Saturday, June 25, 2005

The Art of Delegation

I've always been something of an independent spirit at heart. Walk to the beat of my own tabla drum, sort of character. I've enjoyed my time alone as just plain ol' Adam (I'd say there was a "wilderness period" lasting around six years in my mid to late 20s where I had the luxury to truly get to know the real me). It informs who I am today. Wholly.

But now I find myself at the helm of a fascinating film project, the culmination of nearly five years of my life. Five enjoyable and sometimes hellish but with frequent moments of rapturous bliss of:

** non-starts (don't ask!)
** of toil
** of spending a large percentage of my personal savings
** of lost friends, unrequited relationships, and would-be lovers
** of suffering the occasional unintentional alienation
** and of forgoing of my second favourite pastime, the written word (i.e. books)

all because of something I've long believed in with all of my soul. The sort of conviction which says, this capability breathes in your soul, bro. Every last ounce of it...

I've always been part of someone else's dream. I'm referring to the workplace. Many times I've been surrounded by the best young and experienced brains a city can find, working alongside other people with fascinating ideas, and learning from them in the boilerroom.

But now I'm the one looking down, and let me tell you, it's a humbling experience indeed.

If you've never been "the boss" of something before, rest assured it's not a job for the faint of heart. You'd typically think that running the show is easier -- in that you can delegate a wealth of the functional tasks, and concentrate on certain more critical strategic decision-making. Ah, if only it were that simple.

Delegating responsibilities isn't a panacea. It's not a silver bullet approach to anything. In fact, delegating is one of the most vital aspects of being a leader. Do so incorrectly, and you're at your own peril.

It's taken some time to get to know who on this merry crew of mine is best at what they do. Errors are made now 'n again, but we've locked onto a formula, and we're now humming along like a pack of bees, clocking marks, hitting milestones.

I've made it my prime directive to surround myself with people of the highest calibre. People who are do-ers like me, with solid experience at running their own shows (read: businesses) if given ample rein to do so -- instead of hanging you with said rein!

I'm pleased to say if I were to close my eyes and let go of the tricycle handlebars for a bit, I wouldn't go smashing into a fence or something. This ship is now capably co-piloted by some of the savviest ladies and gentleman. Godsends all.

Besides -- even if I could -- I don't think I'd want to do everything alone. It's been fun working alongside these others, people like-minded who share the same passion for getting the work done as I do. It just so happens this particular 'project' happens to be a film. So not only are we running a business, we're making art! Lucky aren't we, ay?

::: I sure think we are. :::

I won't list their names just yet, because we're not quite ready to announce our existence to the world. But we will be. Soon.

Just the same, I'm honoured to be going down this dusty island road with my capable colleagues. I'm now in their debt.

That kinda reminds me. I think all leaders need to be in their supporters' debt.

It's healthy. It makes leaders the best they can be.

Ask me. I know.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Courage and Cameras

I watched Barry Lyndon last weekend - a film that's as old as me! It was recommended to me for its stunning cinematography and brilliant direction - and it was fantastic in those respects.

But as a story it is deeply unsatisfactory. Not because it's badly written, but because it is in fact too well-written. The reality cuts too deep.

Based on a novel by William Makepeace Thackeray (who wrote Vanity Fair, a pretty similar story), the problem with Barry Lyndon is that you like the character and want him to succeed - and he doesn't. Instead, he does the stupid things all of us do - selfish, greedy, impulsive things.

"What are you doing, Barry?" you yell at the screen as he philanders, or gambles, or makes silly, fateful decisions based on emotion. "Don't you know we're watching?"

Which took me back to a documentary I'd seen earlier that day. Shooting War tells the story of World War II combat cameramen, the ones who took up cameras while their comrades took up guns.

One of them, Richard Brooks, was with the US Army as they landed on one of the Pacific Islands to heavy Japanese resistance. The commanding officer told Brooks to make sure he had his camera with him at all times during the landing. It didn't even matter if he had film.


"There are no cowards in front of the camera."

That camera, he said, is the eyes of the world. And our boys aren't going to want to show anything but courage when Mom and Dad are watching back home.

If only Barry had known.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Why France and Nederland didn't sign the EU Constitution

Some very good points in Bill DuBay's Plain Language at Work Newsletter— 13 June 2005.


"SMART SHOPPERS know better than to sign anything they don't understand. Citizens of France and the Netherlands took that lesson to heart in refusing to ratify the EU Constitution. And well they should.


The U.S. Constitution contains 4,000 words in 11 pages and seven articles, all written at a democratic 9th-grade level.

The European Constitution is a badly organized, 855-page, 156,447-word document written at the 16th grade level. The first and most important part is missing a title. Some of the 465 articles ended up in the wrong sections.


The European Constitution is a bloated and botched attempt to give Europeans what they need for the development of their Union. There is no doubt about the role that bad language played in this colossal failure. The bureaucrats of the European Union have been very successful in imposing their quality manufacturing standards on the rest of the world. They have yet to learn about quality in language and how it affects their work.

As they pick over the wreckage, they should take a quick lesson in simple salesmanship: Don't pitch your goods in language that people don't understand."

Good lessons for any leader, I'm sure. How can anyone follow you if they don't know what you're on about?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

I get interviewed again

I got interviewed today, and it wasn't about email marketing or blogs, it was just about me!

The NZ Centre for SME Research are interviewing several young entrepreneurs, and I just managed to be young (under 30 - but not for long!).

It's quite an experience when someone asks how you got into business and how you get by from day to day, what your weaknesses are, etc.

Anyway, it's one of those occasions where you think of all the really clever things to say just afterwards. At least I've got an audience here. (Hello?)

In brief (I'm going out soon, just as well):

  • When I started in business, one of the things I really wanted to do was one day help others who wanted to start. That kind of attitude helps you learn faster, I believe.
  • Don't undercapitalise. We started with nothing, which would've been fine if there was a steady flow of work, but there were peaks and troughs, and we suffered during the troughs.
  • Your personality is your most unique asset - for instance, I come across as easy-going and nice to deal with. So use it! Make the most.
Okay, gotta go now. Watching some fencing tonight for a project I'm working on... may be some leadership lessons in there (be surprised if not!).

See you soon.