Ton up

As I write this, this post has a fin de siècle feel to it. I posted my first blog post on 24th April, about Cornwall. It dealt with the Cornish language, using a foreign language in my writing (Polish – I do not speak a word so I rely on Google translate which may or may not turn out to be a disaster – like the guy who went for a tattoo, decided he’d have his favourite meal inked in Chinese and ended up with the Mandarin characters for 72), a great film, Letter to Brezhnev, and Game of Thrones. It received no likes and one comment, from the Vet.

97 days on and this is the 100the post. Actually neither is true. 2014-07-17 16.39.43It might be 98 days and this is the 101st because I accidentally posted a draft covering some more of my Dad’s letters. Just a picture in fact. This one. I trashed it but it’s out there somewhere. So my idea to celebrate the ridiculously quick time it has taken me to reach 100 posts has been rather dented by over-exuberance – or incompetence. Take your pick. And it got me thinking.

I wonder how many of you remember a late 60s/early 70s comedy about the Rag trade called ‘Never Mind the Quality, feel the Width’? Here’s a clip. The essential message – apart from playing to awful Irish/Jewish stereotypes – was quantity over quality. That is my fear with this urge to post that has rather taken hold. Lots of nothing much.

Some years back, when my Law Firm was on one of its regular bursts of away-day-itis, it set up a weekend where different groups would learn how to function better as a team. Hopelessly flawed, of course, because a professional partnership is constitutionally unsuited to the idea of a team. For a team to function you need a leader, someone around whom a team can form. If you are all equal partners, all equally capable of expressing an opinion and ignoring everyone else’s then the idea of leadership is either anathema or oxymoronic or both. Herding cats is a doddle by comparison. Don’t misunderstand me; we were incredibly successful but trying to make us work in ways incompatible with the whole business structure was like asking a rugby team to play 4-4-2.

Anyway one good thing did come out of this grim weekend in Paddington (we must have been on a  cost saving drive at the same time). We were all asked to do a Myers-Briggs test. If you’ve not come across it then this the wiki explanation.  You may have done one yourself; you may well have strong ideas on their efficacy but it made a lot of sense to me at the time and did indeed help me understand some of my colleagues (put simply, having seen the results, I realised that those who seemed to be deliberately awkward uncooperative s.o.b.s were in fact hardwired to make my life hell; they couldn’t help it. They needed treatment not condemnation. It introduced pity as a management tool).

My results we interesting too. The results break down into four areas – dichotomies, I think – and I was off the scale or nearly off the scale in three of them. These dichotomies have opposite pairings. Extravert and Introvert being one. I’m sooo Extravert.

I copied this from Wikipedia:

The extravert’s flow is directed outward toward people and objects, and the introvert’s is directed inward toward concepts and ideas. Contrasting characteristics between extraverts and introverts include the following:

  • Extraverts are “action” oriented, while introverts are “thought” oriented.
  • Extraverts seek “breadth” of knowledge and influence, while introverts seek “depth” of knowledge and influence.
  • Extraverts often prefer more “frequent” interaction, while introverts prefer more “substantial” interaction.Extraverts recharge and get their energy from spending time with people, while introverts recharge and get their energy from spending time alone; they consume their energy through the opposite process.

How did this manifest itself at work? How is it relevant here? I like to make progress, to get on with things, I have an empty in-tray mentality, movement is progress, I can’t be doing with people who bottle up their thinking and then dump everything on me rather than sharing the process… I like to blog, to get the ideas out there, even if, had I given them a week or a month I might have scrapped them or at least edited them into some semblance of sense.

Some see me as a linear thinker and it is true, I do like to worry away at something till I see if it works before shooting off on something else. It means I don’t wait around trying to work out all the possibilities before having a dart at what seems like a  runner. I’m incapable to planning out the chapters in a book in advance. I get a bit of an idea and off I go with it. No W planning with post-its for me. Sure I edit. A lot. As I go, bits here and there and then I write a load more. Sometimes, not often, I scrap a whole lot. Occasionally I realise that had I taken a few deep breaths and done a little more thinking and planning I would not have wasted a bundle of time. But for the few dozen times that happens I have to balance it against the seat-gnawing frustration of waiting at the starter’s gate until every single runner and rider has been identified before choosing my ride.

My father went on a trendy new management course in the 1960s run by an American called Louis Allen. Dad was pretty cynical about the whole thing. Interestingly Louis Allen’s name lives on and I don’t want to cast any aspersions on the quality of the company that bears his name. Apparently Louis himself was well thought off. To quote from the company’s website, Louis wrote ‘The Management Profession in 1964, receiving the Academy of Management-McKinsey Award for best management book that year.’ Go Louis.

Anyway, Louis A introduced Dad, and therefore the family, to the notions of ‘lateral thinking’. It was the one thing that gelled with Dad. He wanted to think laterally. He bought ‘The Use of Lateral Thinking’ by Edward De Bono, sometime after it came out in 1967.  De Bono’s idea was you needed to avoid Vertical and Horizontal thinking alone but sort of combine the two to see your way through a problem. I don’t think Dad ever really got there.

Being quite young and impressionable, I applied what I understood of this theory, as espoused by Dad, to myself and my great rival, the Archaeologist. He was all horizontal ideas,  buzzing with imagination but, to me, getting the square root of nowhere while I was all drive and vertical thought rigorously pursuing a goal even if it was the wrong one or in the wrong way. Neither of us seemed especially lateral.

