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.

Enjoy…

Doing Well by Doing Good – Recycling Lives

I truly believe in Leading from Purpose, “Putting Purpose first truly drives profit to allow you to further scale your impact.” For more on the scale for impact model, visit this page.

Linked to this, I frequently write about businesses that follow this in their leadership, hence this week I wrote: “Salesforce – Doing Well and Doing Good” focussed on this phrase used by their founder, Marc Benioff.

Previously I’ve written about two UK companies focussed on rehabilitation and employment of ex-offenders, Redemption Roasters and Timpson.

Today, highlighting a remarkable UK business, Recycling Lives, who are also achieving enormous social value, as highlighted in the statistics in the image above.

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Love is endless. Will is finite

Love and will.
inspired by this recent quote by Jerry Seinfeld,
this drawing from Jack Butcher at Visualize Value

Love is a word I wish leaders used more often. Talking about love is strength, just as humility and vulnerability are strengths, just as giving a full apology shows strength. Yes, determination and will are also key, but any individual, any organisation powered by love is infinitely stronger.

I also think of the situation in the world now, and particularly the USA, where there is so much toxic leadership. I have to remind myself that, as beautifully put in this blog featuring the words of Andrew Cuomo earlier in the pandemic: “Love Wins“.

Thank you to Shane Parrish of Farnam Street for sharing in a recent newsletter this quote and the amazing wisdom from Jerry Seinfeld, with it also inspiring the visualisation above by Jack Butcher at Visualize Value.

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Salesforce – Doing Well and Doing Good

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

The “new triple bottom line” model from:  “Leading from Purpose” 

I reconnected recently with a senior corporate leader who has always inspired me. They are absolutely focussed on customer experience and combine a strong sense of purpose with a passion for numbers and commercial results.

When they told me that one company they are very much interested in moving to is Salesforce, it reminded me that I hadn’t highlighted Salesforce and their founder, Mark Benioff in any of my #DoingTheRight thing posts or in writing around the “new triple bottom line” model above and how this is the time for us to reform capitalism.

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Judge each other by the content of our hearts

Judge each other by the content of our hearts.
Art Acevedo, Chief of Police, Houston. Photo from The Guardian

Our Brokenness

You’re clutching with both hands to this myth of “you” and “I”

Our whole brokenness is because of this

Rumi – translated and edited by Omid Safi, in the book Radical Love

I’ve often been feeling lost in anger and frustration in recent days over the racial injustice that has boiled over. Last night I stepped away from the constant stream of news and sat with the beautiful book of teaching from the Islamic mystics, Radical Love, and this poem stopped me in my tracks.

Gil Scott-Heron said “the revolution will not be televised”, yet in all 50 states of the USA and in countries all over the world, thanks to both media and phone cameras, the revolution is being televised. And yet, the revolution will still not be televised. The revolution must come in our hearts.

I truly believe in humanity and that human beings are intrinsically good. This time, and yes, particularly for white people across the world, is a time to look into our hearts, to truly recognise our biases, our prejudices, subtle and sometimes unconscious as they may be. Let each of us practice Open Leadership, modelling those qualities and:

Be Brave, Be Hungry, Be Open, Be Humble

Let us be open in these ways, then the revolution can come, as Art Acevedo, Chief of Police of Houston says in this impassioned speech, when we “judge each other by the content of our hearts”:

Change ourselves and we change the world

"We can't change the world until we change ourselves." - The Notorious B.I.G.

My most recent posts have been about racism in the USA and UK and how change must come from those with privilege, and yes, white privilege, starting with white people genuinely being open to listening and learning about why their country and the world is systemically racist.

Today sharing this from my inspiring friend, Jeff Raker of LevelUp Leadership in the USA, a man of great purpose and love for his fellow humans.

In light of recent events, I was drawn to an illustration that is helpful to answering the question: “What should I do/What can I do?”

Those who work on themselves, will be the most successful leaders, and the greatest change agents for our world. In the crypts of Westminster Abbey, the following words were written on the tomb of an Anglican bishop who lived in the 11th Century:

“When I was young and free my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country. But it, too, seemed immovable. As I grew in my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it. And now as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realized: If I had only changed my self first, then by example I would have changed my family. From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country and, who knows, I may have even changed my world.”

Start with yourself and you will have taken the first step to changing your world.

Jeff Raker, Level Up Leadership

#DoingTheRightThing – Leading when everyone is watching

Sharing some examples of leaders doing the right thing.

Doing the right thing

I haven’t been sleeping well for the last few days with what is happening in the USA. Honestly, I’ve been despondent, feeling that nothing will ever change, that so many white people around the world simply don’t care.

