So if you’re a regular ThinkingShift reader, you’d know I’m on the verge of leaving the Lucky Country and choofing off to New Zealand. Collective Aussies shake their heads (no Aussie can believe really that one would voluntarily leave Oz for New Zealand, a country that has 4.3 million people and probably 8.6 million sheep!). For my American readers, there’s a lot of friendly (and not so friendly rivalry) between NZ and Australia.
My father, who was a very proud New Zealander, who describe it this way:
- Aussies have the larger country but it’s hot, dusty, bush fire prone and has annoying blow flies;
- Australia was settled by convicts; NZ by free-settlers. He’d usually stop at this point in the comparison, assuming that I knew all the consequences of this observation. When I was young and he realised I had no idea what this might mean, he’d say well, that means that Aussies are embarrassed by their convict origins, have a chip on their shoulder and are a little vulgar. The unsaid part of this was that clearly he felt New Zealanders to be more “refined”;
- New Zealand has the better scenery;
- New Zealanders are just as good at sport (“Go the All Blacks” was his motto) it’s just that the Aussies crow about their achievements more.
Now, whether this is all true or not, I won’t get into. Suffice to say, this was the view I grew up with as my parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts were all New Zealanders. And it leads me to wonder what sort of reception I’ll get in NZ – so far it’s been hugely welcoming. When we visited NZ to search for the right place to live, I got the impression that the people we spoke with were secretly pleased that Aussies were moving to NZ (because it’s usually the other way around). I’ll be living in a small village in rural NZ and I guess my Aussie accent will stand out.
I digress. The point of my post is to tell you that I am NOT retiring. Everyone has asked me “oh are you retiring?”. Obviously, I must look like a truly old goat about to totter off into senior citizenship. So I’ll take the opportunity on this blog to say noooooooo I’m not retiring. If I was in my 20s (which I’m not) the question would most likely be “oh are you having a career break?” or “are you going overseas to travel and maybe work?”. But I get “are you retiring?”. Sigh.
So what the heck will I be doing? I’ll be taking a “career break” and then I’ll see. I’m in no rush to get another job in an organisation. In fact, what I’d like to do now is provide some observations after working in organisations for years. None of this will be earth-shattering for those of you who work in soulless organisations.
- organisations are artificial structures that throw together people who quite possibly would never wish to know each other and certainly would not want to mingle socially.
- inspirational, visionary leadership is missing in contemporary organisations (at least the ones I’ve worked in). There’s a lot of talk about values or codes of conduct but the actions of management show that they really don’t give a toss. I use the word management because leadership is something entirely different. Most organisations are stuffed full of managers who focus on anything but helping employees to develop. Managers try to beat the weaknesses out of employees by sending us off to courses or providing new objectives. They don’t always play to strengths or encourage hope within employees. By hope I mean inspiring someone to look at a problem or situation differently, helping to reframe goals and objectives, or promoting a positive mental attitude.
- The baby boomers have a lot to answer for. Mostly boomers (and of course some Gen X) are those filling the roles of CEOs, COOs, CFOs and senior managers. They cling desperately to the command and control paradigm. There’s a lot of talk about collaboration, sharing, mentoring and so on but whilst the command and control mentality is predominant, organisations will remain soulless places.
- Generation Y is not Generation Why? In the last two years or so, Gen Y have been close co-workers and I’ve found them to be what boomers are not – they are collaborative, inquiring, respectful, prepared to challenge things and ask “why is it this way?”. One Gen Y colleague is responsible for triggering off my current obsession for fantasy fiction. I’ve been impressed with their professionalism and real concern over societal issues. They can see that management is acting in a way that is contrary to espoused values but they’ll be braver I think than boomers or Gen X – when it gets too much, they will leave the organisation and seek one that is more authentic. They will not stick it out in an organisation for 20 years out of loyalty (and be given a gold watch for retirement and totter off). They will simply leave.
- And from a KM perspective: it remains hard for KM practitioners to carry out their work. In my consulting work, I’ve been lucky to work in organisations that do “get it” but we’re still in a situation that when the going gets tough (ie the GFC), budgets get screwed and KM people may come under the spotlight. I’ve seen some KM colleagues retrenched or seen a KM initiative be dispensed with because there aren’t the resources for KM work. Again, I’ve been lucky that this hasn’t happened to me but I can see that organisations have a way to travel before they truly understand the amazing benefits KM can deliver.
I’m sure this sounds like I’m very bitter and twisted but I’m not: I’m just giving you the cold, hard observations from a 20 or so year career. I now have a sense of freedom: never again to sit through a performance review opposite a boss you don’t really like or respect; never again to sit through endless meetings that seem to go nowhere; never again having to work in a “blame culture”; never again overhearing colleagues despairing over a lack of leadership. As Martin Luther King said: free, free, free at last.