Friday 28 November 2008

The Mo thing I'll miss most

Perhaps the nerve endings around the hair follicles stimulate neurological activity.

Or maybe stroking things with your finger tips gets you thinking.

Whatever the physiological explanation, my Mo helps me think! Problem solving has never been so swift. Pondering my next move has never been so fruitful.

So it will be with a tear in my eye that I defy you all. The vote says "No!" but my common sense and self-respect says "Mow!"

Thank you to all who sponsored me.

Wednesday 26 November 2008

My Mo - I saw it in a shop window!

Nearly there!

Four days to go and I think I went through the pain barrier today.

Walking past a shop window on the way into work, I glanced inside but caught a reflection of a moustached fellow looking back. Not someone with a strange upper lip infection but someone with a bona fide Mo!

However, by the time I reached the office the feeling of pride had faded, leaving me to seek inspiration in a mug of coffee, as you can see. Which worked actually.

Meanwhile, Barnardo's ad campaign broke this week. It is not unfair to say that working for marketing teams in brands such as this is what really drives me. Coffee provides caffeine but this stuff injects rocket fuel...

What do you think? It's a powerful ad. Attention (yes) > Interest (yes) > Desire (ish - not sure what I'm supposed to do) > Conviction (yes - Barnardo's seems to be in the zone) >>> but as ever, the challenge for fundraisers will be to convert this brand campaign into Action.

Tuesday 25 November 2008

The power of anger

Here's the thing. What do businesses, friendships and families have in common? They are made or broken with good or poor communication.

Poor communication can disable you. It can ruin a family. It can kill a relationship.

Even very blunt and direct people can communicate well though. The key is to learn how and when to use different styles.

However, really good communication begins with listening. Two ears, one mouth.

And one of the most perilous times in communication is when one person is angry - or worse, when both are.

Anger is perhaps the most frequently misunderstood emotion. It is almost always a defence, covering up someone's real feelings - consciously or unconsciously. People often get angry when they are hurt, and when this anger is stirred they can become aggressive.

The trick is to hold tight, let the aggression come out, and learn to speak at the right moment in the right way.

Take an apologetic, understanding stance and the aggression and anger fade. Take a defensive and contradicting stance and the situation spirals.

Then, with all the strength you can find, pick your way gently through the mess to achieve a constructive, reconciled outcome.


But being hurt or angry is never an excuse for personal, wounding comments. You need to learn to pause before breathing fire or taking out your verbal sword and slaying someone.

And if you're on the receiving end of such an attack, you have to learn to respond in a way that will increase the chances of an constructive outcome.

> see Working the Crowd.

If the other person is too angry to calm down, you have to take a break - suggest that the conversation continues later. No amount of good communication skills can deal with someone who won't calm down.

Working the crowd

Stand up comedians live or die by it.

If they don't work the crowd, to get them on-side, they get booed off stage.

In business, and in fact in every interaction in day-to-day life, people who work the crowd do better than those who don't.

Each time you open your mouth, write an email or fire off a text, you have a choice. Do you say whatever you're thinking or feeling in a way that will open the other person up and result in a constructive conversation?

Or do you say it in a way that will get their defences up, and result in conflict or an unsatisfactory result?

It's your call - every time.

Not a very funny comedian but he does a good job of working the crowd.

Friday 21 November 2008

Three weeks and three reactions

Movember marches on, and the MoBro's Mo grows long.

Some quite like it.

Most ridicule it.

But my wife says it is, "singularly unattractive", and insists I walk along the pavement two yards ahead of her.

Should I shave it though? When you've sponsored me, please vote!

Thursday 20 November 2008

Building a team - be ruthless

In the mid 90s I was a member of a five-person team on an expedition to a remote village in the Western Himalayas, Pakistan's Karakoram range, or "Black Wall".

We needed a woman and a man with local language skills, and so it was that we selected a guy who at first glance seemed perfect. Affable, intelligent, and the son of Pakistani parents.

However, something in me was unsure. He seemed ever so slightly arrogant and once or twice failed to deliver on agreed action points on the list of preparations. I was not leading the team, however, and it was not my call.

