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April 2013

Two Plus One Reasons to Write Poetry - #1

There are two plus one primary reasons to write poetry, which is not to say three; all numbers may or may not be equal, but reasons certainly are not. There are good reasons, and less good ones for all sorts of things. I am excited myself by good reasons to write poetry, and groan when I encounter the wrong reason.

To deal with the negative first: the bad reason for writing poetry, which is really a reason to not write it, is the ego. Poetry written from and by the ego, pure and simple. This is bad because the ego cannot write poetry, and when it does it subverts it, and puts in place an ersatz product which deceives, much like a medicine or a food which actually in the long term poisons.

The ego wants to write because it perceives that poetry is status-laden and a way to the prizes that it seeks; one crucial prize being immortality – the idea that life is short but art is long, and so there is some perpetuation of its own existence through the glory of words. Quite apart from that, the immediate credibility that being a poet bestows on anyone so recognised is well worth the ego’s investment of time and trouble - and self-deception. Poets are creators, makers, prophets, visionaries, men and women ahead of their time; those with a deep inisght into the nature of reality, philosophers, and those who are wise and emotionally perceptive. And so we could go on – and even in the West, this still holds true.

Poetry from the ego can be difficult to spot because of its variety, but there are three major classifications. First, there is pure doggerel: rhymed couplets of a banal variety written by someone who has never read more than six poems yet thinks they can write poetry because ‘poetry rhymes’.  The ego is demonstrated in the first place in their thinking they can write at all without any knowledge or study of any kind. Their work never improves – Mcgonagall -like they continue to pour out volumes of the stuff on any occasion.

The second type does study and know poetry but is limited to versification; this can be highly skilled, very entertaining and enjoyable in itself. But it is not actually pure poetry because of its source: the ego. The ego likes constructing clever words, just as one might like doing a crossword puzzle. Occasionally, this can astonish, but it is not poetry because it does not come from poetry’s source – the Muse, the inner psyche, where order is not ordered because a deeper order is at play. And we realise it is not true poetry because we do not ‘feel’ it – it cannot stab itself into our being and become part of who we are; for the Muse arrests the reader as well as the poet.

Third, and arguably most dangerous of all, is the type of poetry that really does get mistaken for real poetry. It’s faddish – it latches on to movements and cultural groundswells – and so always appear relevant and of the moment and contemporary. Currently, it’s ‘post-modern’, post-feminist, post-name-your-ism. Often its populated by professors of literature and academics who specialise in jargon and self-reflexivity; and merely writing unstructured, self-reflexive, sardonic, obscurely allusive doodlings is enough to show one is a poet. But all these creations are non-creations, which nobody much reads now, and will not read fifty or a hundred years hence. But the delusion is strong, and so are the cultural imperatives that feed it – behind such ugly poetry (lines, actually) is a negative and cynical philosophy of life, for the ego likes nothing better than to be superior.

But to turn from this, what are the two positive reasons for writing poetry? My next blog will examine the power of poetry to heal.

Seven Questions to Stimulate Motivation

The issue of motivating staff will not go away; in fact, with the rise of technology and the increasing levels of distance and impersonality, the how-to-manage-them question gets larger and larger. In such a context Motivational Maps are essential since they do supply on-line so much of the information that an effective manager or leader needs. But in the absence of the Maps, what should managers do? Here are 7 questions to get you thinking about next steps.

One, think about the quality of your leadership. How good is it? What you do speaks much louder than what you say! At its simplest level, do you walk the talk, or are you an armchair critic locked away in ‘important’ meetings the ‘plebs’ can never understand? If you want to improve your leadership skills, get feedback – quality feedback from those who experience your leadership, from those working alongside you, and from those who lead you. What do they say – what points of improvement are there for you to pursue?

Second, have you set achievable targets? You know the formula: SMART, but do you use it? I have been a trainer and consultant in hundreds of businesses and I am always staggered by the sheer number of managers who do not seem to understand what a Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Relevant and Time-trackable target is. So much target-setting is wishful thinking.

Third, does training figure strongly in your company? As the say in the USA, want to earn more? Then learn more! One cannot stress enough the importance of ongoing learning, development and training. Even if your organisation does not invest in you, you are well advised, as Brian Tracey recommends, to spend at least 3% of your income on yourself – you will reap the rewards, as every organisation who invests wisely in their employees does.

Fourth, are you stimulating people by varying their tasks, by involving them, and by improving the environment in which they work – in which they operate on your behalf? One fundamental need of human being is for variety, and too much ‘sameness’ stifles creativity and also leads to more errors as a result of boredom. Furthermore, improving the environment says something about how much you value and respect them – and about your real values too. Are you really people-centric or is that just mission mish-mash?

Fifth, do you give people ample recognition for their contributions? Especially their creative contributions – the points of innovation are particularly where recognition is required if you are to have a thriving company. One only has to think of certain IT companies and their celebration of individuals’ creativity to begin to realise what is possible. The sad truth is: so often someone’s bright idea becomes their manager’s, and this is so de-motivating. Staff treated in this way tend not to innovate again; they tend to just do their job instead.

Sixth, do you allow real responsibility without constantly interfering? Another way of putting this is: stop micro-managing staff, most hate it! Micro-management always disempowers staff. Naturally, if staff ask for help, give it freely. But the avoidance of micro-management involves the following steps: set clear objectives for members of staff – tell them WHAT you expect them to achieve, but – unless they ask – do not them HOW to do it. You may feel important, they won’t.

Finally, seventh, is there a realistic career path for your people? What systems are in place to help people develop? There is a strange, unspoken belief that somehow people working in a company are there forever – as if it were a marriage! In today’s world, especially, what could be further from the truth? People move on, people want careers, and unless your organisation is geared to provide optimum satisfactions, then it is highly likely staff will move on sooner rather than later. Bizarrely, providing them with good career support is likely to slow down their exit strategy, because it is an optimum satisfaction to know that one is going ‘somewhere’ – which is what realistic career paths articulate.

Give yourself a score out of ten – ten meaning this is done excellently well by your organisation and one meaning this is a mess – for each of the seven motivational ideas. How do you rate? Which one area is your lowest score? That is where you need to get to work – one piece at a time. And if you do, you will find motivation of staff starts increasing, and so will performance – and performance gains lead to productivity gains, and these lead to … more profit! Go for it.