I attended, on Tuesday 24th September, a Masterclass at the Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) by the SUMO guy, Paul McGee (@thesumoguy). This was a partnership with BOOST Lancashire and LUMS dedicated to forging links between business,academia and government.
This is a short report on the night, I have quoted the speaker repeatedly but these are not all of his words they are more my understanding of what he said. If I have recalled poorly, expressed badly or simply mixed things up that is not a reflection of him.
The name 'the SUMO Guy' is a brand and a philosophy started by Paul and aligns with his bestselling book, it stands in typical Mancunian fashion for 'Shut Up Move On', hence SUMO. This was the first of many sayings that Paul was going to favour us with through the evening.
Paul started by stating his talk was aimed to satisfy two goals. The first was to give every member of the audience a piece of advice that they would find practical in the next 24 hours in either their social life or their business life.
The Second goal was to make sure we all had a laugh in the evening. With that in mind he made us all stand, we all turned to face a partner, or two partners if we were a three, and look each other in the eyes. He told a little tale about how Maori's would meet and rub noses to greet each other, however being respectable we wouldn't be doing that (which I am sure the person facing me appreciated). He did however make us look the other person in the eyes and then repeat a few words. They were in Norwegian so I have no way of telling you what they were. I did however discover the English translation, as did everyone else as Paul told us them. They were 'I Love you sugar baby".
When arrogance meets ignorance it is a dangerous cocktail
Paul quickly proved to be an excellent speaker, engaging the audience using insight and personal understandings gained through his life that he was able to relate with wit and brevity. Part of what made him so interesting has to be his educational achievements coupled with a clear love of people and their interactions.
> The biggest challenge is how we deal with and relate to other people. How do we lead ourselves and others in challenging times
Enter the Ring
Paul states that he:
>Tell it as it is
He also has a clear passion for trying to get people to look at themselves. SUMO when told to motivate younger people is often expressed as:
> Stop, Understand, Move On
We learned that Paul likes to work with younger people, one of his goals is to try and make people understand the difference they can make in someones lives. The younger that person is, the more effect you can have on them. It is important to make sure your language use reflects that.
> You are all utterly, completely and totally MAD, Making a Difference.
I liked the way that we were spoken to in a very natural, down-to-Earth manner, yet there was a lot of concept thinking behind this common sense speech. Much of what Paul was observing and relating to us falls into CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), as a discipline. CBT looks at much deeper emotions than the ones most of us exhibit, however the application of the technique, of how to address issues and come to understand them has merit.
> Who is the most important person you are going to talk to - yourself
It was interesting to hear Paul state that much of this is simply:
> developing fruity thinking
Throwing down salt (making the challenge)
We have to come to understand ourselves and part of that understanding is the knowledge that just like an airline oxygen system, before you can think of helping others you yourself have to be in a safe position. You have to put your mask on first.
Paul also had some insights that when stated seem obvious, but I am doubtful that most people practice them. One of the most surprising to me, and one I often do but I don't consciously say it enough is related to staff. Paul quoted a belief held by many companies, and shown to great effect that:
>If you want to be really successful, you put your staff first and your customer second, never underestimate the appreciation of a single person
We should however raise some caution to this. Just as you can make a positive change the influence of people who are negative in your organisation is just as equally MAD - but this is not the best difference to make. Being critical is a valuable thing, it allows us to analyse and assess, being obsessively critical of everything is a quick path to negativity and cynicism.
