My Writing

My Writing

I get my best ideas from listening to people. Fortunately, that’s my job.

I like to say that people are my library, and my daily writing practice is a way to discover what’s in it: new ideas, inspiration, wisdom, and a little whimsy for good measure.  As your humble librarian I invite you to check out a new idea every day. No late fees ever.


Being vulnerable is more than saying you are

better man vulnerability

Saying you are vulnerable is not the same as being vulnerable.

The four core qualities of #OpenLeadership are:

  • Be Hungry
  • Be Humble
  • Be Brave
  • Be Open

Linked to that is Chip Conley’s idea of being a “vulnerable visionary” a leader who expresses vulnerability allied with confidence, eg: “I have no idea how we will get there, but I know we will do it together.”

However, all too often, in expressing vulnerability, leaders seem to do so behind a superhero “mask” of invulnerability, so even when they express that they don’t know the answers, they are so hidden by their mask that they won’t and so don’t show what it feels like, as a human, to be in that place.

Staying behind that “mask” means a huge lost opportunity to truly connect.


Simplicity is harder work than complexity

elegant simplicity


Yesterday I had the privilege of watching an audience with the author Matt Haig at the Edinburgh Book Festival. His writing style is often simple and concise. When asked about this, he noted that many years ago he used to revel in complexity and even exhibited arrogance and snobbery around those who wrote simply. These days though, this quote I found from him illustrates his approach on what he strives for in his writing:

“Simplicity is harder work than complexity”


As I wrote in an earlier post: Less is More.

Now, the second half of that Matt Haig quote is:

“That’s why editors exist”

Either find someone to help you edit, or be your own editor.


If you have a message for your audience, distil to simplicity.

In “Simplicity on the other side of complexity“, I was inspired by a tweet from @nayyirahwaheed

“the longest writing. can be one line.”

In that post, I wrote about how leaders can get their message down to one word, their strategic plan down to one page with only one context and three themes.


I’d love to be your editor, book your diagnostic call on my site and let’s find simplicity in half an hour.

Finding a moment of Zen

zen artwork stag deer

This picture is of “Monarch of the Glen”, by Landseer. I wondered what it is that makes a picture of a deer so powerful and famous, until, that is, I saw the picture hanging at the National Gallery of Scotland. I was transfixed, rooted to the spot.

In our busy lives, we all sometimes need to find a “moment of zen”.

So, yesterday, I had such an indelible moment, with a majestic stag, so sharing with you all today.


Do all CEOs “only care about profit”? No..

Purpose, People, Planet - Profit for Impact Triple Bottom Line

“Yes, being all about Purpose, People and Planet is all very well, but CEOs only care about profits!”

When talking to people about the new triple bottom line and putting Purpose, People and Planet first, over and over I hear this type of response.

I mostly hear it from people who are passionate about one or more of encouraging business leaders to shift focus from Profit to Purpose, People, Planet.

The problem with those conversations tends to be (as I have heard regularly) that they explain why CEOs should focus on Purpose, People, Planet rather than Profit.

This sets up a conversation where one focus is in opposition to the other, so the two parties are not having the same conversation at all.

There is a gap.

Now, how to close that gap?


Is the tide turning on the purpose of the corporation?

Purpose, People, Planet - Profit for Impact Triple Bottom Line

In January this year, I wrote a series of articles around rethinking the purpose of the corporation, then moved towards rethinking the “triple bottom line” (that dates from 1994) to the “new triple bottom line”, expressed graphically above. The article that captures that and links to my earlier posts is:

Purpose, People, Planet. The new triple bottom line.

This month, August 2019, the Business Roundtable of CEOs of some of the largest corporations in the USA, published a one-page statement called: “Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation“.

This appears to mark a major shift in thinking, does it indicate that the tide might be turning?


Brad Pitt gives a masterclass in Being and Presence.

Brad Pitt Presence Being Leonardo DiCaprio

I recently watched Once Upon a Time in Hollywood by Tarantino and agree with Tom Shone of the Sunday Times that Brad Pitt was the heart of this movie and that he did it so simply and subtly.

“Once Brad Pitt stopped “acting”, he became a great movie star…{years ago} Pitt learnt..not to act but to be… {so that, in this movie}… Pitt just lets the role, and the audience, come to him”

In an earlier post on this site: “Doing from Being“, I wrote:

What if.. we focussed on our “Being” and then choosing to “Do” what is fully aligned with who we are, so “Doing from Being”? 

In his book Walden, Henry Thoreau had many great quotes, such as: 

“All men want, not something to do with, but something to do, or rather something to be.”

Leonardo di Caprio was great (as always) in the Tarantino movie, but he was doing acting. Brad Pitt, on the other hand, was simply being an actor, so clearly allowing himself to be truly present in each moment as he did so. The results are extraordinary.

