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.


Kilkenomics: Mission Accomplished

What happens when you set a vision and then a mission for a business and you achieve them? Do you carry on, or do you pause, assess, then create new ones starting from the foundation of where you are now? Or, do you simply carry on without a “reset”, even though the job is complete?

Today a story from a Caribbean airline and lessons that could be learned by my favourite Economics festival.


Kilkenomics: Learning how to know

Colm O’Regan moderating a Kilkenomics panel

Last weekend at Kilkenomics it was, once again, a pleasure to watch Colm O’Regan moderate multiple panels and interview. I’ve written about “yer man” Colm before and the way he fills his role is exemplary and effortless, yet also clearly shows how much time he puts into preparation, to knowing his panellists and their particular expertise and focus before he steps on stage.

In the panel shown above, as he asked Liam Halligan his first question, Liam was a little taken aback and first said: “you know your stuff, don’t you!”.

Colm also ran a conversation with Samantha Power, a high-powered past US diplomat so clearly someone familiar with masterful language, and yet, at one stage as Colm probed her as to how she had grown in her role, he reframed what she had said into something concise.

For today, then, I’ll simply share that phrase and also commend Mr O’Regan for always being curious and always being open to, at higher and higher levels:

Learning how to know

Kilkenomics: Knowledge Speaks, Wisdom Listens

“Models are useful hypotheses guiding rough maps of the terrain”

Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2008 for models and thinking on a particular field. He has also had a unique platform for an Economics professor in writing a twice-weekly column for the NY Times for twenty years.

This weekend I was privileged to listen to Paul Krugman, Dan Ariely and Yanis Varoufakis, moderated by David McWilliams, muse on “The Life and Death of Economics” at Kilkenomics. As David said in introducing his guests, if he had started with a blank page and though who might he like to have discuss the future of Economics, he could not have picked a better group. In short, these three individuals are absolute rock stars in the field.

Now, if we think about our image of rockstars, we might have expected them to be egocentric, pronouncing with great certainty that their models are the answer, perhaps interrupting the others and arguing and even dismissing their thinking.

And yet, these luminaries were humble, respectful, warm, open, enthusiastic, and certainly enjoying themselves.


We are feeling creatures that think, not thinking creatures that feel

“Although many of us think of ourselves as thinking creatures that feel, biologically we are feeling creatures that think.”

Jill Bolte Taylor

Recently I was at an amazing two-day collaborative event, Basecamp.London. Each participant chose a “challenge” to be part of. I chose to be part of the Diversity and Inclusion table.

Little did I know how strongly I would FEEL a massive learning around both Diversity and Inclusion.


Find a Purpose that has you

Over the years I have been introduced to many leaders and organisations who have either brought in consultants to help them develop their strategic plan or have done it themselves using an established format. What they have in common is that their (usually long and detailed) Strategic Plan literally and figuratively “sits on the shelf”. They’ve felt frustrated that after all the work done to produce and launch it, people have disengaged and, as a result, it “sits on the shelf”, gathering dust, potential unrealised.

They then talk to a peer or other trusted contact who knows and has worked with me, and that person tells them I can help them unlock that potential. In filling this niche, I’ll highlight three things:

  • Bravery – often the missing link
  • Brevity – getting the essence of their strategy down to “one page”
  • Purpose – Strategy must link to Vision and, critically, to Purpose.

Of these, whilst Bravery and Brevity are key, without a strong link to Purpose that everyone in the organisation feels strongly connected to for the long term, all Strategic Plans will lose momentum.

Today, then sharing a short post from my esteemed and most wise friend Bruce Peters, who sent me this on reading my post yesterday on “Building Bridges for CEOs“.


The Plateau of Latent Potential

In “Always be Batman“, I wrote:

“The two most important days of your life are the day you were born

and the day you find out why.”

So, I’m not Batman, but I do know why I am here. My Purpose is #MakingPotentialPossible. This means I live in this in my work for my clients. Beyond that, similarly minded people are those I connect to most.

One such person is my dear friend Ian Armiger, one of the greatest sports coaches I have ever met. He is all about seeing and realising potential in and for others, particularly swimmers and swim coaches.

This week, while I was at the amazing Basecamp London, Ian send me a simple image, which led me down a rabbit hole to learn more about Atomic Habits and one in particular.


