This blog reflects on life at work at comments on the latest news that shapes my 9-5 working day in a Corporate Communications consultancy.

About Me

I am a born and bred South African who has always loved to read and write. As a child my mother used to read to me and my siblings, from classics like the “Lord of the Rings” but later also from her own stories. She would write children’s stories and then use us as her test audience, but I loved to hear what she had written long after my siblings had tired of it. So I grew up in an environment of reading and writing, which inspired my love of these things. I hope to write a great book some day, and have learnt first hand the determination and will that it takes. My love of English inspired me to continue my study of it at university. I majored in Law and English in a BA degree at UCT where I found that I took to English much more than law. I enjoyed learning about South Africa’s history and the development of our liberal Constitution, which increasingly made me committed to the hope this country has for the future. Ideally, I’d like to find myself in a job where I am able to write; that allows a good mix of time spent with people and being able to work on my own.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

You don’t have to throw fish around to make something fly

In Aki Kaliatakis’s presentation, I felt that one of the highlights was watching the video about Pike Place fish market ( Watching the flying fish packers go about their daily jobs with such enthusiasm and energy was truly inspiring. But as the employees emphasised, it’s not simply about the fish. It’s about choosing a way to behave, choosing an attitude and making the effort to be fully present at every moment in the day. To make something fly, it’s about going about our tasks as enthusiastically as they did.

If everyone is in business, as Andrew Hofmeyr reminded us, then everyone we encounter is a customer. If we are building a personal brand, then the product we are selling every moment is ourselves. What kind of impression are we making at each moment in the day? Ali’s notes quote, “They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them, but then an entire life to forget them”. What are the simple things that will make us unforgettable in the minds of those around us? While we were waiting for things to get started, Ali simply walked round the table, shook each of our hands, and greeted each of us personally. It immediately made me warm to him as someone who would go the extra effort to acknowledge me.

Let’s get back to the fish packers. Their company culture filtered to every employee. Every person was required to participate in order to make their working environment a success. Once we get into the world of work, we may just be the intern. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t make a difference. As has been emphasised in previous sessions, every employee can get involved in decision making. Everyone can take initiative and fulfil their task with passion, enthusiasm and a great attitude. And once that shines out, it will affect everyone around us.

Benjamin Zander (, an American musician, conductor, and motivational speaker, speaks about creating leaders everywhere. In the orchestra, the conductor is perceived to lead the group. Those playing the instruments are seated in groups that denote their importance- those in the front play a greater section of the melody. However, under Zander’s baton, he began the practice of getting everyone involved. Practicing a particularly difficult piece, he asked each of the members to turn to their partner and teach them the melody, creating leaders everywhere. He began the practice of putting a white sheet of paper at every member’s podium so that they could give him feedback on their performance. By doing so, he inspired everyone to get involved and express their passion. By being fully present in their performance, each member of the orchestra could lead, no matter where they were sitting, even if it was in the eleventh row.

Zander believes that “a leader does not need a podium”. A leader does not need to be the CEO of a company. Even as an intern, we can lead by choosing a positive attitude that will inspire the same in those around us. We don’t need to throw fish around to make something fly.

1 comment:

Valentin said...

Susan, I can see that you have captured well the main ponts raised by Ali Kaliatakis. Indeed, I share your opinion on his ideas of how one potrays hemself (herself) into the workplace-with his (her) qualities. Again, this point was raised earlier by Andrew Hofmeyr and one of my posts talks about that.