Fast fwd four months and we were in the village, situated at 6,500ft in the fertile floor of an enormous valley. Hundreds of miles long, the valley wound its way between 24,000ft peaks up to the Chinese boarder. The section where we were was forty miles end-to-end, four miles wide, with peaks down either side and at each end that towered three miles above us.

Three or four weeks into the expedition, we had a day's R&R. This guy in question and I both wanted to revisit a high goat pasture we had seen a week before. Hidden by a giant fold in the rocks and directly beneath an overhanging glacier, the goat herder's stone hut was one of the most serene places I had ever been to.

We set out early and made good progress in the lower part of the climb. Through apricot groves, past white mulberry trees surrounded by huddles of ancient buildings, and up to the mountain track flanked by fragrant wildflowers. The path wound its way between fields, following the lines of irrigation channels that fed the crops with silty water from the river. This river tumbled down from the glacier high above the village, into the mighty river thousands of feet below in the bed of the main valley.

The path led up into a narrow gorge, carved by centuries of glacial run-off, with near-vertical sides that were lined with boulder clay, towering hundreds of feet either side. Boulder clay is a mixture of sand, silt, gravel and boulders, which is created by the seasonal advance and retreat of the glacier, grinding over the rocks high above.

Although we had to rest frequently, as the air became thinner over 10,000ft, we reached the goat herder's hut by lunchtime and sat chatting with him, sharing our food in return for some lussee (cooled goats yoghurt). Lunch over, the two of us took time to wander the vast pasture separately, agreeing to leave in one hour.

Teetering at 13,000 feet at the lip of the gorge we had just climbed, and surrounded on three sides by 10,000ft walls of ice and rock, the scale is impossible to describe. Probably a mile and a half long by a mile wide, the pasture is nearly silent, except for the distant sound of the glacial run-off, some eagle cries and an occasional groan from the glacier, which would send an eerie echo into the cobalt blue sky above.

I got the photos I wanted and returned to the rocks that we had agreed to meet at. Just after 13:00 and plenty of time to descend before the late afternoon light would fade into the evening darkness.

One peculiar aspect of Himalayan valleys is that two or three hours after the sun passes its midday zenith, it sets very quickly, as the 24,000ft mountains on one side cast a shadow onto the slopes of the 24,000ft mountains on the other side. An hour later, you can see the movement of the shadow, as the sun paints the opposite side of the valley with gloom.

So it was that TWO HOURS later, my team mate arrived, and gave an inadequate apology and explanation. There was no time for argument. We decided to return to the village as we were not equipped to spend the night up there in sub-zero temperatures.

We made quick progress, descending a few thousand feet before the light began to fail. We were half way between the pasture and the village - and we realised our mistake. The light faded much quicker once we were down in the gorge and soon the sandy grey boulder clay faded into the gathering dusk.

It became impossible to follow what faint path existed and we soon found ourselves at a dead end. We were probably 300ft below the top of the gorge side and I guess we were 100ft lower than the path. Scrambling had given way to technical climbing without ropes, and our advance was halted by a 50ft lump sticking out from the side of the gorge.

I managed to climb around it and reached a much easier place, where a small stream had carved a natural path. I could see that this ran past the original path lower down, near the place where it began to open out and ease off.

I turned back to help the other guy and was reaching down, ready to help him up. He was just out of reach and was climbing up the side of a tiny channel carved by another stream.

I think we both realised what was happening in the same moment. The TV-sized boulder he was pulling himself up on began to move. Boulder clay is incredibly unstable, and as he froze he understood it was already too late. Sand, stones and boulders began to shift all around him.

He looked up into my face and said, "Matt, I'm not going to make..."

And the sound of the river in the gorge below was drowned by a crashing roar, as chunks of the boulder clay around me fell into the channel after him.

I saw how big the boulders were that tumbled down onto him but I had to retreat as the ground under my feet began to shift too.

I climbed down a little to see if I could see him but the channel was clear, but for the dust that hung in the air. The roaring of the rock avalanche subsided and the sound of the river far below filled the air.

I called his name but there was silence.

My heart pounded even harder as I realised that the whole area around me had been destabilised. I turned and climbed back up, as quickly as I could, even as boulders began to give way beneath my feet.

