I am doing it …for you

She turned to me and said, “I am doing this for you.” I thought for a while, then responded, “Please don’t do it for me, do it because you want to. I did not ask you to do it for me. If you are doing it then do it for yourself.”
When I make a decision based on what someone has promised I am trading my power of reason and choice for a promised result- If I decide X then you will do Y.
When I do not get what I bargained for I am left disappointed, wondering in a cloud of “should of” and “could of”. Depending on how delusional I am, I may feel angry or hurt, since the other person was unreliable or gave me false hope. When the trade works, I am happy, not because of the choice I made, but because the other kept his / her end of the bargain. Either way the decision was not about me. It was about the other person.
When I make a decision based on what I want, what I need and on what I want to do, nobody else’s thoughts or feelings, are part of the equation. I decide solely based on my beliefs. I claim the outcome, regardless of how it turns out.
When anyone makes a decision because of what they think I want I am not flattered. I feel the weight of the expectation and I am burdened by the responsibility to deliver something that I did not agree to. This is unfair.
I am a potential scape goat since I can be blamed for the outcomes, as the decision maker shirks all responsibility, and takes the wriggle room to say, “I only did it because of you.”
As I told all of this to my friend she listened intently and then said, “Are you having second thoughts? I am doing this for me but please acknowledge that I made these decisions for both of us.”

What decisions are you making for promised outcomes? What are you doing … for someone else?

Morgen Bailey’s Author Spotlight 407 – Maxine Attong

Morgen Bailey’s 407th Author Spotlight, features business motivator and non-fiction author Maxine Attong. And now from the author herself:

Writing makes my heart sing. When my keys tap the words from the keyboard I feel in tune with the world and everything seems right. The ability to write is something that I treasure because for many years I lost it (the ability to write). As a kid the stories and poems that I wrote provided me with the sanctity to express the things that I could not say – it was my space to be seen and heard. When I had to choose a career path I decided to read for a B.Sc. Accounting so that I could change my economic circumstances. After my first year of University I came home and burnt every one of my written pieces. It seemed that the writing could not coexist with the numbers and part of me felt betrayed. I burnt the writings to shut up the voices that questioned my professional choice and until I left my accounting job, I never wrote again.

I know what it is like to have loved and lost, I know how beautiful it is to regain a long lost love. My writing is my heart song, that provides me with the balance I need to keep going. It was a long and at times painful journey back to it. With this in mind I proudly celebrate my two books. They are a homecoming, back to a sacred part of myself. Now I write daily in my journals and generate blogs at least twice a week. This keeps me sane.

For now my writing is in the business realm. I see that I am growing more confident as a writer and marvel how different my second book – Lead Your Team To Win – is from my first book Change or Die – The Business Process Improvement Manual. I consider Change or Die my head book since it deals with technical application of a theory of mine and Lead Your Team to Win as my heart book. That book has so much of me in it, my thoughts and my feelings that I think of it as heralding my return to writing and to an honesty that I neglected when I became an accountant professional.

It is great to be back and I am enjoying rediscovering writing and all the emotions that go with it. I am learning to listen to my heart again and to think less and trust that the stories will appear. I look forward to the day when I am brave enough to craft fiction
See the entire spotlight at:


An Author on Meetings

I believe that meetings are the place to challenge the status quo, harness the creative energies of team members and to create new possibilities for the organisation. Hence, the reason that I got a huge kick out of seeing my quotation in the below article on meetings on Hallmarkhotels.com
According to Maxine Attong, Author of the ‘Lead Your Team to Win’, ‘Intel Corporation is an example of an organisation that takes its meetings very seriously. Walk into any conference room at any Intel factory or office anywhere in the world and you will see a poster on the wall with a series of simple questions about the meetings that take place there: Do you know the purpose of this meeting? Do you have an agenda? Do you know your role? Every new employee, from the most junior production workers to the highest ranking executive, are required to take the company’s course on effective meetings. For years, the course was taught by CEO Andy Grove, who believed that good meetings were such an important part of Intel’s culture that it was worth his time to train all employees.’ See the full article below.


