August often strikes me as a good month to reflect and take stock (and not just because my birthday fell yesterday). So here’s a suggestion of how you might get some perspective on your own career and business before we all knuckle down again in a couple of weeks. Simply sit back and listen to a few other successful people reflecting on their careers.
I’ve been doing this recently by downloading a few of the political commentator Peter Hennessy’s Reflections from the BBC Radio 4 website. These podcasts are like a cross between Desert Island Discs and In the Psychiatrist’s Chair, with Hennessy chatting breezily to politicians whose heavyweight careers have now glided into a shady creek on the political lake.
As I pull away from the age of 50, these conversations have certainly got me thinking about my own career as a BBC journalist — because I’ve interviewed some of Hennessy’s guests (Paddy Ashdown, David Blunkett, Michael Howard) myself. My brief encounters with them didn’t secure me any scoops or prizes, but the mere experience of interviewing a senior politician relatively early in my own career gave me an insight into the process and artifice of government.
It struck me at the time that we all knew perfectly well we were part of a process, no matter how hard I tried to make my questions sound original and tough, and they tried to make their answers sound authentic and fresh. And that’s why this series of podcasts is so telling. These powerful men and women admit the vulnerability politicians feel as they tinker with our lives, whilst also conveying a nobility in the causes they genuinely believed will improve those lives. We got some things wrong, they seem to be admitting to Hennessy, but we got a fair bit right, too.
Could you help your own staff by encouraging them to reflect on when failure might be a sign of broader success? Does that mere thought stimulate you as your own September business reboot approaches? By next August, what will we all have got right — and quietly got wrong?
If you’d like to take your staff on a roller-coaster experience of workplace failure and success in the space of a couple of hours, my Den of Decisions and Deadlines may fit the bill. It’s based on my thirty year career in BBC newsrooms.
+++ Image of a lovely old newsreader next to a lovely old BBC microphone courtesy of critical thinking.com. (And yes, the microphones I use each week for my own news reporting are still bakelite, and do look a bit like that one …) +++