I was so sad to say goodbye a few weeks ago to one of my favourite longtime students, Sweden’s National Police Commissioner, Bengt Svenson, when he retired. Even though he has almost 30 000 people under his command, he has always been kind and thoughtful. In fact he (and the Swedish Police) was the only person in Sweden to give me a fiftieth birthday present.
I am lucky in my job to meet people in interesting jobs – people I would not otherwise meet. I have learned that no matter who you are – royalty, Prime Minister, The Chancellor of Justice – you are just a person. I wish people who find it so easy to Tweet cruelly and anonymously and make personal attacks on people in high profile positions would attack a decision or a role rather than the person. Because each of those people are human.
Bengt (yes in Sweden you call them all by their first names. They do not use titles) gave me one of the best pieces of advice ever. He was giving me some advice about dealing with problems at work.
‘Everybody who comes into your office with a problem – think of that problem as a monkey. Talk to the person about their problems and help them to find solutions to it. But when they leave, make sure they take that monkey with them. Because if you don’t you will soon end up with an office so full of monkeys you can’t move’
Prior to that I had always taken problems from the people who brought them to me. Since then – no more monkeys!