Rekindled love

I am a Certified Management Accountant, though accounting is no longer my profession. I traded in my love of numbers for the love of words, my need for certainty for a growing curiosity and my need to be accurate for a willingness to be wrong.
Accounting came naturally to me. When there is a debit transaction, there must be one or more credit transactions to balance, and vice versa. That is always true and never changes. There is no magic, no mystery. It is all pure logic, pure reason and if at first you don’t succeed keep trying and you will get it right.
When my world was disordered; accounting, this safe secure profession with well defined rules, provided control and predictability. I was certain that every time I did x I would get y.
The profession served me until I needed to breathe, to question and to explore. When I no longer needed safety and wanted to know what else existed, the order suffocated me and drained life from me. The more that I craved writing, and the more that I needed to express myself the heavier a burden accounting became. Until the day that I stepped over the edge, away from its certainty, and light as a feather I flew into the unknown.
I knew then that my life as an accountant was over; and just as an accountant would, I sat and made a plan.
Fast forward years later, I have learned to love my profession again. I no longer need it for sanity or balance and most importantly I no longer work as an accountant. I see its legacy in the way that I solve problems, the way that I approach a client, the way that I write reports, the way that I structure an agenda for a workshop and even at times how I coach a client to awareness.
Even as I use my accounting skills in different ways, I still find joy in going back to the basics of accounting when I help small business owners to understand their businesses. I acknowledge now that accounting is another way that I can enhance the lives of people with whom I make contact.
Today I affirm that I am a Certified Management Accountant.

What parts of you did you learn to love again?
adapted from my book – Lead Your Team To Win.

Open hand

Sometimes opportunity knocks and I have to answer. This one has been a low rattle that grew to a shrill crescendo demanding my attention and demanding it now.
I know that the opportunity is a good fit for me. I can feel it in my bones, I feel it in the stillness inside me that shouts – “You are going to do so well”. I know that it will be challenging but I am committed to success.
To pick up an object I open my hand then clench the object. It’s the way that it works. To take up the new opportunity I have to relinquish my current position.
I am not leaving because things are bad where I am, it’s just part of the mechanics of picking up something new.
In case you are wondering I am in transition. I was offered an incredible opportunity and to accept it I have to resign my current portfolio.
I am leaving for the opportunity, a new challenge that casts no aspersions on the present.
My current job is great, I like it, I like the people and most of them like me. I feel that I add value on a daily basis. During my tenure I have learned a lot, done a lot, taken a lot and given a lot. Sure I have more to give and more to learn but opportunity calls and it is calling now.
Going somewhere new does not say that anything is wrong with the status quo. It is just about opportunity. An opportunity opened up and I am following to see where it leads.

What opportunity is calling you? What do you have to relinquish to pick it up?

Sunday Long Runs

We decided that we will do a long run, anywhere between 6 to 8 miles, on Sundays. We have a predetermined meeting point and according to how we feel we have alternate routes to complete the last 3 miles. We contact each other just before we leave home and meet at the predetermined spot.
This plan has been working like clock work. I get there about two to five minutes before my running mate and stretch a bit before she meets me. When she meets me, we exchange pleasantries, walk for a bit then we start to run. We run together, sometimes she leads, other times I do, but we more or less stay together throughout the run.
Today, I left home as planned and got to the meeting point. I waited the duration of two songs and knew that this was too long. I toyed with the idea of going home, but that would not serve my purpose of getting a long run in. Then, I decided to change the route and run in the direction of my friend’s house. I rationalized that if she was late I would meet her on the way. That did not happen.
As I reached the mid point of my run, I heard someone running towards me. There she was, my running companion. She explained that she also waited 10 minutes at the meeting place and then left. She intimated that she was much later than I and I explained that I changed the route hoping to meet her on the way. She then explained the folly of my plan since she overnighted at the hotel for the retreat, which was in the opposite direction of her house. We said goodbye and ran our separate ways.
As I ran off, I thought about how simply we miscommunicated even though we had the same agenda. I also thought about how one decision changed the course of our history. I changed the route, and did not meet up with her.
My thoughts moved on to what and how we communicate. My running partner told me that her retreat was at an hotel this weekend. I did not ask if she was sleeping over nor did she tell me that she was sleeping over. That one piece of information would have allowed us to change the meeting place and make different arrangements for our Sunday run.
This reminded me about the dubious nature of assumptions, the beauty of asking the right question, the magic of shared information and how these all contribute to powerful decision making.

For Maxine

Elaine Thompson, a long time friend and colleague of mine, who attended the book launch last night, posted this note today to me. Thanks Elaine. It is always wonderful to feel your support.
Hans, Martin and I attended the book launch yesterday of my closest and longest lasting professional friend, Maxine Attong.

We started off in the trenches in November 1990, while the city of Port of Spain was still reeling after the looting and devastation which came in the aftermath of the 1990 terrorist attack . The fact that the event was held in the shadow of the Red House, which was ground zero for the attack, was not lost upon me. Neither was the recent death of Mr. Michael Mansoor, who passed away this month, and was the financial comptroller of McEnearney Alstons Ltd while we were there.