Yesterday I wrote: “Integrity is also doing the right thing when everyone is watching“. Colin Kaepernick started his peaceful protesting against racial injustice in August 2016 by taking a knee during the national anthem before NFL games. Pretty soon he was (and remains) ostracised by that league, without employment in the sport he loves. It is so easy to be despondent.

Heck, the Spike Lee movie “Do the Right Thing” came out over thirty years ! It is so easy to be despondent, yet this morning I choose not to be.

For quite some time I’ve been writing here and highlighting on twitter examples of leaders who are #DoingTheRightThing.

Well, the world is watching. Many in positions of power are not doing the right thing, and yet, many are. As Fred Rogers would say to comfort children: “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” So today, needing a lift myself, sharing with you some examples.

I leave you with the Police Chief of Houston Texas, Art Acevedo. A leader who has spoken out strongly against issues such as gun control. This weekend he spoke strongly about the people of Houston, of feeling their pain, of coming from love rather than hate, of coming together for their city.

#Leadership.

Integrity is also doing the right thing when everyone is watching

George Clooney, Michael Clayton and integrity
Closing scene from “Michael Clayton”

Today I’ve been thinking about my children and what I want them to ultimately remember me for. I know they know I love them, and what else? Well, our children learn from us not only in what we say but what we do, so I hope they have learned from me just how critical it is to be of integrity.

Now, what is integrity? Two weeks ago, in the post “Be of Integrity” I referenced the saying: “Integrity is doing the right thing when no one is watching”. Yes, and, integrity is also doing the right thing when everyone is watching as illustrated by this quote from my post yesterday: “Time for white people in the UK to talk about racism“:

Integrity is what you do when no one is watching; it’s doing the right thing all the time, even when it may work to your disadvantage. Integrity is keeping your word. Integrity is that internal compass and rudder that directs you to where you know you should go when everything around you is pulling you in a different direction. Some people think reputation is the same thing as integrity, but they are two different things.

Tony Dungy

Politics and public leadership in these times is low on integrity, low on humility, accountability, apologies and high on blaming others, avoiding responsibility.

Heck, this Sunday morning I’m low on words to say on this, so instead I’ll simply reference a past post from my themed series that, over time, featured over 60 movies, this one entitled : Movies with Meaning – Say Anything.

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Time for white people in the UK to talk about racism

racism and rioting
No, not Minneapolis this week, but London in 2011.

I write every day here. Most days the words simply flow out of me, but some days are harder than others. Some days I can’t think of what to write about. On those days I simply open up my computer and open the blank page. Typically, an idea then appears and I start to write. Pretty soon it is flowing easily again. However, some days are harder than others.

Today is one such today. Today I wake up feeling sad, angry, frustrated, powerless. At what? Today it is about seeing the ever-present and systemic racism in our world come out of the shadows and erupt once again into violence. Today it is America, but it could easily be right here in London.

So, today it feels hard to write, and it feels pointless to write about my usual topics. And yet. And yet there is something to write about. I’m going to write to you about how it is high time for white people in the UK to a) educate themselves about racism in this country, and b) to talk about it.

Yes, I’m angry. Yes, this an unusual post for this blog on leadership, and yet, I am reminded of the words of Tony Dungy, the first black coach to win a Superbowl:

Integrity is what you do when no one is watching; it’s doing the right thing all the time, even when it may work to your disadvantage. Integrity is keeping your word. Integrity is that internal compass and rudder that directs you to where you know you should go when everything around you is pulling you in a different direction. Some people think reputation is the same thing as integrity, but they are two different things.

I moved to the UK three years ago and found racism to be systemic and deep-rooted, yet bring up the topic with white people here and the typical reaction is discomfort and the classic reaction in such situations of using deflective humour then hurrying to change the topic.

So, some may be uncomfortable with me writing this today. Heck, I’m a little uncomfortable using this audience, this focus on leadership to write this. And yet, today I do. This matters, all our voices matter.

This blog has a global audience, yet today I focus in on one segment, white people in the UK. If that is you, please consider where you sit with this. Please think, please consider talking about it, “even when it may work to your disadvantage”. Integrity is not a popularity contest, it is about doing the right thing, always. Consider what is the right thing for you to think, say, then do.

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Would you have fired Michael Jordan?

Michael Jordan
credit NY Times (see link to their article on Michael Jordan below)

If your superstar performer is toxic for your team, what to do?

My answer is, as I’ve written about many times, including here, here, and here, always the same: Be rid of them, now

Now, if Michael Jordan had been on your team, would you have fired him?

For those who have watched the ten part series “The Last Dance” which was released recently, this question is on the mind of many.

