Pivot 30: Be a fair (self-)employer

It’s ‘Pivot’, not ‘Private’.

Ha! Is it now? Well, there’s no better way to underline the art of pivoting than to change the whole project name half way through…

And two key words for today: acquiescent and self-employed

Ok. Good stuff. Shall we read?

Sure. ‘No problem.’


BOWING: After zazen we bow to the floor nine times. By bowing we are giving up ourselves. To give up ourselves means to give up our dualistic ideas. […] My teacher had a callous on his forehead from bowing. He knew he was an obstinate, stubborn fellow, and so he bowed and bowed and bowed. […] If it is our inmost desire to get rid of our self-centered ideas, we have to do it. When we make this effort, our inmost desire is appeased and Nirvana is there. Before you determine to do it, you have difficulty, but once you start to do it, you have none. Your effort appeases your inmost desire. There is no other way to attain calmness. Calmness of mind does not mean you should stop your activity. Real calmness should be found in activity itself. We say, “It is easy to have calmness in inactivity, it is hard to have calmness in activity, but calmness in activity is true calmness.”         Zen Mind p43-46


The topic of today: acquiescence and the self-employed. 

The question of the day: to whom does the self-employed person bow (or acquiesce)?

I guess your point is that the self-employed person must acquiesce first to herself, and then to the customer… in order to run an actual business.

Excellent. So, let’s imagine there are two facets of you. CEOyou (who designs strategy and looks after business development) and OPSyou (who does the OPerationS with clients). Firstly, let’s have a 1:1 between these two individuals. And let’s bear in mind the themes arising in your conference of yesterday, on embedding best practice in workplace mental health. Let’s run the scenario of their 1:1. 

CEOme: OPSme, welcome. Come on in. Really good to see you. It’s been a while. I guess you’ve been super busy, and out on the road quite a bit. I’ve been looking forward to the opportunity to catch up. How are you?

OPSme: Knackered, to be honest! At breaking point. It’s been non-stop, and I’ve got so many clients, making complex, demanding, arbitrary, confusing, exhausting or exacting demands of me. My body and brain are so tired. And I’m just ballooning up in weight, from stress, comfort-carb-eating and lack of sleep. But, I guess, we’re meeting targets, so that’s good.

CEOme: Targets? What targets?

OPSme: Income per month. That’s the only target I’m aware of. Right?

CEOme: Another target would be your wellbeing, wouldn’t it?

OPSme: Well, I suppose that’s a bit harder to measure. Anyway, I pencil in a schedule of wellbeing and self-care activities, but they often get swept aside by client work. Or, I get to the time for a scheduled self-care activity (eg qigong), and I’m just too tired to carry it out.

CEOme: So, we’re missing targets…

OPSme: If you want to put it like that! :/

CEOme: Your wellbeing is far more important to me than monthly income targets.

OPSme: Really?

CEOme: Of course! It’s not that the monthly income targets aren’t important. It’s that those income targets are 100% reliant on your wellbeing! Your wellbeing must come first! So, I can see we are going to need to pivot the way we run our operations, as a matter of urgency. Can we have a look at your job description together?

OPSme: Job description?! You never gave me one! Nor a contract. Nor a salary. Nor a pension. Nor an EAP. Nor a sickness policy. Nor working hours. Nor even fricking Annual Leave terms!

CEOme: Really?! For real? How did we overlook that?

OPSme: I know, right?!

CEOme: Did you not speak to your union about this?!

OPSme: I don’t have a union. It’s just me. And you.

CEOme: But… this is not legal employment practice!

OPSme: I know, right?!!

CEOme: Well, where should we start? Is it the Job Description, or the working conditions?

OPSme: Hang on for a minute… This is making me feel a bit teary… I never thought we would have this conversation! I thought I just had to put up with this way of life… Ok. I’m ok. Let’s carry on. Tbh, I think it’s the JD first. Like, am I in charge of BD and finance, or are you? Who the heck does that stuff, and when? And who protects those activities from client work? And who defines what the client work is, because at the moment, we seem to do TOO MANY COMPLEX JOBS, and it’s really tiring. We say YES to anything and everything. WHAT DO WE DO? Where are the boundaries of our business? ARE THERE ANY? It makes me crazy the way we’re constantly leaping about doing new stuff, which EXHAUSTS me. When is the time when we set out our stall and say, “This is it. This is what we do and nothing else. And this is how much it costs. And this is how you buy it.” Hm?! Because at the moment you are sending me out like a circus pony doing a million tricks…

CEOme: And you want to be a one trick pony.

OPSme: Believe me, I love variety! I do thrive on the challenge of ‘If you gotta problem, yo, I’ll solve it…’ and I worry about my tolerance of simplicity and whether I have the maturity to be able to tolerate the one trick pony lifestyle. But… my body seems to be demanding it.

CEOme: And what’s your One Trick?

OPSme: Resolution.

CEOme: Shall we cancel the training aspect of our work?

OPSme: Honestly, if we could for a bit, I think that would be good for my health. But I need you to do that. Please, step up for me, and be the business manager. Protect me as your Ops dude out there on the frontline. Please.  I can’t do this all on my own. I need to work 50:50 with you.

CEOme: You need me to work 50:50 with you?

OPSme: Yes. Or it’s just not viable! I don’t know… Do you need training, or coaching, or support, or something?? You seem to prefer to hang back in the shadows and let me run with things. But you need to step up and start leading this business, and managing me, and protecting me, so that I can do the stuff that makes the money.

CEOme: If I’m honest, I’ve been a bit unsure what to do. And that means I hang back. I prefer to put the focus on you.

OPSme: It’s not fair that way. You HAVE to have my back. … Hang on… Do you think the CEO work is… boring?

CEOme: I kind of see it as ‘admin’. Not important… Not glamorous. And it doesn’t play to my strengths… Sorry.

OPSme: I thought so! Ok, so. You need to study leadership and management then, my friend! Really. You can’t sit there and do nothing, and leave it all up to me. You are going to need to find your identity! And own it. And take pride in … setting strategy, protecting your workforce, making the business glow. You need to be the boss.

CEOme: I really want to do this. Thank you.

OPSme: We need to bow to each other. We need to acquiesce to each other’s needs, NOT the challenging demands of our valued customers who are simply trying to work out what we sell and what we do. You have to step up to the plate. And that will help me do the same, sustainably.

CEOme: I hear you. Thank you. I will take leadership coaching… or self-coaching. I will be a better leader of this organisation.

OPSme: Self-employment is You employing Me. Be a fair employer. And an intelligent one.

CEOme: There’s a lot for me to learn here.

Be a fair (self-)employer.


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