Thursday, November 15, 2012


I recently wrote a polemic on the subject of Struggle and its utter futility. The assertion is:

My experience of struggle (mine and others') is that it is a pointless dissipation of energy that leads to disease, a vainglorious ego-trip and a demeaning of the human spirit.

I argue that struggle is a negative emotion based on the fear of loss and is counter-productive and harmful.

If you have strong feelings either way on this subject, please let me know.


I've recently become aware of just how big and successful the whole Conspiracy Theory business is. David Icke must be up there in the rankings.

One of his theories is that the moon is a giant mind control machine - sounds pretty wacky, just like a lot of his other theories. But then that particular theory has been around a long time in a different guise - the astrologers have for aeons attributed a lunar mental influence to the moon... particularly on lunatics!

And there's a lot of anecdotal influence from scout leaders, nurses, police officers and teachers that behaviour changes during a full moon.

Any more evidence - and in particular plausible explanations as to how - gratefully accepted...

Saturday, September 29, 2012


Some transferable dance wisdom from my esteemed teachers Alan and Norma Millar:

Years ago, at the height of their career, Alan was told by his new coach to stop competing on the dance floor and to just enjoy it instead. Strange advice from someone paid to help win them yet another national championship.

But Alan said that the effect was life-changing and extended their career by at least another 5 years. And they kept on winning.

I meet a lot of people in business that are competing all the time - they don't all really seem to enjoy it - some are successful, some are not. My hunch is that effort and success are not as inextricably intertwined as we might think...

...especially if success for you is more than just winning.

Friday, September 28, 2012


I try to avoid politics as a rule, but I can't resist commenting on Nick Clegg's recent video mea culpa.

Now I like NC, not necessarily his politics, but I like his earnest candour and his apparent willingness to say it as it is.

The problem with his apology is that it is immediately followed by an injunction:

When you've made a mistake you should apologise. But more importantly - most important of all - you've got to learn from your mistakes.

So he moves from an abject apology to a general directive that we must all adopt his code of ethics to make everything good. He uses the 2nd person - that's you and me.

I'm sorry, but it's not unequivocal, and it's not personal - it's arguably sanctimonious and insincere. And that's why the spoof is more interesting than the original.


I've just signed up for Insights Discovery's accreditation programme which will allow me to run personality profiles on my hapless clients.

To be honest, I've steered clear of profiling for many years and this feels almost like I'm selling out. But I do recognise that for many people out there, this kind of process can represent their first foray into any kind of self-awareness - and that has to be a good thing.

I'm also a big fan of Carl Jung who did the groundwork behind this system and others such as Myers Briggs.

So, as long as I use this process strictly as the start of the conversation about behaviour, and not as an end in itself, I'll be happy that I'm not compromising any principles.

Oh, and by the way, I'm a Motivator...


I recently spent a day with the management team of a small banking software house. Nice guys, young, driven and successful...

Just one little problem - the management culture that's got them to where they are today, will keep them there for ever and a day.

The charismatic founder and CEO is able enough to dive into and fix problems across the business very effectively.

And in doing so undermines and demeans the responsibility of his management team. Lo and behold, they do the same, thus unwittingly cascading the corrosive management style throughout the business.

The result: a disgruntled workforce unwilling to take ownership of issues - and a business that will attract people that need to be told what to do at every turn... and how to do it.

So, as Alice said, "If everybody minded their own business, the world would go around a great deal faster than it does."

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


HeroI don't know about you but I'm fed up to the back teeth hearing and reading about the need for leadership: charismatic, high-performing, target-busting, people-wowing leaders.

Attributing corporate success to an individual leader, and rewarding them commensurately with their inflated hero status is not only a demeaning insult to the rest of the organisation, it is also crassly ignorant of reality.

Leaders, at their best, can only release the potential held within the organisation. So a well-performing leader gets the best out of their people. Success means everyone is doing their job - status and remuneration needs to respect this to maintain it.

When I see a team or an organisation working well, I see collective leadership with everyone leading and supporting, utilising their strengths.............

Everyone is equal in an atmosphere of trust and respect.

I recently ran a workshop for a global luxury goods brand. All very bright, capable people, experienced and effective in their fields. In walked the CEO and the whole focus of energy shifted tangibly from the issues being discussed to the man himself. Every movement he made, every word he uttered redirected the whole team. I could feel every member of the team asking themselves "Will my opinion fit with his? Will it meet with his approval?"

Surely, in this century's new-found individualism, shouldn't we be referencing ourselves, rather than others?

So, with apologies to Ghandi: let us all be the leaders we want to see in the world. 

Friday, July 13, 2012


Hanna Thoren
I was reminded recently, dipping into some LinkedIn forums, how the machine metaphor is endemic in organisational thinking. I guess this is a legacy from the 20th century, during which machines dominated our development across the board.

But I've seen this metaphor in action and I've seen the damage it does....................