Now, if we can add presence to being in our lives, our work, our leadership, we have the opportunity to be of even greater impact for others as we focus on these anchors.

Yes, many posts on this site are about business, leadership, tools, ideas into action etc. However, I will always repeatedly come back to our self-awareness, our being, our ability to be present, as these are, as Brad Pitt has come to recognise as he matured in life and as an actor, foundational to our work, our lives, our impact.

I leave you with this, by the British philosopher Alan Watts:

“The future is a concept — it doesn’t exist. There is no such thing as tomorrow. There never will be because time is always now. That’s one of the things we discover when we stop talking to ourselves and stop thinking. We find there is only present, only an eternal now.”

Be Present and simply Be.

Have a great Monday morning and a great week!

8 Questions to Ask Someone Other Than “What Do You Do?”


Thanks to Dan Pink for sharing an article on Twitter that hits a topic I love to address.

A while ago I wrote: “What do you do?“, in which I noted:

“..when you meet people in the UK, the first question they always ask is “what do you do?”. I know this is relatively common as a question, but it is ALWAYS the first question that British people ask you. So often it seems to come from the social discomfort of actually having a REAL conversation with someone new. 

Once that ultimate in small-talk has happened, they will often follow up with “so, are you busy?”. If the answers are a) {insert simple job title here}, then ) yes, really busy, then people relax and feel they’ve “ticked the box” of social niceties by putting you IN a box.

So, taking a lead from my mentor and guide Ed Percival, who always sought to make a positive impact from every interaction, I’ve started experimenting, so if you meet me for the first time, be prepared for an unpredictable response if you ask me “what do you do?”, which could include a really left-field question back to you.

Broadly, I’m really interested in what people feel passionate about, no matter what that is. Sure, it might be to do with their job, sure they may be busy with that. However, I choose not to box people in and instead look to ask an instinctive question at the moment that encourages them to talk about something that lights them up.”

I wrote that post nearly two years ago, so if you meet me now for the first time, I may have one of a variety of unusual “ice-breakers” I may ask you. Know that, whatever I ask, it is because I really am interested in learning about you, so “what do you do?” won’t be the question I ask.

Now, today I am re-sharing the post that Dan Pink shared. It will give you eight alternative questions to ask to start you on the journey of new ways to connect. (more…)

Creating cultures: Seven tools


My absolute favourite shoes, my “172s” from Seven Feet Apart. Today is a guest post from Matt Bagwell, co-founder of Seven Feet Apart, who I’ve written about here before, most recently in: “Some people feel the rain“, noting that, with thier business, they seek to answer the question:

“Can a shoe company and its customers work together to make the world– and specifically, our communities – better? We believe we can and we do.”

I love it when people share their learnings around leading and building business.

Culture matters and Matt has recently published a great “how-to” on building a Culture on LinkedIn, republished here today with his permission.

In his article Matt has used a great methodology to outline not only each tool but also what you can do to implement it, along with his experience of doing so.  :

  • The tool
  • Using the tool
  • Tips for implementation
  • The tool in practice
  • In summary

I love this method and encourage you to read the full article. Matt clearly loves the number seven, so there are seven tips and seven tips for each tool, so you will find multiple gold nuggets in those forty-nine tips!

For those wanting to get to the last page, he finishes with these powerful thoughts:

“You have a culture whatever you do. It’s a bi-product of procedures, processes and behaviours. Nevertheless, you should invest in it heavily. For me, this certainly doesn’t mean employing a single Chief Culture Officer. It means making everyone in your business one, including you.”


To gain clarity, get clear on what you DON’T do

clarity focus

“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.”

~Henry David Thoreau

As a sounding board to leaders and leadership teams, frequently I support them with clarity leading to alignment, from where they can engage and enrol everyone in and around their business (I call this Cascading Leadership).

Clarity comes from focus. Put another way, of equal importance to knowing what you do is knowing what you don’t do.

As an exercise, can you / your business get really clear on what is the ONE thing you want to be famous for ? (I call this Positioning). Alternatively, what is the one word that is the “why”, the driver for you? (I call this Context).

Perhaps it doesn’t feel that easy to get it down to one word ? Imagine if you could and that all involved in that process are aligned with that. Imagine the clarity and aligned energy that can drive.

If you’d like to learn more, visit my Services page where you can book your thirty-minute diagnostic call online.

PS Henry David Thoreau wrote Walden and is one of my favourite modern philosophers. I encourage everyone to study philosophy. For more on that idea, read this great piece by Ryan Holiday of the Daily Stoic. Write and learn widely, it gets us out of our “bubble” and also sparks creativity and innovation. If you don’t have or make time for that, make sure those around you do and you can access that for yourself through them.



