sixteenth century.

Commitment to a cause isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth it.

Teams are greater than the sum of their parts.

Teams need faithful, sometimes fanatical supporters.

Teams need a passionate commitment to their goal or cause, even in the face of certain defeat.

How a team celebrates victory is as important as how they accept defeat.

Finally – and this one is not mirrored in my history book – when children are consistently exposed to AFL, no matter how hard they try to shake it off as adults, they can never truly be free.

Which may not be such a bad thing after all.

Where do we get the good coffee?

Our organisation is filled with folk who are skilled and passionate.

The team in which I work covers many areas of expertise, and our connection to our passion – the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ of our roles – helps keep our focus clear.   Our daily Coffee O’clock gathering strengthens our connection to each other, which in turn strengthens the team.

Most of our team are committed to coffee. I’m passionate; possibly slightly obsessive.  Or let’s just call me energetically enthusiastic.

Enthusiasm is important in a team.

In a few months I’ll be travelling to Malta and the UK with colleagues.  The five of us travelling together are a new team.  We don’t work in the same part of the organisation.  We don’t know each other well.  We haven’t worked out yet how we’ll work.  But we will.  We are different in many ways, but we share the privilege of participating in a program which develops leaders, integrates historical values with current best practice and future strategies, and builds valuable networks.

We’re all clever, competent professionals so we will learn useful things.  We’ll add value to each other and the organisation – and we’ll have fun as we go.

At the top of the list of Useful Things to Learn is Where Do We Get The Good Coffee?  Coffee is an experience not just a drink.  It is the font from which creativity, focus, patience, relationship and curiousity flows.  It is vital.  It should never be taken for granted.  And it should never be instant.

It’s possible I’ve put too much thought into coffee.

I’m curious about Malta.  The history of our organisation is intertwined with the history of Malta. I’m delving into history books on my Kindle and BBC documentaries on my laptop.  I’m intrigued by the journey taken by our organisational ancestors, and the connection to us hundreds of years later half a world away.

I’m delving into travel blogs and tourism websites because I’m also curious about the coffee. There seems to be much good coffee on Malta which pleases me greatly.  According to Trip Advisor Piadina Caffe is the best but I’m open to more information.

For the Greater Good of the team it’s probably important to research the answer to the question about coffee.

I’m a way better travel companion if I’m happily caffeinated.

mundaring coffee

 

 

 

ET and sustainability

Excellent coffee is important in my life. Sustainability is important in the Greater Scheme of Things.

For several years now I've been telling myself that by choosing to pay more for sustainably produced coffee, I'm doing my bit for the aforementioned Greater Good.

Yes. I am that person; the one who talks about sustainability, but whose knowledge on how to contribute to global economic and environmental sustainability is limited to buying stuff that says 'fair trade'.

Personal and professional sustainability though - that I know.

Read more

Telling your team’s stories

Our lives are – in part – defined by the stories we tell.

Words paint pictures which show others who we are and what we’ve done.  They lay foundations of what we value and believe.  They build a road and can determine our path.

Our stories matter.

Just as every individual has stories, so does every team. 

What are the stories which chronicle, characterise and celebrate your team?

How do you tell them?

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The Shopping Muse, the Gods of Coffee, and adding value…

Travelling in London, Paris and Rome a few years ago I felt like I'd arrived in a place of peace; a place where the Shopping Muse luxuriates in harmony with the Gods of Coffee. The Muse is always there, flitting in and out of doorways, enticing with a wisp of a silk, a glimmer of glitter. The Gods of Coffee called to me from every street.

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A letter to my son (subtitle: Being a man is okay)

Boy.

Among the boring stuff like cleaning your teeth and tying shoelaces, we - because we are awesome parents - have taught you the following three things: respect yourself, respect others, and make good coffee.

Those are the important lessons in life.

You are an intelligent, strong, generous, witty, musical, messy, creative teenager. You like who you are and know what you want. You lead yourself well.

Read more

Early mornings and inhaling coffee

Most days coffee is about the experience. It’s about the aroma, the texture, the flavour. It’s about enjoying the surrounds I’m in and the people I’m with.

Not yesterday.

Yesterday at Coffee O’clock my colleague and I scoffed two coffees each in quick succession. Yesterday was the final day of a 3 week 3,500 kilometre odyssey. We’d risen before sunrise and had been driving for hours.

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We were incapable of polite conversation or gentle sips. We communicated in grunts of appreciation for the quality of the coffee.