If you want your organisation to run like a well-oiled machine, then its elements should behave predictably - but its elements are people and people have a chaotic, emotional, unpredictable aspect to them, which is the antithesis of machine behaviour. So trying to build a deterministic organisation out of unpredictable pieces is not going to have a happy outcome.

And then there is the environment in which the machine operates, comprising social, political and economic elements, all of which are intrinsically chaotic.

So, just at a theoretical level, trying to create a machine-like organisation out of unpredictable bits in a unpredictable world really won't cut the mustard.

And, surprise, surprise - it doesn't work in practice either!

Sunday, July 01, 2012


Of the Top 5 Regrets of the Dying, number 2 (coming from every male patient) is...


Nuff said?


I've just responded to a criticism of QR codes. QR stands for Quick Response and refers to 2-dimensional bar codes. BA have an app that allows me to get through airport security and board BA flights with an iPhone, using a QR code.

The criticism centres on how they can be used to direct smart phones that are capable of reading them, to spam/malware sites with dark intentions.

It reminded me of how easy it is to rubbish the tool because of one of its applications.

QR codes are not very interesting to look at, so I've used a picture of another tool being applied in a contentious way.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Has Harvey Nichols just shot itself in the foot (again). A recent promotional flyer (A5, thick, quality card, impeccable printing) featured a 30-something stick-thin model in spray-on trousers peeing herself in anticipation of the sales.

Sales Director Anna claimed it was a reference to Pretty Woman. I don’t remember Julia Roberts walking around in urine-stained trousers….

Now I am not in the least bit outraged by this ad - just surprised that it fits with HN's demographic. I'd love to know how it affected sales.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


A recent LinkedIn discussion zoomed in on the issue of trust and particularly the question of how you cultivate it in others. How do you bottle it and dispense it when required?

Lots of debate followed which was tempting to engage with.

But then the penny dropped: If I just focus on who and what I trust - and to hell with what others think about me - then the whole issue goes away.

Just make sure that you trust yourself as well...

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Have you noticed how often the dragons of Dragons' Den disagree over what is and what isn't a viable business proposition? Sometimes to the point of agressive and entertaining argument.

This leads me to the unequivocal conclusion that those esteemed business gurus must be wrong - and completely wrong - at least some of the time. After all if two people disagree they can't both be right.

Now there are two ways forward from this notion:

1. If the dragons can't be right all the time, what chance do we mere mortals have of being right at all?

2. The dragons are mere mortals too - and we are as well equipped to make decisions as they are.

Which of these beliefs define your behaviour?

Friday, June 01, 2012


Persuasion and Influence are seen as the Holy Grail in many professions. From trade unions to advertising agencies, the clamour to change minds, alter perceptions and shift entrenched positions is deafening.

I'd be surprised if nearly every being on the planet hasn't attempted to sway another being at one time or another. It's endemic...but does it work?

My experience of persuasion has often been that the more effort one applies, the more resistance one encounters. And that, most definitely, also applies to sales and marketing.

There is another way. It's counter-intuitive; it's very simple; it's quite difficult; it works in a mysterious way...

It's listening.

Yes, you heard...

Listening is the most effective form of influence and persuasion. Now what do you think?

Friday, May 25, 2012


Big jobs need big money - you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

It's a no brainer...

Or is it?

What if the employee, or the CEO hates their job, does it to a mediocre standard and stays put because they can't afford to move?

Then we get Big Salary = Poor Performance.

It's a no brainer.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Working with a client recently I was reminded of Aesop and his fable about the Tortoise and Eagle.

The tortoise wants to fly and gets the Eagle to take her aloft... needless to say it all goes wrong.

The point is that many of us, entrepreneurs included, have a bit of the tortoise in us - we ignore our own basic limitations and try and work through them. And I've done plenty of that!

Fully accepting your limitations can be a huge relief. It was for my client who has realised that he is not the guy to run his company. He needs to step aside and bring in someone that has the right skill set.

So don't let your ego push you into flying without wings.
Thanks to Stephanie Smith for a lovely illustration

Monday, January 23, 2012


Alex Polizzi is about to jump ship from Channel 5 to the BBC to present a series on failing family businesses.

Should be good - I've enjoyed the Hotel Inspector and reckon she'll turn a few families around too.

Having worked with a few families myself I can attest to the completely different dynamic that they bring to a business - not easy, so good luck!

And just like her hotel adventures, I bet she'll encounter a degree of recidivism - but more on that another time...

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Most of the entrepreneurs and business leaders I've met have an irresistible urge to lower their prices when the going gets tough.

Now that might work for commodities: paper clips, sugar and cement for example, but not many of us operate in these markets.

When the product or service has a quality element to it, or any intangible such as brand value, discounting the price may be exactly the wrong thing to do. There are even markets in which some products simply will not sell below a certain price threshold.

So before you adjust your prices downwards, ask yourself if you shouldn't be putting them up instead.