Leadership: Knowing what you don’t want to know

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Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing can ever be made.
– Immanuel Kant, 1784

KNIGHTSBRIDGE — I like to tell my colleagues “this is work… don’t confuse it with your real life.” And that’s only partly because I am a cold-hearted Canadian.

Teenagers and dorm-rooms in uni are where and when most people should get enough exposure to the painfully minute detail of other people’s anxieties, insecurities and peccadillos. If you carry that infinite curiosity into old age, then there is a whole shelf of magazines with names like Self and Now published just for you.

But the office is not the right place for it.

Yesterday Britain’s Women’s Minister, Harriet Harman, called on members of the country’s amazing Women’s Institute to monitor small ads in their local papers and report anything that looks like it could be prostitution.

That just seems wrong.

The WI is known for making jam and singing Jerusalem lustily in mouldering church halls. They’re not the rural vice squad.

No. Stop thinking about it.

These are things that don’t go together. And if they do, I don’t want to know about it.

Today we also have reports that 15,000 Britons live in canal boats. These are nasty smelling giant cigar cases that go nowhere fast on canals that were built to be fiercely competitive with the transport potential of a pack horse.

And if you meet one of them, (canal boaters that is) they’ll tell you about it. They might even get you out. Look, even Indiana Jones was tempted onto one.

But that’s just as wrong.

It’s your job to keep people focused on work. There’s plenty to talk about work at work.

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