Choose your line…

…“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.” Eleanor Roosevelt

oxygen-mask-227x300When you get on an aeroplane you will know that before you take off you must listen to the safety announcements, this is when we have to choose between making the stewards feel valued, giving just the right amount of eye contact and nodding in the correct places as they dutifully repeat what we have all heard dozens of times…or just getting straight on the Kindle and reaching for the travel sweets. But however many times you have heard the safety spiel, there is one bit of information the stewards offer that still really resonates with me, and it’s this; “in the event that oxygen masks are deployed, get your own mask on before trying to deal with anyone else.” This is great advice for life, I translate it to mean, “only by looking after yourself first will you be equipped to be able to help others.”

I’m a lucky man, I live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world and so whenever I get the chance I jump on a mountain bike and ride up and down a hill. Sometimes I go on on my own, more often than not I go with my cycling partner. Cycling with a partner is great for at least two reasons; we learn from each other and we get better at what we do; opponents of competition in Public Sector Services take note…we’d still be waiting for the four minute mile without competition. But even though we learn from each other, we each still take personal responsibility for our own performance, I never blame my cycling partner if I fall off just because I was following a line that he chose to take. I take personal responsibility for my own performance and when he picks what I think is a good line I follow it and praise him for finding it, when he doesn’t I don’t follow his line and I share the line I took in case he finds it useful next time.

Culture change is the current Valhalla of Public Sector Services, almost everyone is saying they recognise a need for it, all are talking about the benefits of it, and the great and the good are eagerly seeking just the right model of culture to order, scrolling the pages of available options and when they have found it we are thinking they will place an order for it and like a delivery request from Amazon we will wait for it to arrive, we are expecting it to come wrapped and ready for use with a clear set of instructions and batteries included, it is as if someone else will take the responsibility for giving us the culture change that we all say we know we need. But why wait?

You don’t need permission to become the culture you want, you don’t need to be told to demonstrate the kind of behaviour that you want to see in others, you just need to start with yourself. And recognising this will be one of the most liberating things you will ever do. So make a decision, start with yourself, get your oxygen mask on and then, maybe just then, you can start to influence those around you.


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