Travelling through time and space
The French call it ‘la rentree’ and it certainly does feel like re-entering Earth’s atmosphere after a period circling in orbit or even in outer space (depending on where you spent your holidays). I think even the heat shields are struggling to cope and can swear I can smell some burning flesh or brain!
Settling down to the September routine and the start of the new schoolyear has always been a struggle for me and my family. Some years it has been almost enjoyable and long-anticipated (usually when I had a very boring holiday in the countryside with no other children around). This year it has been particularly difficult, with some family health scares and both children now in school (and getting used to homework again… or for the first time, in the case of the younger one).
However, I always find I need a few days to readjust to my home when I have been abroad. Especially when I have been abroad to my other home, my childhood home in my country of origin. It’s like getting into the Tardis and making a jump through time and space – from my teenage years and friends, to my grown-up business and mother persona, as well as from mountain roads to the M25. A three-hour flight is never long enough to prepare you for a completely different world.
From the 39 degrees heat and dust of Bucharest, I then walked out on the wet, chilly tarmac at Luton Airport. My heart sank and lifted at the same time. Home… and yet …
As well as the curse and blessing of the daily routine… I wonder if the good Doctor could cope with the daily school run and checking of emails?
I was honoured to be part of a discussion panel on BlogTalkRadio last night. Together with two fantastic women entrepreneurs, Mala Shah and Maggie Currie, as well as our host, Lillian Ogbogoh, we discussed whether women entrepreneurs (and some men too) feel obliged to give too much away for free in order to attract clients. How can we value what we do and make sure our clients value it too?
Have a listen and see what you think.
Do You Have Value or Are You For Free?
Code switching is a term widely used by linguists to denote the use of more than one language in conversation. My children are already adept code switchers: they will start a sentence in English, finish it in Romanian and throw in a few Greek words too for good measure. I used to think (and linguists in the 50s and 60s agreed with me) that this was a substandard use of language, that it makes children have a ‘smattering of everything, mastery of none’.
Lately, however, I have started to see cultural code-switching as something much more positive. This is the ability to change smoothly from one range of cultural behaviours to another – in essence, being able to operate in multiple environments and adapt to different audiences and expectations. A recent article in People Management referred to it in the leadership context as a ‘seamless gear change’.
Note: we are not talking about lack of authenticity here nor about putting on masks to please all and sundry. Instead, we are talking about someone who is comfortable with multiple languages, cultures, leadership styles, ways of thinking and can therefore act as a bridge and translator between the different points of view. Yes, we may have a default ‘vision of the world’ or a preferred operating style, but the greatest leaders will have a wider repertoire of interpretations and behaviours to fall back upon.
There is one danger here, though. That people will say: ‘We do not know what this person stands for. He or she is not consistent. S/he is a slippery customer. We cannot reduce him or her to just three keywords. S/he is a bit too different…’ And no culture will want to claim you as their own. Unless you are Mesut Oezil, in which case they will be fighting over you.