> The management of the people and the culture they operate in is important, if you manage people badly they will come to behave badly
There were a few more insights that were passed to us, and again you can easily feel they are aphoristic, but the way in which Paul presented them, how he used examples gave you insight into why they are useful:
- What have I got to lose - take some action it is far better than being doomed into innaction
- We must be fruity thinkers as we can easily slip into faulty thinking * this will increase your stress and anxiety * it will decrease your effectiveness
Inside the Ring
> Change can make you feel uncomfortable - we were not programmed to love uncertainty - if it feels good do it, if it doesn't don't do it, but don't let that stop you trying
Paul wants us to move outside of a comfort zone. The comfort zone is a safe place, but it can make us complacent. If you want to learn, seek opportunities and generally grow you have to step out of the familiar, you push the boundary of your comfort zone and therefore increase your ability. However in a cautionary note Paul stated that thinking that occurs outside of the comfort zone can quite often be faulty. But if you are forewarned, you are forearmed. In my opinion it is wise to write down, to learn more and then to re-assess.
Paul spoke at some length about the inner critic, an old tutor of mine (Carol Coates) who taught me Creative Writing used to call this the Inner Policeman, the person who tells you to stop and go no further. Paul likes to see it as a boxing glove that pummels you down. The inner critic makes us think in a faulty way and it stops us stepping out of our comfort zone and exploring the unknown.
> Recognising that things can go wrong,without it being controlled by you. It can be a bad day doesn't make you bad.
> Never underestimate the impact of a casual conversation to lift people.
> Never forget the power of words when you talk to yourself
Some people take their inner critic to a new level and succumb to the Tomato Syndrome. This is actually the Martyr Syndrome and how many of us like to play that role, to be the victim to complain like Marvyn from HitchHikers that:
> Why does this always happen to me
The martyr's suffer from BSE - Blame Someone Else. You can blame someone else for the problems, and sometimes global effects do matter and make a difference such as war or economic strife. But, you have the power to affect your life and the lives of those around you, can change things but you have to make that change it rarely just happens.
> Every person is a leader, even if it is only to lead ourselves
The Winner's Proclamation
The final thing that Paul introduced us to that night are the Seven Questions he came up with, I love these questions and I think I will use them repeatedly. In his talk he only spoke about three of them (1, 2 and 4) and to be honest they are very important and maybe form the initial trilogy of inquiry you can throw at a situation, and especially to address your mood.
Where is the issue on a scale of 1 to 10 (where 10 = death)
- Stress makes you stupid (drugs and alcohol will also do this)
- Higher your emotional involvement the lower your perspective
How important will it be in 6 months time
- Your brain helps you find what you are looking for, it looks for patterns, and if you are not looking for it, you don't see it.
How can we influence or improve the situation
- There may be no bridge, people complain about it, people moan and blame, you have to instead look for the answer, ask questions ('build a bridge, get over it' - Australian Proverb)
- Often the resources you need to build a bridge are around you and you just want to be a tomato
Ripeness is All (King Lear)
A final thought was presented, sometimes it is good to have what Paul called 'Hippo Time'. Sometimes it is fine to wallow to feel that life is a little unfair and to feel sorry for yourself. However it is not a good place to stay, so when you visit there have a good roll around in the mud, get the negativity thoroughly out and then SUMO.
> Life does not reward good ideas or intentions, it rewards actions. It is not how or whether you fall, it is how long you stay down there
Paul left us with Carpe Diem, which an aged relative of mine decided was 'Size the Day'. You must seize the moment and move with is. I have always preferred the Lear use of 'Ripeness is All'.
The talk left me in a state of positive euphoria, I was 'buzzing' a sa Mancunian would attest as I left the theatre. He was a great motivational speaker, insightful, funny and very understandable. By making his approach on a very human level with understandings gained from his own life, his own failures and how he dealt with them we were able to sympathise and emote.
His style was very natural and it reminded me of some of the other great motivational speakers I have heard, often motivational due to their passion and understanding. This is something Paul shared. If you can I suggest you attend one of his talks. If you run a team I suggest you get him in to talk to them or take them to his talk. At the very least you should buy his book, I know I'm going to, and it is going to be the first book of that type I am ever likely to read, I will let you know what I think about it at a later date.
In Sumo only one challenger leaves the ring happy. In SUMO I think the whole room was joyous.