As my mind raced, thinking about returning next day to find his body, I began the easy descent in the stream bed I had seen earlier.

Then, to my complete amazement, I heard his voice.

He was at least a hundred feet further down the side of the gorge, but I found a vantage point and peered over to see his dusty and disheveled face looking up. I directed him over a ridge above him and up to the stream bed.

He had literally miraculously escaped serious injury and was just bruised and scraped.

We rested for a few minutes and then started the descent once more. We jogged where possible but mostly clambered down the rough slopes in the semi darkness.

It was pitch black by the time we reached the apricot groves, and finally, after several trips and falls, we reached base camp in the village, exhausted and conscious of how close we had come to not making it back at all.

The moral of this long tail?

Trust your instincts when building a team. And be ruthless if you have doubts about someone you interview.

Oh, and never climb to 13,000ft without overnight gear.

Tuesday 18 November 2008

How classical music defines a person

At my local train station they play classical music very loud whenever young people are on the platforms. I think it's meant to be a deterrent, to get rid of them. In fact, the target audience seems to hang around longer, perhaps enjoying the free Baroque tunes.

As the Mo creeps onward, I am frequently struck by how it alters my appearance and others' perception of me. There is still a look of suspicion in many eyes, but as I walked onto the platform today with my jacket, pullover, shirt and Mo two people stepped out of the way deferentially.

I could almost hear the classical music being switched on for my benefit, and thought how different it would have been if I had been wearing a hoodie. I thought of Barnardo's Chief Exec Martin Narey's words, "we must end this discrimination against young people". As he says, no other minority is demonised in the way children and young people are in Britain today.

My Mo twitches uncomfortably as I watch this Barnardo's teaser ad, ahead of their new advertising campaign beginning 24 November, calling for a change in attitude...

Friday 14 November 2008

Half way and getting serious

Don't worry. This won't be a millimetre-a-day chronicle of the Mo.

But we're two weeks into Movember, and the reaction from clients is getting more serious. I've just been told I look 'European', and yesterday someone called me 'disturbing'.

Think I'll use the phone as much as possible in the next two weeks.

Thursday 13 November 2008

Pity gives way to wariness

I suppose one can see why my fellow passengers are a little suspicious.

I'm clearly not a fashion student or member of a band - in which case the Mo could be seen as a conscious statement. But nor do I look completely out of touch with contemporary design.

As I sit on the train, working on my MacBook and listening to my iPhone, I've begun to notice the look of pity changing.

People are now wary. "He must know how odd he looks," they think, "yet he remains completely serious."

And wariness seems to be a licence to stare...

Wednesday 12 November 2008

Train journeys are the worst

Every morning and evening for the past ten days I have been an object worthy of public inspection. And it's getting worse.

Some people quickly look away when I look up. Others blush. Others stare more intently. For some, there is a strange look of pity - "isn't that terrible," they think, "such a prominent skin infection."

Today I forgot the mo and started to think to myself, "I didn't think I looked any different this morning; huh, maybe this shirt looks particularly good." It was only when I noticed that look of pity that I suddenly remembered the growth.

So please, for pity's sake, visit my Movember page and sponsor me!

Tuesday 11 November 2008

Why bother?

If you are able to sponsor me in this ludicrous venture, your gift would be put to good use!

Donations are made directly to The Prostate Cancer Charity, who will use the funds as follows:
  1. Research on a range of subjects from new drug treatments to studies exploring the practical support for carers of men affected by prostate cancer.
  2. A dedicated lobbyist to work with government and other policy leaders for improved access to prostate cancer treatments.
  3. Infrastructure investment to ensure resources are available to drive TPCC forward.
  4. Funding of a specialist nurse and awareness raising activities within the African Caribbean community who are at greater risk of prostate cancer.
  5. Recruitment of men with prostate cancer to provide voluntary peer to peer support, and to raise awareness.
  6. Additional specialist nurses for the TPCC Helpline which provides information and support to callers affected by prostate cancer.

So thank you in advance for your help.

Monday 10 November 2008

Movember - time for new growth in my life

New growth = blogging at last.

New growth = a MO!!!

To sponsor me, please go to my Movember page.