Building bridges for CEOs

Purpose, People, Planet - Profit for Impact Triple Bottom Line Building Bridges for CEOs
The new triple bottom line. Scale for Impact

This week I was at a stunning event called Basecamp. On the second morning, the facilitator created an open space for a few people to choose to step forward and offer a topic they are passionate about, creating an invitation for others to join them for twenty minutes. I found myself stepping forward and saying something along the lines of:

“I want to create bridges between those who live and breathe a focus on Purpose, People and Planet and CEOs of large organisations.

I often hear people say “ah, but CEOs only care about profit“, but over and over again I have found CEOs who lead from purpose and profit is an outcome.

I also recognise the power of the word “more”. The world is complex and ambiguous, so can we all do more to move towards leading from purpose rather than profit. We can, so let’s talk about what we can do to create bridges”

I was blown away by how many people joined that conversation! I drew up the scale for impact model above (see original post here) then each persona shared for a minute. So many people seemed to be released to be able to talk about building bridges and the possibilities that can create!

From that event, we’ll be continuing that conversation across continents via video. I’m also always happy to talk to people in person (in London) or on video, do book a call at the link below if that calls to you.

Part of building bridges is telling real stories about real leaders generating real results by putting Purpose first (with Profit as an outcome of that, as opposed to the focus of the business).

The day I got back from Basecamp, one of the most humble, unassuming and purpose-driven corporate leaders posted something I will share with you today. The company he leads was, in late 2018, the highest valued company in the world, yet most people have never heard of him. His words resonate with me, so I encourage you to read on.


Gravitricity – innovation can be simple

innovation and energy storage

Innovation = Doing things differently and doing different things

I coined this definition of innovation some time ago. Sometimes it is about technology, sometimes simply about changing opening hours of a shop.

Recently I came across an idea to harness gravity in disused mine shafts to generate and store electricity, with multiple uses, including balancing power to electricity grids.

I liked the idea. Well, liked it so much I invested in Gravitricity through CrowdCube. Oh, and Crowdcube itself is another simple innovation, a way to crowdsource investments in businesses, a simple extension to the crowdfunding concepts innovated by Kickstarter etc.

Who gets on the bus? Enrolling your followers

My singular focus with clients is to support brave and transformative change. In #OpenLeadership, such change is neither top-down or bottom-up, it is integrated, iterative and involves everyone at their level of context.

In Cascading Leadership as a core model to deliver such powerful change, the focus is on the three areas of Align, Engage, Enrol and how to combine, order and iterate these.

Of these, today a short post from the master to talk about what it means to Enrol, ultimately it is all about people choosing to Align with a vision or idea, be Engaged to make a choice and act, then to “get on the bus”.

Over to you, Seth:


Knowledge Speaks. Wisdom Listens.

Knowledge Speaks. Wisdom Listens.

One of the things that I admire the most about the inspiring Chip Conley is his ability to distil what he learns down to elegant simplicity. One such phrase is “Knowledge Speaks. Wisdom Listens”.

Recently Chip has started daily mini-blogging on what he calls “Wisdom Well”. Follow the link to subscribe and enjoy this short blog-let.

Knowledge Speaks. Wisdom Listens.

Why is the owl perceived as the wisest animal in the kingdom?

It’s not its laser-sharp night vision or the fact that it can do the Linda Blair 360-degree swivel of its head, or even that it cocks its noggin in a curious and wise fashion.

The owl’s real differentiator is its ears—call him the best listener in the forest, especially at high frequencies. Since owls have no sense of smell, their world is all about listening.

Follow their example today. Instead of proclaiming your knowledge, ask a few catalytic questions instead.

When could you be better served by listening rather than talking?

Learnings from Writing: Purpose, Commitment and Patience

This image is of the site traffic for this site over the 18 months to October 2019. In that time period traffic has grown well over five-fold.

Overall, the site has been in place for a little over two years, with 750 posts, an average of nearly 600 words per post, 450,000 words in total. For those who’ve encouraged me over the years to write a book, thank you! It seems I prefer (for now!) short-form writing, but this is about the equivalent of eight books now in the posts here. Back to the growth in site traffic, this growth over eighteen months (of more than 5x in view, more than 7.5x in visitors) feels pretty strong. Since the site first started, it is even stronger.

