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Humpty Dumpty and the empty swimming pool

Sometimes life throws you curve balls in the most unexpected ways; curve balls that may change how you see the world, show you what you’re made of, or give you a little bit of both. Let me put some context around that.

Five weeks ago, we were having our swimming pool cleaned ready for summer. The pool was emptied, scrubbed and ready to be refilled. I was doing some maintenance around the side of the pool, so to move from one section to the next, I made a small jump onto the edge at the deep end. This proved to be a very stupid decision, I overbalanced and found myself falling into the empty pool.

As I was falling two and a half metres (it’s a very deep pool), I remember a ridiculous number of thoughts going through my mind… this might hurt a bit, but I’ll be fine… I can undo this… what is going to happen, will I get lucky and just have a few bruises, what can I do to minimise the impact? …and funnily, will I need to take Monday off work?

As I landed, I heard some nasty crunches and whilst the pain wasn’t obvious initially (thank goodness for adrenalin), I knew that things weren’t good. My feet were telling me that I couldn’t move. As if this wasn’t challenging enough, I landed in the chemicals that had just been put in for the pool to be refilled. So here I was, all busted up face down in chlorine, lying on the concrete.

I managed to commando drag myself far enough away from the chemicals to be able to breathe and I called for my husband who was, justifiably, in equal measure distressed and annoyed (“What are you doing down there, what the ‘bleep’ have you done?”). Strangely calm, I explained what had happened and asked him to call an ambulance.

Fast forward through the five hours that it took for the ambulance, fire brigade and police to arrive, get me out of the pool, take me to hospital, the x-rays, checks for chemical burns – I was in a pretty bad way. Hypothermic (it was very cold) with a completely shattered left heel and a fractured right heel, my body had gone into shock, which rendered me non-responsive to those around me.

I’ve had a month in hospital, have had my left heel surgically rebuilt, had to learn how to put weight on a broken right heel and practically relearned how to move. For someone who does everything at high pace, having to consciously assess the impact of every movement to minimise the risk of falling again has been incredibly challenging!

It’s been tough, my injuries were serious and it will be up to a year before I can walk normally. However, I’m also fortunate to have been cared for by some incredibly talented medical professionals and an exceptional support network.

I have had some very difficult days where the pain had me not wanting to move, where I’ve relived the accident over and over, which at times causes extreme anxiety. The tiredness has had me emotional and easily distressed. It’s been hard, but going back to the beginning of this story, I have a very different perspective on life.

Considering my every movement has helped me consider the impact of my actions on those around me. I no longer have the expectation that other people value the same qualities in my workplace as I do. Those small things that once irked me in the office don’t seem so important – I realise nothing should be taken for granted.

I’m still determined, focused and strong-willed, because these attributes have helped motivate me to push through and to get back to work. My job is important to me and while there is definitely an element similar to the people on the WorkSafe ads, my head and hands are fine, but for a few months my world @work means adjusting to a different physical set-up while my body gets back to full capacity.

There’s been no epiphany, just a subtle recognition of what really matters. While I wouldn’t wish what happened to me on anyone, I would urge you to take the time to focus on what is truly important. How do you want those around you to perceive you, even remember you? You never know when you’re going to be faced with your own version of an empty swimming pool.

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Posted in Professional Support

Just because you are a character, doesn’t mean that you have character.

I don’t know whether I’m just getting a bit long in the recruitment tooth or not, but the question of character has been playing on my mind lately. I know so many people in business who are characters – they’re funny, engaging, witty, great to have a drink with and are endlessly entertaining. What I’m not seeing a lot of is genuine character – by that I mean characteristics that people admire and look up to – strength of character.

I value honesty and authenticity in people and I try to create an environment in my team where people can demonstrate their character, not to just be a character.

I had a candidate recently who lied to me about the roles that she was looking at. It made me reflect on my own behaviour and to consider whether I had created enough rapport with her that she felt that she could talk to me about what she was looking at. It’s important to me to always look at what I do that contributes to a situation – either positive or negative. The truth was, there was nothing that I could do, the candidate just didn’t have the strength of character to be honest and to tell the truth. Sadly, I’ve seen so much of it over the past few years, just a complete lack of integrity and even more disturbing, a win at all cost mentality, regardless of the consequences and it’s just awful.

Strength of character is standing up for yourself even when you know that you may be unpopular, it’s telling the truth when lying may be a more lucrative solution in the short term and it’s telling someone how you feel when they may not like what they hear. The best people I know in business have character in spades, they’re strong characters who are memorable for their convictions and for the way that they stand tall against opposition. Some are characters, and some are not, but the genuine character underneath always shines through.

Are you someone who is a character or do you have character? Will your colleagues, clients or prospective clients and employees remember you for your qualities and attributes, that you push back or question something because it’s the right thing to do, that you try to do the right thing no matter what, or will they remember you as ‘quite the character’?

I know what I’ve seen work well, it’s tenacity and strength and courage, and I’d love to see more of it in business because I see quite enough characters on the TV.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse, 23 June 2014. Thanks to The Wolf and Mr Tarantino for providing the inspiration for this post.

Posted in Professional Support, The world @work