How to win and lose


Wi-Fi wars are coming, and I’m now busy picking my team, and partners, and getting ready for battle.

I’ve said this also before in a different context but it’s exactly the same thing: my team means everything to me. You attack them, you attack me. That’s one thing.

You make a criticism that’s justified, fine. You make a personal attack, or tear someone or something down without knowing what you’re talking about, or criticism that I don’t feel is justified, or you’re just plain rude or arrogant …well, that’s a mark against you in my book.

And I do not forget.

But when I compete, I’m in it to win it or at least put in a good show. I will do what I need to do for my partners, and I am loyal. Fiercely loyal. It’s almost always bitten me in the butt for the companies I’ve worked for in the past, so it’s interesting to see how this will now morph and adapt itself to the new circumstance.

Competition is good; rivalry is good; it forces us to up our game. But sometimes there is nothing more exciting than a really good fight. Also, nothing quite draws a team together like a common enemy.

Also nothing quite like contrasting colours

Also nothing quite like contrasting colours

Our company is growing and shifting. We welcomed a new member to our team, Anita, who now runs our finance department, and we had welcome drinks for her on a Friday. I am as happy with this hire as any of the other two I’ve so far made (my sales team ROCK, both of them). But we had some nice bonding over drinks, as happens.

Our office culture has changed so much in the last year or so since I joined. Rudolph and I were talking about this; different people have different leadership styles. His and mine are very similar, and you can see the results of it in the office. We tease each other, we laugh, we work closely together, sales and technical are partners rather than being at loggerheads.

I actually brag about how Rudolph goes about telling people how he’s never seen such a good working relationship between sales and tech. Neither have I, for that matter.

Yes, when knuckles need to be rapped they are rapped. But you catch more flies with honey, and intrinsic motivation is so much more powerful than extrinsic.

But then again … that’s my bias. It’s debatable. Different people manage differently. Happily for both of us, Rudolph and I have similar management styles.

I am not sure how much work I got done on that Friday but Rudolph spent a good hour talking to me about morale, and company culture, and so on. The level of trust and respect we have for each other is …. Well, let’s just say I’m very very lucky. I mean nothing and no one is perfect. But he takes pride in the ever-increasing morale and achievements of the technical team the same as I do of the company as a whole.

What makes me happy? To get an email from a staff member saying how much my support means to him, or to have Rudolph go on and on and ON and share how happy he is, to watch Anita burrow herself right in and start to sort things out that have been bugging me for months, or to watch Stefan so comfortable with all of us that he’ll even swear and tease his co-workers. Quite a long way removed from the guy who was so introverted he would barely greet us in the mornings!

Or – to have two different employees come in on the same day and shut the door and tell me about a mistake they’d made. That’s the sort of culture I wanted to create, and it’s always a work in progress but it’s such a good thing that the guys are comfortable doing that.

Why? Because they know how I operate.

I am definitely becoming more and more strident in my opinions about how to manage. Skip Battle was right all those years back. You do have to have the right deputies. I wish more than anything that I could hire about three or four more. But I must be patient. All things in their time.

But here’s the other thing. You reach a certain point you also become a pawn, sometimes without knowing, sometimes knowing and resenting it, and sometimes knowing and not caring. We’re all good people but we’re not entirely altruistic, now, are we?

I’ve now reached a point at which I’m flattered to say that I’m discovering that I’m also a pawn. It’s normal. Better that than to be relegated to obscurity and not want people to manipulate you. But let’s also say that I know when a suggestion is not really a suggestion.

Office building or dragon's den full of crazy people?

Office building or dragon’s den full of crazy people?

I’ll tell you how you win. You win by showing up. You win by listening. You win by hearing. You win by changing your behaviour as necessary based on what it is that you’ve learned.

The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend.

And my friend is not in it for me, but he’s in it for him.

But that’s fine. That’s how the game is played.

