By Theo Winter
Because blogs stuffed with words like Actionable, Integrated, Deliverability, and Customer-centric are already fairly well represented, what I like to do here is provide a sanctuary for those who need a brief respite from the aggressive overuse of business jargon and speak human for a moment to those who might be in search of something different, a little quirky — produced, I assure you, by an absolute paragon of human virtue and excellence (which is my way of saying please don’t take anything here as a lecture, I’m lucky any day I turn up to work wearing matching socks). Most of the time, this is a place where I express what I think truly matters and until the day I am tackled off my computer by a colleague for pushing the boundary too far…
Film, oh glorious film!
Tears, chills, shrieks, squeals, giggles, wooahs!!, whaats?!?, ooh-yeahs — film is the technology of direct appeal to the heart. Let’s try to harness that power in this series on Simple Yet Powerful Emotional Intelligence Lessons — plus a video heart-warmer.
Business is Nothing But Personal Watching a great video essay on the unexpectedly enjoyable LEGO Movie, the Lord Business character (Will Ferrell) grabbed my attention with a trope repeated in gangster films like The Godfather, and elsewhere, which is unfortunately still very much alive and celebrated: “It’s not personal, it’s just business.” What is this thing called just business? Remembering that behind 100% of business transactions is a human being, that the beating heart of enterprise is the web of relationships between owners, employees, customers, and suppliers, and that all human decision making is driven by emotion, the idea of a purely impersonal dealing (just business) is a myth. Ironically, “nothing personal” is a personal position — because whom you do business with is always a personal decision, as is the way in which you choose to do business, including the choice to value hard costs over less quantifiable factors. More to the point, the phrase is almost always used as a convenient means of excusing the human impact inflicted by one party on another, in a way that could have otherwise been handled with greater care or empathy, regardless of the final outcome (e.g., laying off staff). We hear this concern reflected in Michael Scott (Steve Carell) from The Office TV series when he says, “Business is always personal, it’s the most personal thing in the world.” In mainstream cinema, the romantic comedy You've Got Mail (1998) perhaps has the most famous inclusion of this trope, in a scene where the former owner of a small specialist bookstore, Kathleen (Meg Ryan), is attempted to be comforted by Joe (Tom Hanks) whose mega-chain store put hers out of business.
Joe: It wasn't personal. Kathleen: What is that supposed to mean?! I am so sick of that. All it means is that it wasn't personal to you. But it was personal to me. It's personal to a lot of people. And what's so wrong with being personal anyway? Joe: Uh, nothing. Kathleen: Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.
There’s a Time For Hakuna Matata and a Time for Growth One of the strongest themes in The Lion King (1994) revolves around maturity, growing up — in the sense of getting your act together, not just growing older. In the jungle (the mighty jungle), you might recall, Simba learns the meaning of “Hakuna Matata” (no worries). No doubt most of us could benefit from the philosophy of less regret more in our lives, to not fixate on things that can’t be changed or don’t need our attention, for example, being invulnerable to trolls and destructive criticism. But total invulnerability presents dangers. There can be no emotional growth — no emotional intelligence — without self-reflection, a willingness to roll up the shutters, let in unpleasant feedback, and recognise areas in yourself that need development. There are times when we all need a Nala in our lives to unsettle us and shake us out of complacency. The following exchange might be worth playing back if you should find yourself in a situation where you want to pack up shop and run away from all life’s pain and problems, knowing full well that doing so would be a disastrous regression.
Simba: Look, sometimes bad things happen — and there’s nothing you can do about it. So why worry? Nala: Because it’s your responsibility. Simba: Well what about you? You left. Nala: I left to find help, and I found you. Don’t you understand? You’re our only hope. Simba: Sorry. Nala: What's happened to you? You're not the Simba I remember. Simba: You're right. I'm not. Are you satisfied?!? Nala: No. Just disappointed.
You Don’t Need to Be a Jerk To Get Things Done Related to the misguided idea that people should never bring their true selves — their humanity — into the workplace, there is a stubborn belief held by many managers that being a hard-ass is essential to productivity. Nothing precludes a leader from getting things done quickly, giving candid feedback, holding people accountable, motivating high performance — and being a decent human being at the same time — except their emotional intelligence. The next time you find yourself in a situation where someone is angry, upset, stressed, or rushing, stop and examine what’s really going on. Is their emotional state the result of something you have done, or is their doing? Okay, that’s a trick question. Barring physical provocation, someone’s emotional state is always their own creation, revealing important information about their level of emotional mastery. Whenever you hear someone say something like, “Your stupidity is giving me a headache” or “I’m blunt because blunt gets results” the underlying communication is some variation of: "This is what low EQ looks like / sounds like and since I’ve never learned how to get a proper handle on my emotions, I’m taking my emotional weakness out on you." Patch Adams (1998) is the story of Patch (Robin Williams) who is training to become a doctor. His roommate Mitch (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is resentful of the fact that Patch gets good grades while treating everyone around him with humour, believing Patch is acting childish, when Patch argues the reverse is true.
Patch: Why don't you like me? You're a prick, and I like you. Mitch: Because you make my effort a joke! I want to be a doctor! This isn't a game to me! This isn't playtime! This is serious business! I have it in me to be a great doctor but in order to do that I have to sacrifice if I want to be better. Patch: "Better." Better than me, hmm? Mitch: I will save lives that could have otherwise not been saved. Now, I could be like you and go around laughing and have a good time, ha ha, but I prefer to learn, because the more I learn the more likely I will have the right answer at the crucial moment and save a life. And you say I'm a prick? You say I'm a prick? You know, maybe I am, but you ask the average person, when death comes knocking at their door whether they want a prick on their side or some kindergarten teacher who's gonna kiss their ass! Because when that day comes I want the prick and so will you. Patch: You know, I forget how young you are Mitch, that you think you have to be a prick to get things done and that you actually think that that's a new idea.
Something to warm the heart… Thinking about the life and work of Robin Williams lately, I wanted to share this moving music mashup remixed by Melody Sheep celebrating, among his incredible range of voices and memorable personas, the “hip old granny who can hip hop be bop.” Rest in peace.