Let’s look at the question once more with that example in mind and also to give you space to consider how you approach this in your own leadership of your team.

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Specialist? Generalist? or Specialised Generalist?

Specialist, Generalist, or Specialised Generalist.
Specialist? Generalist? Or.. Specialised Generalist

Are you a specialist or a generalist? Simple enough question, yes? Also a common one posed to Tim Ferris, and today I share his five minute Youtube video where he talks about this. I love how he makes it simple:

  1. Unless you are truly brilliant at one thing, don’t be a specialist
  2. Instead, combine two or three skill areas
  3. When choosing those skill areas, focus on them being as rare and valuable as you can.
  4. Do this and you can be a “Specialised Generalist”

I love how this brings focus! Instead of being a generalist who is good at a lot of things but doesn’t stand out in any particular field, by combining a particular few rare and valuable sets of skills and experiences, one can create a space of value.

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Words for things we need words for

Words

At the heart of my writing is a passion to elevate Leadership, so much of which comes from the understanding of self and others. Words that are rich in meaning can also facilitate awareness and understanding of other areas, fields, dimensions.

Yesterday I shared a post from Rob Poynton. After that, he then noodled around my posts and found one on the Japanese word “Ichi-Go Ichi-E”, emailing me to say: “Isn’t the Japanese language amazing? Like the Germans, they seem to have extraordinarily fine-grained language and words for things that we know we need words for, but simply don’t have.”

Rob then pointed me to another rich source of words we need but simply don’t have. One of the most common tags on my blog posts is “share learnings”, so thank you Rob for once again sharing!

This interchange has inspired me to add to an earlier post where I collated my writings around rich and beautiful words. The list of words and links to associated posts with musings on them has now grown to 15.

I hope you enjoy both learning some new a beautiful and rich words and also allow yourself to muse on my own musings on them and see if they are words you need for your own awareness and leadership.

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For a limited time only…life

Nearly 1,000 posts ago, my very first daily post was: “Life is Wild and Precious, Be Present“, musing on presence, purpose, with one of the anchors being a Mary Oliver poem that ends with the question:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

This blog is about leadership. That start with self-leadership and self-awareness. To know ourselves, we need to pause, to stop the busy-ness, quiet the mind and more.

As we continue on this pandemic journey both very real and so surreal, I hope you can make time for yourself to truly pause.

In support of that wish, today I curate for you a piece written by the master of pause, Rob Poynton. I encourage you to take time to read it, slowly and thoughtfully, to then use it for your own time to pause and reflect.

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By being transparent you’ll be more trusted

By being transparent you'll be more trusted

There isn’t now sufficient transparency about why certain difficult decisions are made and with people really understanding how those decisions were reached. I think a lot of it is driven by fear, without an appreciation that transparency is actually a root to better decision making. But by being transparent, you’ll be more trusted, even when you get it wrong.

Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome Trust and member of SAGE, speaking of how the UK Government is making and communicating decisions around the pandemic to the public.

Trust is core to any relationship. Trust is and will be core to any politician or business in leading in and through the VUCA environment of emerging from lockdown. I’ve written several times in the last three weeks around the need for and gaps in trust between governments and their people, particularly where I live right now (the UK).

So, the phrase above really struck me as powerful. It comes from an interview on Friday May 22nd by Alan Rusbridger published in Prospect Magazine, which opens:

It feels as if the whole of Jeremy Farrar’s life has been a preparation for this crisis. A leading epidemiologist, he has been thinking about diseases, viruses and pandemics for most of his career. He is director of the Wellcome Trust, which funds a huge amount of scientific research. And now he sits on the government’s Sage group of scientists offering advice (not always taken) on how to navigate the unprecedented crisis we currently face.

So, clearly a highly credible interviewee. In the interview he makes some deeply important and anchoring points that are also sobering and often tough to read. I encourage you to read the whole piece on Prospect.

As my writing is centred on leadership though, today I simply anchor on and encourage us all to live by his phrase:

By being transparent you’ll be more trusted

Say Sorry

I'm Sorry

Whatever happened to saying “I’m Sorry”?

Almost every day around the world, we are seeing people in senior at the top of government acting in ways that clearly require a full and sincere apology. We simply never seem to get one though.

As part of this, I have two words for those in positions of power and authority who make mistakes, who get it wrong.

Say Sorry

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Don’t force it

Don't force it.

So here I sit on Friday evening, determined to write Saturday morning’s daily blog before I “switch off” for the workweek. As I sit and think about writing, I realise my brain is a bit “cooked” from the week.

Contradictory though it is that my subject actually has inspired me to write this on Friday evening and not wait until tomorrow, the theme came to me and now I’m in flow to write about it!

Don’t force it.

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