A couple of us had dinner on Friday night with a friend of Carla’s called Andrea. She’s kind of a crazy woman, but very cool, and she’s actually pretty famous in the CrossFit community as being one of the people in the intersection of ‘very good athlete’ and ‘stupidly hot.’ True story. But sex symbol aside, she’s an incredibly knowledgeable athlete and coach. It was cool to get to chat to her, just as another American, but what was even more cool are the drills she taught us the next morning.

Why is this cool? Well, I think one of the drills may do more to fix my second pull than anything I’ve learned in the last looooong time. By the end of the session I’d just snatched my max and it wasn’t even heavy. The Monday morning I had increased all of my weights by 5kgs from the previous week and before I had been struggling to get under the bar and snatch the weight this time it felt light.

More happily than anything? These lifts are supposed to be FAST and this is something I normally struggle with. I had one snatch that was so fast I nearly didn’t get under the bar fast enough. THAT is how the lift is meant to be performed. Now I just need to replicate that a zillion times and break the old patterns.

And then, in true CrossFit style, I stopped mid-workout to laugh at myself. The workout was jerks, over-the-bar burpees, and sled pushes heavier than I am. I was amused because that sled is actually HEAVY! I was shaking my head at it and laughing at myself that the only thing good about the workout was that I wasn’t trying to do it at altitude.

Keeping score is also part of the game

Keeping score is also part of the game

Oh? The other most excellent news? My shoulder has recovered to the point where I can do muscle up transitions again. Still can’t get out of the dip, mind you, but I can now work on that kip & transition which really needs work.

The other exciting thing? I’m sad to admit but I’m now at that point where I am actually better at kipping handstand pushups than strict ones. My technique goes when I get tired, but like my clean exceeding my power clean, or (very soon) my snatch exceeding my power snatch, even that milestone is worth celebrating.

There is a long, long way to go. Maybe there is no such thing as an end, just pauses along the road to admire the view.

But boy, we’ve come a long way. And so have I.

  • “Extremely busy? So is everyone else. Welcome to life.” – Jade
  • “Yes we will. Once they pay.” – Jade
  • “What do you have in your safe? Lots of money? Important documents? And coffee!!” “Well that’s important too!!” – Jeff & Ellie
  • “You don’t tend to deal with things until you have to.” – Ingi
  • “I feel like I just got mauled.” “Well you pretty much did.” – Ellie & Bryony
  • “I may be evil. But they’re more evil!” – Ellie
  • “They’re not for sale.” – Dominic
  • “Are they well adjusted?” “They don’t really understand it.” – Dominic & Ellie
  • “We reserve the right to co-opt you. Wouldn’t you rather just be democratically elected?” – Sam
  • “We have friends in high places.” “Are you kidding me? You ARE the high places!” – a powerful man & me
  • “How many times do you think the name Skyrove is mentioned?” – Rudolph
  • “Over my dead body.” – Ellie (oh, how times have changed!)
  • “She doesn’t understand that we’re going to install repeaters and the network will be faster because it won’t be going over three hops!!” “Seriously, Rudolph? Seriously?” – Rudolph & Ellie
  • “’The company that drinks together stays together.’ I heard that somewhere.” “I think you said that!” – Ellie & Jeff
  • “I mean, there’s lots of traffic, lots of smog, it’s unpleasant … and I still really like it!” “Wow. You really DO like Joburg!” – Ellie & Rapelang
  • “Act like it’s heavy even when it’s light, so when it’s heavy it will feel light.” – Andrea
  • “You have to be comfortable resting your entire bodyweight on your neck. If you’re not comfortable doing that, don’t do it. It’s not for everyone.” – Andrea (oh, the weird stuff we do in CrossFit, and actually, I never quite realised before that this is what was happening … now I am painfully aware!)
  • “#%)* #%**@.” “Did you just say what I think you just said?” “Yes, he did.” – Stefan, Ellie, & Jade






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