The concept of as safe space created by a leader in the workplace is absolutely a conversation which we need to have, especially as accountants. I have not managed to read the entire book yet, as I only bought my copy yesterday, but from the first chapters which I read immediately after buying a copy yesterday, I think that this concept is particularly overlooked in the work space of today. So often do we blindly follow in the traditions of authoritarianism which were passed down through the generations of managers and Directors. The first question which Maxine asked , back in the Training room on 69 Independence Square, where we spent the first week in training lead by the Human Resource Director and his team was “Why is it so quiet here?” It was a bombshell of a question, and as we sat around the horseshoe seating, all of us, Trainees and trainers alike were at a loss for words. Mr. Gordon Draper, Human Resource Director of the McEnearney Alstons Group who was in charge of the session, managed to answer.

Maxine embodied all that was young and gifted at the time – we were reminded that over 200 people had applied for the 16 internships sitting around the training room. She was never afraid to challenge the status quo, and the fact that she has decided to follow her natural inclination to teach and coach is not surprising. It is important that the insights which she shares are informed by her grounding in finance and the rigours of the profession. Twenty years ago I was at her graduation from the Certified management Accountant course which she began while we were management trainees. Human resource professionals are in a sense generalists – in the trenches of Accounting and Finance lurk certain peculiar monsters which can only be understood by being in the trenches. This book, in fact, I consider should be required reading by Human resource professionals.

A lot of the stoicism which I see in Maxine reminds me of her mother, who was in attendance– if we are a composite of our experiences and our caregivers, then I hope that what is reflected of Mrs. Janet Attong in Maxine is pleasing to both of them.

I was strangely reminded of a poem we studied for “A” Levels – Ulysses by Alfred , Lord Tennyson, which ends thus:

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield

Who supports you?

Catastrophic Fantasy – Blog 100

Last night I missed my 100 Blog.  I got home early enough but by 7.30 p.m. the power was out.  It returned about half an hour later and then was off again.  By then I resigned myself to the thought and fell asleep.  It returned sometime later and I decided to stay in bed.

This was a deliberate decision to go with the flow, not to force my will on a situation and to leave it as it is.

These notions of surrender, go with the flow and accepting a situation as it is served me well today.  It was Day 2 of the Strategic Planning session and my CEO facilitated the session.  Usually I am very rigid about time and activities when facilitating so I was surprised that I surrendered the meeting control and supported him during the process.

This process of surrendering has not been easy for me and I know that I have not mastered the art of acceptance.  I expect to see these themes  repeated in my work and when I deal with people until I get the hang of it.

Actually I am looking forward to always surrendering since it is pretty easy and rewarding.  I don’t have to strategize how to get my own way, or fuss that things are not happening the way that I planned or throw a tantrum because this is not what I wanted.  It is not that I lose interest, it is that I can put the situation in perspective.  So what if I did not do Blog 100 last night, what is the catastrophic fantasy about not doing it?  The world did not end, I still have internet access and I am doing the Blog now.  So what if the CEO led the workshop? We got the results and whatever was not discussed in the room I will discuss with the relevant players to get the reports completed.

It seems simple enough, but it took a while for me to get here.  I think that the renovations, having to trust contractors, accepting schedule and price changes and accepting that I had no control provided the catalyst to push me to where I am.

What do you do when things don’t go as planned?  What has pushed you to acceptance?

Smokes and Mirrors – Blog 99

Life is all mirrors and smokes. I thought that redecorating the house was about my ability to manage money and being precise in budgeting.  It so was not.

This has been about relationships.  Everyone who walked through my doors for the last week was a complete stranger.  The decorators recommended them and because I trusted the decorators I extended my trust to their contractors.  The relationship that I built with the decorators manifested in the relationships I developed with all the people who walked through the door.  Connections beget connections.  Now I have access to contractors that I did not have before.

It also was about asking for help.  Sometimes I could not leave work to meet a contractor so I had to ask others for help.  I had to rely on others and work with their schedules.  At times this meant that I made no decisions about the times that contractors could access to the house.  It did not hurt but it is something that I never considered since I am a do it myself type of person.

All of this meant that I had to trust people.  Trust that they would do as they say, show up when they say and give me a job that I would be happy with.  I was blind and had to be lead through the process.

I had to surrender.  The schedule was off, life happened and things did not go as planned.  I had no control over anything that happened.  When the painters were late I could not make them come early, when the delivery guy showed up an hour later I still had to pay him for the service.  I learnt something more about money.  I am an accountant so I thought that I could budget this thing to the last dollar.  My budget was completely off and the cost kept growing, yet the money kept showing up for the payments.

Tonight I am happy with the work that was done.  Still one or two things left to do which will be completed by the weekend.

The rest of the work is deferred to 2015, since at this time of year workmen are all booked up in advance for the Christmas season.  So I am also marveling at how lucky I am to have gotten the services without much delays or fuss.

I will reboot the work in the new year with a few changes.  I am not doing a budget, I have a general idea how much it will cost and that is it.  I will accept that I have no control and let things happen as they happen and  I will get some help so that someone else can open the house for the contractors.  New year, new attitude.

Looking forward to see how that works out.