Punctuation is not a crime

Why, suddenly, do people hate the comma? Did one force some clarity? Did an em dash add something cheeky? Did an apostrophe possess an unsuspecting subject?

Fear not, punctuation marks; I will defend you. You are full of character. You accentuate. You applaud! You provide context. Where would we be without you? ‎Lost, confused, disorganized, and in a bit of a muddle, I reckon. Let’s take a look, shall we?

“I like eating, the smell of summer rain, and my pets.”

Without the commas: “I like eating the smell of summer rain and my pets.”

I beg your pardon?

The semicolon need not perplex; rather, it gives pause. It aids contemplation. We don’t pause enough in our rapid world. Thank you, semicolon, for reminding us to breathe.

Colons create drama and suspense: they are the orchestra leaders of the English language. When you see one, you know something big is coming next, like a crescendo of fact or a list of reasons.

And there’s the em dash, that lively and vibrant storyteller, giving us hints and peeks, like an actor turning to the camera and winking. Some people dislike them—thinking them vain or disruptive, perhaps—but I think they’re dandy, like a conspiratorial sideways glance.

Exclamation marks have never been more popular, often used in an attempt to be heard over the din of voluminous content saturating our existence. But even they are losing their spark due to overuse. We might as well just go back to the period.

People. Like. To. Use. Periods. Like. This. For. Emphasis. Such a method works well on occasion, particularly for irony. Periods cut to the chase and draw conclusions. We need them. Full stop.

It’s the lowly comma, sadly, that appears to be most at risk of an untimely death. I, for one, still love what it can do.

Comparing apples

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” (Albert Einstein)

From the Fibonacci of phlox and forget-me-nots to the extraordinary resilience of a garden-variety dandelion, many lessons can be gleaned from nature. Strong as an oak. Red as a rose. Blue as the sky. Quiet as a mouse. Noisy as an oyster.

“A noisy oyster?” you ask. Everything is possible in a metaphor.

When contemplating the nature of transformational change, it helps to think about nature itself, comparing apples to, well, apples.

inception slideleadership slideadaptation slidechallenges slidefruition slide

Further reading on: leaders, leadership and change management.

 

Leading

There is no substitute for experience, with many professional lessons learned by working with different leaders and different leadership styles and approaches. Here are some of the qualities I’ve found to be common in the best leaders – regardless of level – and the nuances that take them from good to great.

Integrity. Whereas authenticity is about being genuine in the moment, integrity speaks to creating and sustaining trust by what you say and do in the longer term, with words consistently matching behaviours.

Clarity. Great leaders are clear in their vision and communicate it in a way that engages and motivates. Leaders with clarity have the strategic foresight to divine the path toward the desired state and effectively lead others to achieve it. As thoughtful decision-makers, they consider the totality of the situation. Their measured approach arises not from a big-picture perspective, but a full-picture perspective. They don’t abandon the details, but consider the weight of their associated consequence accordingly.

Creativity. Great leaders can think outside the box even when they must live within it. They are the innovative pragmatists who navigate the limitations of the current state, facilitating forward motion toward positive change. They expertly translate by connecting dots and drawing pictures – through language, whiteboard, stylus or serviette – to ensure complexity is made clear.

Adaptability. While steadfast in their vision, great leaders adapt to evolving circumstances by updating plans and correcting the course as necessary. They don’t waste precious time and resources on lamentation, but remain sensitive to helping others along the way.

Humanity. The best leaders remember that people are behind every achievement. They value the strengths of individuals and build complementary teams. They treat everyone with respect and encourage others to do the same. They create a culture where competition truly is friendly, not fearful, and drive innovation through positive reinforcement. They also recognize the importance of coaching and mentoring future leaders for succession management.

Charisma. That certain je ne sais quoi, while not essential, certainly helps. It’s that special combination of ability and likeability which instils confidence and influences outcomes. When people speak a leader’s name with a degree of reverence when they’ve nothing to gain, charisma is at work.

Connectedness. The broader a leader’s network is, the greater the options and opportunities for recruiting the best talent and expertise. Acting as a conduit to connect others also builds the foundation for future partnerships.

Peppered

That’s it. Doing the vegan thing. I declared with great conviction not so long ago.

It was far easier than I thought it would be, especially with all of the fabulous cookbooks available. Deliciously Ella, Oh-She-Glows, The Kind Diet and Fuss-free Vegan are my favourites so far. In addition to myriad vegetable and grain dishes, I’ve learned how to make plant-based mozzarella, parmesan, brownies, crackers, mayo and a whole lot more.

It definitely helps that I like to cook and couldn’t wait to try new recipes. When I saw one for jalapeno poppers with vegan mozzarella and rice-paper bacon, I dove right in. They were terrifically yummy, but in my haste, I neglected one tiny little detail: food-preparation gloves.

Now, I’d chopped the occasional hot pepper for batches of chili on numerous occasions, but what I hadn’t done was split and scrape the seeds out of a whole baking sheet full of jalapeno peppers all at once. Those of you who’ve experienced “pepper hands” can guess what came next. For those who haven’t, here is my cautionary tale…

At first, there was some minor tingling as I worked away – not dissimilar to the mild sting of lemon or lime juice on slightly chapped skin. I rinsed my hands regularly and kept going, popping the poppers into the oven to bake. As they bubbled and browned most beautifully, the sting started to increase. I washed my hands thoroughly again and looked up ways to alleviate the pain. The two recommendations? Wash your hands with soap and water and/or soak in milk.

The first provided relief for about twenty seconds only. And the sting was growing worse. If you’ve ever burnt your finger on a hot pan or cookie sheet, imagine that seared-flesh feeling on the full length of every single finger and both thumbs. That’s what a major case of “pepper hands” feels like!

So, with a woebegone vegan apology to dairy cows everywhere, I poured a generous bowlful and submerged my fiery fingers, fully expecting the sting to subside in a few minutes. In the lovely cool of the milk bath, the sting disappeared. I figured all was well, and removed my hands. The pain returned, increasing to something pretty much akin to excruciating. I poured a fresh bowl of milk and continued the process until eight hours and three litres later, during which time, I momentarily contemplated a trip to the ER.

I felt equally guilty for both wasting the milk and for my gratitude that others in the house hadn’t yet joined me in my no-holds-barred plant-based diet, else there would’ve been no milk on hand…or rather, hands.