But you know what? I realise it’s all a bundle of armadillo’s do-dos. I’m both Linear and Lateral; I have an urge to be Extravert but I’m perfectly capable of Introverted behaviour when the need calls for it. Experience is what counts, not some blunt set of tests or theories. Sure, some of it has been helpful but only in so far as it has made me more empathetic to others and how they work and think. And to appreciate their qualities and my own.

So while 100 posts in under 100 days is going to make some people feel ill, annoyed, roll their eyes, laugh at the stupidity of it, the point is, it is just me. That’s the way I am. Linear and lateral. Extravert and Introvert. Chicken and Egg.  I’ll have gaps in posts; for sure I won’t keep up this pace. And I might even stop equating the number of extraordinarily kind people who follow me with the success of my posts. I admit it, I love applause but I should be perhaps be more like Dad, one of whose many aphorisms was ‘Don’t clap, throw money’.

But the bottom line is I enjoy doing this and while I may do it less if no one followed and no one commented occasionally or liked it, I’d still do it. And I’d still be grateful for all your support and encouragement. And I might just get around to the post I had planned to do for the 100th if I hadn’t been such a tit and pre-posted it and ended up here.

Let me leave you with a story Dad told following one especially aggravating management conference, sometime in the late 1960s. This one was about ‘Objectives’ and the importance of setting, managing and achieving your objectives. The keen members of the team returned, fired with the determination to plot everything in rigorous detail and to follow it through.   A week or so of this and a poster appeared around his office, something along these lines (it now appears in the urban dictionary under ‘The Alligator Dilemma’)

The objective of all dedicated employees should be to thoroughly analyze all situations, anticipate all problems prior to their occurrence, have answers for these problems, and move swiftly to solve these problems when called upon. However, when you are up to your arse in alligators, it is difficult to remind yourself that your initial objective was to drain the swamp.

Keep those alligators at bay, people. And thank you for following, commenting and generally giving me encouragement. I’m now off to a Blogger’s Anonymous meeting: ‘My name is Geoff and I haven’t posted for 24 hours’ – cue applause.


About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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14 Responses to Ton up

  1. Charli Mills says:

    Tossing you dollar from across the pond! An earlier post this morning from someone I use to manage with was all-geeky over Myers-Briggs. My son, working on his doctrate in Industrial-organizational psychology thinks it’s bunk. I always found it helpful. I’m a borderline I/E but definitely need to recharge my batteries alone, thus introvert seems to reign, but I have extrovert tendencies…who knows! Best to know what you can do and go about it best you can. Ha, ha, no need to W anything (I say, as I’m plying sticky notes…). Congratulations on 100 posts. I like reading so don’t stop now. And…what else “are” you? I’m INFP.


  2. Annecdotist says:

    Loth as I am to reinforce such manic activity, may I offer my congratulations on your 100th post. There’s only one rule about blogging as far as I’m concerned and that’s to do it whatever way suits you. And it obviously works, people read your posts and comment – you’ve got that approval that fuels your extraversion.
    Same goes for your Law Firm. If you were getting results, you were doing it right, whatever the textbooks might say. But I disagree with you about teams needing a leader – they need leadership which can be carried across different people. It’s much harder to do, but groups are difficult. One of the problems I think that arises with this away day stuff is that a lot of people set themselves up as management consultants without understanding the psychology behind it.
    Hope you continue enjoying your blog.


    • TanGental says:

      Of course you are right; it is leadership. I’m sure I fail to understand the psychology behind teams; all I was reflecting was the frustration of trying to negotiate a way forward with a group of single minded lawyers. I realise building consensus can happen in many different ways, across a team. I had some nightmare times trying to do that. . If I can use a poor analogy we elect a government to make decisions for us, to undertake leadership. Often, when the time comes we would prefer a different decision and mean that we’d like a vote on this or that issue to take the leadership back but – government by referendum wouldn’t work. Ditto most teams in law firms – they would be the anarcho-collective syndicates from Monty Python and the Holy Grail if every little decision fell to be decided by the whole group and nothing would get done. That can be the problem in a professional partnership (if you look at another comment from Sohrab, a GP, he sees exact parallels in the NHS). Maybe I’m using an inapt terminology in calling it leading or leadership.


  3. Archaeologist says:

    Does that make you a centenarian or a centipede?


  4. somemaid says:

    Congratulations on reaching 100 posts. Being from Cornwall I’m off to look at your first post now.


  5. Sohrab says:

    Well done Geoff

    Such wisdom you have .. You know yourself and what works for you.. Also I think its fluid is it not … There are times when ones predispositions are altered by circumstances. Eg my usual preference for flippancy turns into gravidity. I even surprises myself when it happens.

    One thing resonates strongly. The difficulty in true team work in professional partnerships is very apparent in GPs too. Each is an Independent Contractor and so finds it hard to follow a leader in the team even if there is one. There is a trend for emerging NHS Leadership Courses but maybe we beed Follower Courses!
    Or, as may well happen, we lose our Status and become employees.. which perhaps is our just reward.

    Blog on….

    PS as an extrovert your daily blog gives you energy but leave the rest of us exhausted! :-))


  6. Norah says:

    Congratulations Geoff! We both reached our 100th at about the same time, but I started much earlier. I couldn’t maintain your pace, even if I wanted to. Well done! As you say, you must do what is right for you. You may enjoy this video about leadership: which I came across on this blog post this morning:
    I am a great fan of de Bono’s work.and have read many of his books, Lateral Thinking being the first. I particularly enjoyed “Why I want to be King of Australia”.
    Myers-Briggs I’m not sure about, and judging from your explanation of extrovert/introvert, I’m definitely the introvert. It’s great to meet you! 🙂


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