As the glow of caffeine warmed us, we regained the power of speech. We talked about the challenges associated with leading and being part of a team of geographically dispersed paid and volunteer staff. We agreed it’s not always easy but it’s always worth it.

Our organisation adds value. Contributing to the Greater Good matters to us.

Being able to occasionally inhale coffee…that matters to us too.

Do you Soldier On or Sofa-Flop?

This morning the roots of a cold wrapped themselves around my throat, and tonight I am literally speechless. When afflicted with a cold I tend toward the overdramatic. I vacillate between stoic Soldiering On and spectacular Flopping on the Sofa in Despair.

There is, thankfully, a middle ground. This is a philosophical It’s All Good/She’ll Be Right.

Tonight I was in the Soldier On phase. My husband made me a cup of tea. I huffed, sighed and muttered that I wasn’t useless and didn’t need his help.

I drank the tea and began to hang out briefly in the philosophical middle, still speechless but feeling less sorry for myself. I realised my melodramatic soldier-on-or-sofa-flop-woe-is-me approach is not helpful to anyone.

The middle ground, however, is a place of acceptance.

Recovery might not come quicker, but while I’m waiting my experience is better. I’m calmer. I’m generally nicer. I let people care for me. I feel less alone. Which makes me calmer. Rinse and repeat…you get the picture.

As underwhelming as this revelation is, it made me think about how we approach actual difficult situations (ones which matter slightly more than a blocked nose).

I’ve noticed folk – myself included – fight the situation or become despondent and overwhelmed. We secretly want help but we push it away. We feel alone. We resent people. Energy is often wasted. We continue to fight or feel despondent and overwhelmed. Once again, rinse and repeat.

Before change or healing is possible we need to change the cycle: rest, recuperate, fight less, be still more, and allow others to help.

In the meantime I’ll make us a cup of tea with honey and keep the tissues close by.

A headless gingerbread man, Anne of Green Gables, and a reunion: a story of success…

I bit the head off a gingerbread man this morning. This is not something I usually do but I’m experimenting in doing things in new ways. The cookie was a casualty of war.

I’m playing at viewing life with a different perspective.

I’ve recently had two experiences which highlighted the value in taking a new view of success.

Firstly, my niece sent a photo of herself dressed up as Anne of Green Gables.

Back story: At Christmas last year I felt it was my duty as ‘auntie’ to introduce them to Anne of Green Gables. I wondered if they would identify with it, or if the story would be lost in the 21st century. Classics, however, are classics for a reason. My nieces connected – each in their own way – with Anne with an ‘e’. They enjoyed it, and I shared something I love with people I love.

This is success.

Secondly, this morning I was feeling slightly out of sorts because I’m not attending a reunion-ish gathering in my home state. One smooth black coffee and several pieces of dark chocolate later, I’m feeling thankful. Even though tonight I’m not partying like it’s 1986, in the last year I’ve reconnected with good people and good memories. I’m also no longer feeling grumpy.

This is success.

Success isn’t always about achieving goals or implementing strategies to be a better version of ‘me’.

Sometimes it’s about sharing things which inspire us. Sometimes it’s about friendships. Sometimes it’s about enjoying right here and now, rather than wishing for something else.

Sometimes it’s about drinking coffee, eating chocolate…and decapitating cookies.

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The 10 commandments of being 40 years awesome

In a few months, I will celebrate my 40th birthday.

When people are as many years awesome as me, they sometimes think they know useful things because, you know – forty years.

This isn’t a ‘things I wish I’d known when I was 20′ conversation. If you are twenty or have ever been twenty you are probably aware that when you’re twenty you already know everything.

Nope, I’m not interested in wishing I’d known then what I know now.

Instead, I’ve come up with 10 commandments for taking what I know now and living fabulously for the next 40 (or more) years.

1. Thou shalt not compare thyself to others. That way madness lies.

2. Thou shalt not wistfully gaze at photos of earlier days and say ‘life was simpler then’. It wasn’t. It was just different.

3. Thou shalt not regret past choices.

4. Thou shalt not accept inequality or bullying.

5. Thou shalt not speak badly of or to thyself.

6. Thou shalt not take thyself too seriously.

7. Thou shall always drink real coffee and eat full-fat dairy products.

8. Love thy neighbour as thyself (I didn’t make this one up. I borrowed it. I’m pretty sure that’s okay though).

9. Find a cause or a community by which thou is inspired, and get thyself involved.

10. Be bold and fearless.

Oh, I’ve got one more:

11. Wherever possible, get sunshine on thy shoulders. It makes all things good.

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We each have our own version of this list, even if we don’t articulate it. What’s on yours?

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