The square peg and the round hole
The square peg and the round hole.
I am so privileged!
I am so lucky!
I am so grateful!
I have been working with both my sons for several years during the summer holiday. Well, THEIR summer vacations, not mine. As the president of a small consulting company, summer students represent a great opportunity to test new products and services at a relatively low cost. It also presents a great learning experience for them…and for me!
Working with my sons is even better as we have the unconditional love between us to force us to take a step back from any problems that arise and find new way to make the relation work. This has been a tremendous life experience.
Both my sons are smart, hard-working and both understand the business… finally!
Oh, it was not always easy to draw the line between me as the dad and me as the boss, between them as the sons and them as inexperienced workers but… hey… unconditional love is a great tool for managers!
For all managers by the way.
In every organization.
This unconditional love forced me to build the hole around their peg and not the other way around.
Oh, it did not happen this way at all!
I first needed somebody to fit in the hole I had created: this or that project needed to be completed. They needed a summer job. Would you please fit in that hole?
Thank you, have a nice summer.
Hmm… for some reason the projects were late, the results unsatisfactory and the general feeling of collaboration was… absent.
Second summer: I needed help to complete some projects. Son #1 was not as willing to work for me as the previous year. Oops!
He still needed a summer job tough. I still had a job for him. But the fit was not there anymore.
The solution was to change the hole because his peg would not, could not be changed.
Thinking back on it, it made sense. You cannot change people. You can only change the environment they work in, the type of projects they work on, and YOU… the person they work with, not for.
You can alter the system but not the parts.
You can improve communications and interactions between the parts. But how do you think you can change people?
Are you God or some supreme and omnipotent creator?
Pff… humility lesson.
Reflecting on my youth, I can now say with confidence that I have constantly struggled with the hole around me, a very round and perfect hole where I tried unsuccessfully to fit my imperfect and very square peg.
My very own peg. My imperfect but very personal square peg. Hey, I was built that way!
I pretty much loved it too!!!
But the hole around me was, somehow, not squarey enough.
After years of effort to change my hole, two things happened 18 months apart.
The first was that my then-boss basically fired me!
She removed me from my job as a training manager, stating that managing was not my forte. But she felt the company could not afford to lose “me” the square peg that did not fit his round management hole.
So she created a job around me, naming me a manager of a team of one, without any resources, employees or budget.
I was shelved!
Oh, she also told me during a team-building exercise that the best way to characterize me was that I made “the impossible possible”.
“Impossible” suited the no-budget-no-resources-no-team definition of my new position, alright!
And she also told me to change the culture before the next regulatory inspection in less than 2 years. For a plant of 1400 people.
“This mission, if you accept it… the tape will self destruct in 5 seconds”.
Well. I was so upset that I decided to carve a square hole around me. Too bad for the corporate metrics the organization imposed on me. I would basically forge ahead with my mission with no consideration for any KPI that were unrelated to the goal… and most were indeed unrelated.
I did it. We (not me) changed the culture.
My newly found square hole allowed me free rein on my project.
My influence grew. And we did it.
And then I quit.
THAT was the second event that happened 18 months later.
The square hole had reached its corporate limits and I needed a bigger hole to fit my enlarged peg. (hmm… this might sound weird but it is in line with the analogy… hmm… the metaphor).
So I quit and founded my consulting company.
And I started writing my blog to clarify the way I saw the world.
And I started giving conferences about, among things, square pegs and round holes.
And my second son, now working with me on several projects, recently told me that this analogy of the square peg was not clear.
Hence this blog post. I hope he reads it…
He is expanding his hole too. Shaping it to make sure his peg and his hole fit perfectly.
My first son recently resigned from his dream job when he realized that what he initially considered as a dream job was a round hole for his square peg. He is currently working towards creating his square hole.
My spouse is also thinking about her very round hole and her square peg.
As more and more people do.
Carving your hole has never been easy.
Not carving it and accepting the roundness of your hole is even harder
and might have severe consequences on your health and spirit.
The alternative is to do the right thing,
the right way
at the right time.
The time is now.
Our societies have evolved in the last few decades at a rate unsurpassed in the history of mankind that’s to the rise of the global conscience. Henry Markram’s research in neural networks stunned me:
Conscience arise when enough relevant interactions occur.
Something is happening in the global psyche.
Individuals are starting to perceive their uniqueness.
And more and more individuals interact through social media.
Global conscience is emerging…slowly but inexorably.
An Excerpt from “The Greatest Miracle in the World” –
« Consider a painting by Rembrandt or a bronze by Degas or a violin by Stradivarius or a play by Shakespeare. They have great value for two reasons: their creators were masters and they are few in number. Yet there are more than one of each of these.
On that reasoning you are the most valuable treasure on the face of the earth, for you know who created you and there is only one of you.
Never, in all of the seventy billion humans who have walked this planet since the beginning of time has there been anyone exactly like you.
Never, until the end of time, will there be another such as you.
You have shown no knowledge or appreciation of your uniqueness.
Yet, you are the rarest thing in the world.”
The time is now.
The square peg and the round hole. Why bother trying to fit the hole that does not fit? Build a hole around your peg!
Carving your hole to fit your peg is the way.
YOU need to understand your peg.
Managers around the world need to understand the huge potential we might gain in modifying our thinking about jobs and self-actualization.
But it all starts with you.
And those around you, questioning what you do and how you do it.
Ah well… my second son asked me about this.
I am so grateful to be the dad of two wonderful and wise sons who push me again and again to get better.
Thank you sons.
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