In all this time this growth has come down to one thing. Content.

What potential lessons are there here?

For me, it is about Purpose, Commitment and Patience

I write because my Purpose drives me to share what I learn

I write because I choose to make that Commitment

In all of that, I am human and I love an audience, I love to know that people read what I write, so it is energising to see growing numbers doing just that. That site growth has come purely from keeping on at writing, what is called “organic” growth in website terms. No ads, no whizz-bang search engine optimising, simply content. So, to get this far has taken two years, thus Patience.

Sharing some simple models for leadership

Over the last two years and more I have now posted over 750 daily posts, as well as collaborated on numerous projects and begun developing a book on leadership.

Out of the well over 350,000 words written and many thoughts developed from listening and working with others, the image above is of three distilled models for leadership that have come from this.

Today I’ve launched a new page on this site, Open Leadership, which will host models for leadership and ideas that emerge, including the three models illustrated pictorially here.

This new page will host the models and ideas that are developed, articulated and then shared, one at a time, each month in the monthly newsletter started in September for this purpose of sharing. To subscribe to this newsletter, sign up on the My Writing page.

All of the best ideas come from listening, collaborating, synthesising, distilling. I am here to listen, so a) I hope one or more of these models for leadership and ideas inspire you to action, and b) I’d love to hear what sparks in your mind and talk to you about your own ideas.

Being More. Leading in our ambiguous world

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

“This idea of purity and you’re never compromised…you should get over that quickly…the world is messy, there are ambiguities”

President Barack Obama

These words from President Obama in a recent talk that I tweeted about this week (read on for link to the tweet and video):

We live in a complex and ambiguous world. Let us hold firmly to our values and also seek to understand, not to judge. There is a real power in the word “more”, so let us always seek to do “more”, to be “more”, as well as to accept ourselves and others and all our imperfections.


No one ever made a decision based on a number

decision based on a number

An unexpected “bucket list” moment

Last week I was sat in the centre of the front row at the Royal Festival Hall as Hannah Gadsby came back on after her incredible show Douglas to receive the acclamation of an adoring crowd. It had been one of the best shows I’d ever seen in my life, the crow was making so much noise and there was so much applause.

One thing was missing, I realised. A feeling rose in me, articulated in my mind as: “This woman deserves a standing ovation”. I looked from side to side and realised that nobody was standing. In a fraction of second, I realised I had to stand. From my place at the front of the theatre, I did just that, then I didn’t look around, I could simply hear and feel the crowd of 2700 all stand as one and the volume increase still further.

Hannah briefly made eye contact as if to say “thank you”, then, no more than a few seconds later, she left the stage. If I’d had “start a standing ovation at the Royal Festival Hall” on my bucket list, then “tick”.

Now a question. After reading that, do I have your attention, and are you at least a little interested in seeing Hannah Gadsby’s show “Douglas”?

Always, always start any talk, any presentation, any pitch with a story.

What kind of story? Why a story?


Curating 13 learnings from 13 years of Brainpickings

Brainpickings from Maria Popova

At certain stages of life, many of us focus more on Editing rather than Accumulating. For me, part of that is to cut back on the newsletters and news outlets I read and pay for.

One that will always stay in my core list is Brainpickings from Maria Popova, a weekly newsletter of exquisitely curated thoughts from artists and writers, each with many links to dive deep into the depths of art and literature. They come out each Sunday and I can often get lost for hours. Oh, and if you enjoy Brainpickings, do support Maria’s art by setting up a monthly contribution.

Now, as I am now well over 750 daily posts on this site, sometimes I write “long read” posts, developing thoughts and ideas. Other times my blogging has evolved to curate posts from others.

Today, I am curating the curator, as Maria recently posted a special Brainpickings. Please note that I have edited down this long post to simply the summary learnings. For the full depth and also her favourite Brainpickings posts of all time, follow the link to the original article.

Maria is a great gift and curator. It is a true gift and wonderful wisdom to read and look to apply these 13 learnings.

Each of these is wonderful, each we can look to apply more in our self-leadership. We must constantly invest in leading ourselves before we can truly lead others.


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