Fear is the mind-killer


In my mid-teens, I read Dune by Frank Herbert, to this day one of my favourite books. It is one of those books that is regarded as “unfilmable”, with the one attempt that has been made is, well, not worthy of the book. Perhaps the Wachowski’s could film it, the way they took the “unfilmable” Cloud Atlas and wondrously wove it into a movie form (and it is both one of my favourite movies and favourite books now).

To me Dune is all about what we believe and how we can transcend our beliefs, so if the Wachowskis focussed on that human behaviour element (as Christopher Nolan did with Interstellar, a movie that is, simply, about the power of love), then perhaps at some point Dune will reach a whole new audience.

The belief Dune teaches us to transcend is that most human limiter, fear.

In my work as a sounding board to leaders, fear is so often a driver that blocks decision-making, so learning to understand ourselves, to bring awareness, then to transcend fear is a key piece of work for leaders, for all of us. It is also lifelong and one I will come back to again and again on this daily blog.

So, for today, I give you a key passage from Dune around transcending fear, then close with my favourite quote of all time, from Marianne Williamson. (more…)

Best TV series ever

best ever

Best TV series ever.  A bold statement made simply to share something with you, particularly for UK viewers, who may not have heard of it or, if you have, not watched it as you felt it was too focussed on non-UK material (and there’s a clue!).

So, almost exactly twenty years ago, September 22nd, 1999, a new TV series pilot aired in the USA. It went on to run for seven seasons, 155 episodes, over 100 hours of brilliantly written television. In fact, though to be honest I don’t watch that much TV, it is by far the best TV series I’ve ever watched. Back in the days of DVD boxsets, I used to watch it again and again on the many long haul flights I took in the “noughties”. (more…)

You don’t need credit


Here is a lesson we all need to learn a little more. Yes, definitely me.

Over a year ago I reworked this website, right now I’m doing it again. As with last year, I am again seeking professional outside perspective to bring forward what I want to say.

One key reason for this is that I have an internal struggle with the idea of taking credit, in my case simply saying I am expert at something is a struggle (and don’t get me started on people who self-title themselves as “gurus”!).

So, as a leader, don’t take the credit for results, focus on the change you are seeking to lead, then give credit to those who take the action arising.

Today’s post was actually inspired by yesterday’s email from the Daily Stoic, one of the small number of daily emails I am subscribed to (and Seth is another, naturally!), and stoicism is a practice and area of learning for me, as I wrote about recently in: “Be a generalist.. and a stoic“.

Today, then, I reproduce that Daily Stoic email, with a powerful and ancient lesson, called, “You Don’t Need Credit”. (more…)

Never make a point without telling a story


Yesterday I cried. A grown man at the cinema on a Sunday afternoon.

Yes, I cry at movies, I love to get drawn into a story. This one was beautifully told and spoke deeply to me at multiple levels. I then went on Twitter to share and both the writer and director of the film retweeted what I had to say.

Lovely, and at the same time perhaps too few of us choose to share the power that stories have for us, with such a wondrous movie perhaps my tweet should be one of many, not one of a few that they saw they could then share on the opening weekend.

Storytelling is part of who we are as humans, we should honour it.

It is also key to leadership, yet far too few leaders really embrace it.


Be a generalist.. and a stoic

expert generalist

I believe that Stoicism is a fascinating and valuable field of study for any leader. I’ve written about it a number of times, including this post.

I also have on my reading list the book Range by David Epstein , so today happy to link to an interview he gave for the Daily Stoic on “On Philosophy, Accepting Obstacles, and Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

A snippet from that interview:

We miss out on wisdom if we’re too narrow…Specialists become so narrow that they actually start developing worse judgment about the world as they accumulate knowledge…Breadth of training predicts breadth of transfer. Transfer is your ability to take knowledge and skills and apply them to a problem or situation you have not seen before. And your ability to do that is predicted by the variety of situations you’ve faced…As you get more variety, you’re forced to form these broader conceptual models (in the classroom setting called “making connections” knowledge), which you can then wield flexibly in new situations.

I used to say “my specialism is that I’m a generalist”, so I totally align with this.

Epstein refers to breadth of training. I feel even that is too narrow, how about breadth of listening to music? reading books? the friends and colleagues you choose to spend time with listening and sharing?

I hope you find this daily blog is suitably eclectic to be part of that breadth for you.

For now, I leave you with a link to an earlier post: “Synthesising ideas – who inspires you?”  in which I share some writers over history that I have read and inspire me to synthesise ideas, to make connections as Epstein puts it.

Oh, and I also recently wrote: “Intelligence is both Fluid and Crystallised“. Crystallised intelligence “is the ability to use knowledge gained in the past. Think of it as possessing a vast library and understanding how to use it. It is the essence of wisdom.”.

In order to synthesise new ideas from that crystallised knowledge, read and learn both deep and wide. Be a generalist and learn all kinds of things, including stoicism, if I may make that suggestion!

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